President Carter's Custom 1977 Lincoln Continental Shines at Detroit Concours d'Elegance

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It's a facinating piece of automotive history.

The air was rife with the buzzing excitement of car aficionados at this year’s Detroit Concours d'Elegance. Around 150 illustrious vehicles from every corner of the country were assembled at the Detroit Institute of Arts, each one a living testament to the boundless creativity and engineering prowess inherent in the automotive industry. Among the myriad of gems, a 1977 Lincoln Continental commanded a particularly keen spotlight.

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This Ford factory-custom Lincoln Continental convertible wasn’t just another exhibit but a unique fragment of history, having been a part of President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural parade. Although the President himself never rode in this automotive marvel, it served as the designated vehicle for the Director of the Secret Service at the time.


This unique Continental started its journey as a hardtop. In preparation for its prestigious role, it underwent extensive modifications, including the incorporation of a convertible top from a 1957 to 1959 LTD, and bolstering of the undercarriage to ensure structural integrity. Marisa Gustafson, the proud owner and an automotive enthusiast from Southern California, inherited this piece of history at the tender age of 12 from her father, John Gustafson, a renowned car dealer who owned the second-largest Lincoln-Mercury dealership in America by the 1970s.

"You couldn't just buy this car from Ford," Marisa explains, reflecting on her father’s achievements and the exclusivity of the car. The purchase option for this unique vehicle was reserved only for top dealers, making it a symbol of distinction and accomplishment. Marisa’s father saw in it a reminder of his life’s work and achievements, a tangible representation of his journey in the automotive world.

The journey with this unique Lincoln Continental hasn’t been without its challenges, as Marisa confesses to the meticulous care and countless hours dedicated to maintaining this historic vehicle. "Sometimes I feel I walk on eggshells because I don't want to make an expensive mistake. It's a love-hate relationship. I've definitely learned to do a lot on my own," she remarks, expressing her deep connection and the mix of reverence and responsibility she feels for her inherited treasure.

Marisa believes that only eight such cars were crafted by Ford, each intended to be a symbol of luxury and exclusivity, particularly when photographed alongside the most photographed individual in the world—the President. Of the eight, only three are known to still exist, making Marisa’s Continental not just a familial heirloom but a rare relic of American history and automotive innovation.

The Detroit Concours d'Elegance was imbued with a sense of living history with the presence of this 1977 Lincoln Continental. The attendees not only witnessed the epitome of automotive brilliance but also experienced a touch of the past, reminiscent of a time when craftsmanship met presidential elegance, all encapsulated in the sleek frame of a Lincoln Continental.

Image via Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

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