Sunday, July 30, 2017

Concours d'Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 30, 2017: Part Eight--Auburn/Cord/Lincoln Motor Cars

"Class C" at the Coucours d'Elegance of America was devoted to one of our favourite (albeit doomed) car companies, featuring two of the three brands of the Auburn Automobile Company, namely Auburn and Cord.  That such a smallish company from a little town in Indiana could produce some of the most striking designs ever offered by an American car manufacturer never fails to impress and it is always a pleasure to admire these cars from the high point of Moderne design.

1930 Cord L-29
Introduced in 1930, the Cord was the first mass-production front-wheel drive car by an American manufacturer and its lowered ride height and elegant coachwork went some way towards making up for its rather lacklustre performance.  This was the most popular body style, a cabriolet produced for Cord by the Limousine Body Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and styled by Cord's designer Al Leamy.  The car, powered by a 125hp Lycoming straight-eight engine, weighed 4,300 and listed new for $3,295.  L-29 production, which ran from 1930 to 1932, totalled 5,010 cars.

1932 Auburn 8-100A Speedster
Only 75 of the Al Leamy-designed Speedsters were built in 1932 by Auburn.  This particular car actually began life as a sedan but was rebodied with a Speedster body from the Union Body Company, which supplied in-the-white bodies to Auburn.  The 8-100A  was powered with a 100 hp Lycoming and featured a three speed transmission coupled to a two speed differential rear axle, providing appropriate gearing for city driving as well as the open road.

1932 Auburn 8-100A Phaeton
Yet another handsome Al Leamy design, the Phaeton was powered by the same 100hp engine as the Speedster above and sold new for a mere $975, an indication of the effect the Great Depression was having on car prices.  While 1931 was Auburn's best year, with 28,000 cars sold, but a year later only 11,646 were produced and the company began to lose money.  By 1932 sales had plunged to 6,000 and by 1936 no more Auburns were produced.

1935 Auburn 851 SC Phaeton
Using the same 150hp supercharged engine as the more famous Auburn Speedster, with the supercharger adding $220 to the cost of the car, the handsome Phaeton, a reworking of an unsuccessful Al Leamy design by Gordon Buehrig, offered excellent styling, good performance and a bargain price (although the highest for an Auburn four door that year) of $1,725. the company was on the rocks financially at this point.  This car was the top of the line model and included the Columbia dual ratio rear axle.

1935 Auburn 851 Coupe
With the restyling of the Auburn line in 1935, no money was available to develop a coupe body style so the designers simply took the cabriolet model and added a padded top over a wooden frame.  These are quite rare models.  This car was restored by the owner himself from a basket case after acquisition in 1975 and then subsequently re-restored in 1995 by the same owner to its current condition and then presented to his granddaughter.

1935 Auburn 851 Speedster
1936 Cord 810
The magnificent swan song of the Auburn Automobile Company, the Cord 810, designed on the cheap by Gordon Buehrig--the stylish holes in the hubcaps were actually a measure to reduce heat from the brakes!--the coffin-nose Cord is a landmark of auto design.  In addition to its front-wheel drive, the car offered independent front suspension and a semi-automatic four-speed transmission.  In 1937 the 812 model offered supercharging as an option.  While the 810 was a sensation at the New York Auto Show in 1935, production problems hampered sales to only 1,174 cars in the first model year and subsequent reliability problems cooled the initial enthusiasm.  Unsold cars were re-labelled as 1937 models and given the 812 designation but when production ended in 1937 only around 3,000 Cord 810/812s had been produced.

Coming from Oakville, the headquarters of Ford of Canada, our family naturally thought that Lincolns were the top of the automotive heap in the 1960s and 1970s, although we never did have one.  At the Concours, there were two classes for Lincolns, pre-World War II and post-War.

1927 Lincoln L Coupe
Founded by Henry Leland in 1917, the Lincoln Motor Company, which was better at engineering than styling, was on the ropes by 1922, when it was purchased by the Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford's son Edsel put in charge.  The "L" was the first Lincoln developed under Ford auspices, although using an engine derived from Leland's work, and this particular car was fitted with a custom Opera Coupe body by coachbuilder Judkins of Merrimac, Massachusetts.  1927 marked the first year that four-wheel brakes were made standard on Lincolns and the company guaranteed that its cars were capable of 70 mph.  Prior to the current owner, who purchased the car in 2013 and has driven it on tours extensively, the car was in possession of one family for more than forty years and had been restored when it first came into their ownership.

1930 Lincoln L Type 172 Berline
1930 marked the final year of Lincoln L production and this sedan, a Berline by J.B. Judkins, features safety glass in its steeply raked windshield.  Judkins was noted for the Berline style and build over 3,000 examples for various car companies between 1922 and 1939.

1933 Lincoln KB Convertible
The 12 cylinder KB was Lincoln's first foray into the V12 market in 1932 and the following year became the first car producer to manufacture exclusively V12 cars when it dropped its straight-8 version.  The very expensive KB was offered in no fewer than 26 body styles from 17 different coachbuilders and this car was a Five Passenger Convertible Coupe made by the Hermann A. Brunn coachworks and is one of only three known to survive from a run of 15 cars.  In all, only 533 KBs were built in 1933 due to the economic circumstances.  The K-series would soldier on in tiny numbers as a halo car for Lincoln until 1939, although displaced by the more popular and practical Zephyr and Continental models.

1933 Lincoln KB Convertible Coupe by LeBaron

1934 Lincoln Convertible Victoria by Brunn
1932 Lincoln KA Town Sedan
This KA, powered by a Leland-derived V8 engine of 120 hp, features a Town Sedan body by the Murray Corporation, a major supplier of bodies to the Ford Motor Company from 1925 until 1939, including many for the Ford Model A.

1935 Lincoln K Series 541 Coupe  by LeBaron

1937 Lincoln K Touring Car
Weighing in at over 3 tons, this seven-passenger touring car by coachbuilder Willoughby of Utica, New York, was meant for Lincoln's most elite clientele.  Powered by a V12 engine, it sits on a 145 inch wheelbase. This particular example, one of two known to survive from seven built, was used as a parade car for the Governor of California and features innovative styling features for the period, such as the faired-in headlights and steep "V" windshield.  It listed for $5,500 when new.

1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet

1947 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet
Considered to be the brainchild of Edsel Ford, the Lincoln Continental came about as a custom car based on Lincoln Zephyr underpinnings, for Edsel to drive in Florida.  People were enthusiastic about its European-type styling and the car went into production in 1939 and 1940, with 350 being build in both cabriolet and coupe versions.  The design was squared off a bit subsequently but production came to a halt in 1942 with the advent of World War II.  Continentals were again on the market from 1946 to 1948 but its looks were marred by a big chrome-slathered grille, ruining the original car's simple and elegant lines.  The Continental was to be the last American car offered with a V12 engine.

1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan Convertible
The Cosmpolitan was a full-size luxury car produced from 1949 to 1954 and shared its V8 engine with Ford's heavy truck line.  The car was considered the top-level Lincoln and was available in four door and two door versions, as well as the convertible.  Power windows and seats were standard equipment in 1951.  Modified Cosmopolitans were used as Presidential State Cars by Truman and Eisenhower.

1956 Continental Mk II
Not actually a Lincoln but clearly meant to invoke the style of the 1939 Edsel Ford custom, the Mk II was produced by the Continental Division of the Ford Motor Company between 1955 and 1957 as its only product.  Unveiled at the Paris Auto Show in 1955, it was the most expensive car produced in America at its introduction.  It weighed 5,000 lbs and was powered by a 285 hp V8 (upgraded to 300 hp in 1957). Only 3,005 of the handbuilt Mk IIs were sold and it is estimated that Ford lost $1,000 on each sale but achieved its goal of demonstrating it could build a quality car to the highest standards in the world.  Ford re-entered the luxury personal car market in 1969 with the Lincoln Continental Mk III, which was less expensive but offered some of the same styling features.  Around half of the Mk IIs built are still extant.

1964 Lincoln Continental Sedan
Introduced in 1961, the suicide-door Lincoln Continental is considered a modern classic.  This car, which we had previously seen at the "Eye on Design" show in Dearborn, is probably the most original one there is as it has only 1,700 miles on it.  The car is fully equipped for the period, boasting air conditioning, a transistorized radio with a power antenna and a power trunk release.  It is powered by a 7 litre (430 cu in) V8, putting out 320 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque.  Fuel consumption for this 5,258 lb car is an unsurprising 9.7 mpg (US).

Continue to Part Nine here

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