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Lincoln celebrates its 100th birthday… sort of

For a century, this often-troubled luxury brand has been owned by parent company Ford, and that's something worth celebrating.

Lincoln 100th  Birthday - collage
You may not believe it, but Lincoln has a rich history. 
Lincoln

The Lincoln brand celebrates an important milestone on Friday. Founded in 1917, this venerable luxury division was purchased by Henry Ford on Feb. 4, 1922, which means Ford Motor Company has owned the brand for a century. Encouraged by his wife, Clara, and son, Edsel, old man Ford acquired Lincoln from the automotive engineer and acclaimed machinist Henry Leland for the princely sum of $8 million (equivalent to roughly $132 million today). Over the intervening 100 years it's been quite a ride.

Ford's luxury brand has a checkered history, with plenty of triumphs and more than its share of tragedy. In fact, just about a decade ago, Lincoln survived a near-death experience when then-CEO Alan Mulally considered dropping the struggling brand. But after years without a purpose, Lincoln has, for the most part, been nursed back to health. Its current luxury SUVs, including the Navigator, Aviator and Corsair, are premium and comfortable, nice to drive and cleanly styled. Lincoln has found its place at long last and customers have taken note.

Lincoln has always been known for its sleek designs.

Lincoln

Historically, this brand was all about elegance and sophistication. From the imposing Model L of the 1920s to the windswept Zephyr of the next decade to the Continentals of the early '60s, which are still automotive design icons today, Lincolns made a statement without shouting. Edsel Ford, who served as the brand's president before his untimely death in 1943 summed things up nicely, "Father made the most popular cars in the world. I want to make the best."

Unfortunately, that wasn't always the case. Along the way, Lincoln missed the plot, building boxy land yachts and offering thinly veiled Fords dressed up with a cheap veneer of shine. In later decades, products like the Blackwood pickup truck and awkward MKT crossover were the butt of jokes, at least in automotive circles. The driving public has probably completely forgotten these vehicles ever existed, which is probably for the better.

Today, Lincoln stakes its reputation on offering features like 30-way Perfect Position seats, premium Revel sound systems and quiet, comfortable interiors. The company has found success by going back to its roots, by taking an unpretentious approach to luxury. Looking ahead, Lincoln will likely stay true to this heritage as it electrifies its future lineup.

It has been quite a ride, but this brand is back in business and poised for success in the next 100 years. Happy birthday, Lincoln.

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