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1994 Lincoln Contempra

The 1994 Contempra is not Lincoln’s most famous concept car, and as such, photos and details are few and far between, but it is safe to say that most technical specifications would have been those of the 1995 Continental. Again, notice the clever name chosen by the folks of Dearborn: as Contour became Profile, and as Mystique became Premys, Contempra represented the contemporary interpretation of Continental. It might also have hinted at the engineers’ and product planners’ contemplation of Continental’s role within the Lincoln line-up because the 1995 ninth-generation took a sharp turn upmarket.

Upfront, the car sported an integral chrome mask which made for a very modern front fascia. The way the headlights stretched into the fenders and followed into the arch of the wheel wells is not too far from what you find on current full-size sedans – and it is always a good way to hide the front overhang left by front-wheel-drive. The jeweled headlamps were also very modern, and the thin slats of the grille offered a very fresh interpretation of Lincoln’s upright waterfall grille of then.

The thin headlights are also highlighted by a stand-alone turn-signal strip, reminiscent of what manufacturers can do nowadays with LED lights. Finally, the hood’s character lines seem sharper than the production version, while the sporty bumper houses jewel-like fog lamps as well as styled air-intakes. Again, this is still very current and shows off much more personality than the production version.

Outback, the Contempra paradoxically appears tamer than the production Continental. On the concept, two thin light bars run across the high and bulbous trunk. The visual weight of the rear fascia is not helped by the integral bumper, which is only highlighted by a thin character line where the actual bumper should start and by a set of chromed exhaust pipes. Interestingly enough, there is no Lincoln badging outback and only a very tiny emblem upfront.

Other than that, the Contempra uses the 1995 Continental’s sheet metal. On the sides, the only concept-like feature are the door handles, which are absent. As revealed by this newspaper article, Lincoln claimed you could open the doors by tapping the side windows’ glass. Presumably, that would have been a system much like the invisible Keypad entry system used on the current MKS, for instance. Even the wheels are your typical 1990’s chromed fare.

Although the same probably cannot be said for the Profile and Premys, the Contempra seems too tidy and real to be a last-minute cover-up of the production car. I would not be surprised at all if the Contempra were one of the final design options for the production car, not retained for the real Continental but close enough of a runner-up that it got its little reveal as a concept car the year before. And while the 1995 Continental looked very proper and stylish, the 1994 Contempra surely seemed sportier and more European-like yet – which is interesting given how the Continental’s mechanicals would have aptly matched that positioning.



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