Competing against the Cadillac Series 62 and Packard Series 400, 14,342 Capris were sold in its debut year, and nearly double that, 26,640, in 1953. It readily outsold its stablemate, the Cosmopolitan, each year until the Cosmopolitan's demise.
In the October, 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics, a Lincoln Capri was tested. O-60 mph time was 14.8 seconds, while the quarter-mile was 21.3 seconds. At 40 mph, fuel economy was recorded at 21mpg.
In 1955, the Capri featured a new 225 hp (168 kW) 341 cu in (5.6 L) Lincoln Y-Block V8 (with greater displacement and, at 8.5:1, higher compression than before), featuring a four-barrel carburetor, mated to a standard (Ford-built) 3-speed Turbo-Drive automatic transmission. Air conditioning became an option for the first time.
Riding on a 123.0 in (3,120 mm) wheelbase and measuring 215.6 in (5,480 mm) overall, the 1955 Capri was offered as a two-door hardtop coupé (4,305 lb (1,953 kg) shipping weight), two-door convertible (4,415 lb (2,003 kg) shipping weight), or a four-door sedan (4,275 lb (1,939 kg) shipping weight).
The Capri was also one of the first vehicles to offer an automatic headlight dimmer as optional equipment. It sold 23,673 copies, amounting to 87% of Lincoln's total output that year, actually down from 29,552 in 1954.
Powered by the 317 cu in (5.2 L) Lincoln Y-block V8, Lincolns won the top four spots in the Stock Car category of the Pan American Road Race in both 1952 and 1953. In 1954 (its final year) Lincolns took first and second place.
For 1956, the Capri shared a division-wide restyling and gained the new 285 hp (213 kW) 368 cu in (6.0 L) Lincoln Y-Block V8 (with a four-barrel carburetor and 9:1 compression), as well as all-new 12-volt electrical system to cope with the proliferation of power accessories. The Capri moved down-market, becoming Lincoln's entry-level model and the Premier became the upper level model. In addition, the convertible disappeared from the model range, which already lacked for a four-door hardtop. Sales dropped dramatically, to only 8,791 in 1956. This is not to imply that over all sales did not increase for 1956. The total production for both Capri and Premier models was 50,322.
A new camshaft and higher 10:1 compression boosed output to 300 hp (224 kW). The new cam did not, however, increase compression, contrary to Flory's misapprehension. Even so, sales declined again, to 5,900 units (despite the addition of a 4-door landau hardtop). A facelifted design for 1957 featured more pronounced fins. Total production for 1957 for the Capri and Premier lines was 41,123.
These were the first Lincolns produced at the new Wixom, Michigan plant, and were made on a unibody platform much like the Lincoln-Zephyr and the original Lincoln Continental. While advertising brochures made the case that Continental was still a separate make, the car shared its body with that year's Lincoln. The Lincolns differed from the higher-model full-size Continentals in trim level and in their roof treatment, with the Continentals featuring a reverse-angle power rear "Breezeway" window that retracted down behind the back seat. Lincoln lost over $60 million during 1958-1960, partly reflecting the expense of developing perhaps the largest unibody car ever made. The 1958 full-size Lincoln sold poorly in all models because of the economic recession in the U.S.
The 1958-59 Lincoln Capri was one of the largest cars ever made, larger than contemporaneous Cadillacs, and with their canted headlights and scalloped fenders had styling considered by many to be excessive even in that decade of styling excess. On a 131.0 in (3,327 mm) wheelbase, and 229.0 in (5,817 mm) long overall, 80.1 in (2,035 mm) wide and up to 4,810 lb (2,180 kg) shipping weight in the landau sedan in 1958, they are the longest Lincolns ever produced without federally mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumpers. The all-new 375 hp (280 kW) 430 cu in (7.0 L) MEL V8 was a welcome addition. The 63.1 inches (1,603 mm) front and 63.0 inches (1,600 mm) rear shoulder room they possessed set a record for Lincoln that still stands to this day. Sales were up, to 6,859, the landau sedan making up almost half, at 3,014 copies. Heater and defroster (at US$110), AM radio (US$144), and seat belts (US$25) were all optional. One rare option was an FM radio for $129(had to have the AM also). Brakes were 11" drums.
The reputation for "excessive styling" is perhaps ironic given the enormous amount of styling talent that was connected with the development and modification of Lincolns of this vintage. George W. Walker, known for his contribution to the development of the original Ford Thunderbird, was Vice-President in charge of Styling at Ford during this time. Elwood Engel, famous for being lead designer of the 1961 Lincoln Continental and for his work as chief designer at Chrysler in the 1960s, was Staff Stylist (and consequently roamed all of the design studios) at Ford during this period and worked very closely with John Najjar in developing not only the 1958, but also the 1959 update. After John Najjar was relieved of his responsibilities as Chief Stylist of Lincoln in 1957 he became Engel's executive assistant, and the two worked closely together in the "stilleto studio" in developing the 1961 Lincoln Continental, which of course won an award for its superlative styling. After Engel left Ford in 1961, Najjar became the lead designer of the Ford Mustang I concept car, which later gave birth to the Ford Mustang. Don Delarossa, who succeeded Najjar as Chief Stylist of Lincoln, was responsible for the 1960 Continental and Premiere update, and went on to become chief designer at Chrysler in the 1980s. Alex Tremulis, who was Chief Stylist at Auburn-Cord-Deusenberg in the mid to late 1930s and famous for his work on the 1948 Tucker Sedan, was head of Ford's Advanced Styling Studio during this period, and it was his Ford La Tosca concept car, with its oval overlaid with an "X" theme, that gave birth to the "slant eyed monster" nickname to the 1958 Lincoln front end.
Despite an increase in sales in 1959, to 7,929 units, the Capri was not renewed for 1960.