Monday, July 31, 2017

The Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan, July 31, 2017--Part 7: Lincoln

The famous Lincoln Greyhound mascot, designed by Gorham, silversmiths in Rhode Island
The Gilmore Museum does not limit itself except insofar as its focus as on American cars, which allows for a broad enough range.  After walking through the special area devoted to Franklins, the visitor next comes to a wing given over to Lincolns.  The Gilmore has offered space to car clubs and the Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum at the Gilmore is actually under the auspices of the Lincoln Motor Car Foundation.  Growing up in a Ford town as I did, it was always a dream to own a Lincoln and I even once had the chance to drive a magnificent 1968 sedan with the famous suicide doors--and power vent windows.  But in the years since Lincoln has become something closer to what Mercury once was: gussied-up Fords, and now Ford SUVs.  But in years past the Lincoln was a marque as good as any in the industry, as the cars at the Gilmore Museum show.

Origins of the Lincoln Motor Company
The Lincoln Motor Company was founded in 1917 by Henry Leland, an expert in precision machining. In 1902 he had been brought into the Henry Ford Company to determine what should be done with its assets after a falling-out between Henry Ford and his backers.  Ford left but Leland persuaded the investors to keep the company going, using engines he was producing at his firm.  The revived company was renamed The Cadillac Automobile Company and was eventually purchased by General Motors in 1909.  Leland and his son Wilfred struck out on their own with a contract to build Liberty aero engines under license and then, in 1920, the first Lincoln automobiles appeared.  Beautifully engineered by unimaginatively styled, the cars sold poorly and by 1922 Lincoln (named after the first President for whom Leland voted) was on the ropes.  It was purchased by Henry Ford in March 1922 at the urging of his son Edsel with the idea of having a separate luxury car subsidiary to compete with Cadillac, Packard and other high-end makes.  While the Lelands came with the company, there was an element of revenge in the story as Henry Ford soon fired them both in June 1922, never forgetting what had happened in 1902.  Edsel Ford was brought in to manage the subsidiary and under his guidance, Lincoln was to produce some of the most attractive and expensive cars of the interwar period.

1926-27 Lincoln Chassis and Engine

1922 Lincoln L Sport Phaeton by the American Body Company
The first Lincolns produced under Ford ownership were essentially the same cars that the Lelands had been building and the Lincoln L, with its L-head V8, was to continue with the same drivetrain and chassis until 1930 but the major difference was the new body styles that were introduced, as well as offering custom coachbuilt choices.  The American Body Company of Buffalo, New York, had been a supplier of bodies for the Ford Model T, as well as for the noted manufacturers located in the Buffalo area: Franklin, Pierce-Arrow and Thomas.  In the Teens and Twenties American also supplied bodies to Marmon, Wills St.Claire and others, and due to the existing relationship with Ford also provided standard bodies for the Lincoln L.  The company specialized in touring models, of which the car on display is a fine example.  Researchers at the museum have examined the body and are not entirely certain it was from the American Body Company as Brunn & Co., also of Buffalo, provided similar bodies to Lincoln.

At some point in its life, the display car had the rear portion of its body removed and it was turned into a truck.  A Lincoln enthusiast had the body recreated to its original appearance.

1928 Lincoln Convertible Sedan by Dietrich
Raymond Dietrich was a principal in the LeBaron coachbuilding firm in New York and designed cars for the leading brands of the day.  In 1925 he was enticed by Edsel Ford (via the Murray Body Company, a major Ford supplier) to establish an operation in Detroit, Dietrich, Inc., to design bodies exclusively for Lincoln.  Dietrich's arrangement with Murray allowed him to do additional freelance work as well, notably for Franklin, Packard and Chrysler.  By 1930 the Great Depression had put a major brake on the business and Dietrich left to become head of design at Chrysler.  Dietrich, Inc. was wound down in 1936.

The Convertible Sedan was a Dietrich specialty and this car features fixed side-window frames and a division window behind the front seat.  With the top down, it becomes an open Phaeton, with the glass in the doors and the division window serving as a windshield for the rear passengers.  The car had a factory price of $6,500 and 38 were built in this style.

1930 Lincoln Type 172 Berline by Judkins
The J.B. Judkins Company of Merrimac, Massachusetts, was the coachbuilder that supplied more custom and series-built custom bodies for Lincoln than any other firm, providing nearly 5,904 bodies from 1921 until 1939.  Their Berline model, a five passenger body introduced in 1922 after the Ford takeover of Lincoln, was Judkins' most popular design, with 3,110 constructed up until 1939.  This car, which was discovered in a warehouse in California in 1969, was built in the Lincoln L's final year of production and was priced at $5,600.

1928 Lincoln Type 163B Sport Phaeton by Locke
Established in New York City in 1902, Locke & Co. provided bodies for a number of prestige makes,, supplying them from a factory in Rochester, New York, after 1926.  The company was included in Edsel Ford's expanded program for custom and semi-custom bodies starting in 1925.  This allowed production runs of 25-100 bodies which, while not strictly unique, were products of the best designers and of high quality, while also saving the customers some money compared to a one-off.  This handsome dual cowl phaeton, one of 150 built, sold for $4,600 and featured a clever mechanism that automatically raised the rear cowl when either of the rear doors was opened.  Locke & Co. closed their Rochester plant in 1932, continuing only to paint and refurbish cars in New York City until shutting down in 1937.

1923 Lincoln Type 123A Phaeton by Brunn
Jack Passey, who was to eventually own 92 Lincolns, purchased this car in 1949 for $40 and kept it until his death in 2015.  The car was placed into storage for three decades as Mr. Passey's collection grew and it has been loaned to the museum by his daughter.  The car, with its body built by Brunn & Co. of Buffalo, NY, sports an usual feature: the "California top."  This could be removed in fine weather, turning the car into an open tourer, and reinstalled for bad weather season, a clever solution when closed cars were still a rarity.

1932 Lincoln KB Convertible Sedan by Dietrich
The Lincoln K series replaced the L in 1931 and in 1932 the line was split into the KA and KB, the latter equipped with a new V12 engine, aimed at competing with Cadillac.  The body is another example of Ray Dietrich's convertible sedan style.

1939 Lincoln K Convertible Sedan by LeBaron
After 1935 all Lincolns were once again designated as Ks, and equipped with a 6.8 litre V12 engine that had been introduced in 1934.  Sales of these large and expensive cars declined until production ended quietly in 1939.  Numbers are disputed but range 1939 production is thought to range from 133 to 221 cars.  Two famous ones were built that year: a special car to be used for the Royal Tour of Canada in 1939 and another Brunn convertible sedan, the "Sunshine Special," delivered for the use of President Roosevelt.  The Royal Visit Lincoln is on display at the Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum and the Roosevelt car can be seen at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

1939 Royal Canadian Tour Car by LeBaron
On loan to the museum is this one-of-a-kind car used by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their Royal Visit to Canada and the United States in 1939.  During the tour, which lasted from May 17 to June 15, the couple visited every Canadian province, the Dominion of Newfoundland (as it then was) and, briefly, the United States from June 7-12, meeting President Roosevelt.  Each of the Big Three automakers doing business in Canada was invited to provide a car.  GM provided two stretched McLaughlin-Buicks, made in Oshawa, and Chrysler a Windsor-built Royal.  Only the Lincoln was built in the United States.  After the tour was over, the cars were returned.  The Lincoln was at the Henry Ford Museum for many years but is currently in private hands, as is one of the McLaughlin-Buicks.  The other McLaughlin-Buick is in possession of the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa but not on display while the fate of the Chrysler is unknown.

1940 Lincoln -Zephyr Brunn Town Limousine
It had become clear during the ongoing Great Depression that huge  and expensive V12-powered coachbuilt cars was not going to sustain Lincoln and a decision was made to introduce a smaller, albeit with a smaller V12, model, the Zephyr in 1935 as a 1936 model.  The Ford lines of cars extended from the Ford V8 Deluxe to the Mercury and on to the Lincoln-Zephyr below the Lincoln K.  The Lincoln-Zephyr was distinctly modern car and was the most successful car sold in the Streamline idiom, with 15,000 finding buyers between 1936 and 1943.  Lincoln-Zephyrs made up 80% of Lincoln sales in that time.  By 1941 the K was gone so all Lincolns were based on the Lincoln-Zephyr and in 1942 the Lincoln-Zephyr was dropped as a semi-separate brand.  The Zephyr name was not revived when production of cars resumed after World War II.  Although production Lincoln-Zephyrs came with handsome factory bodies, there was still the possibility of a coachbuilt car, as this example from Brunn & Co. shows.  In 1941 and 1942, Ford offered a "Lincoln Custom" line of extended wheelbase sedans and limousines based on the Lincoln-Zephyr.

1942 Lincoln-Zephyr Sedan

1936 Lincoln-Zephyr Coupe Sedan

1940 Lincoln-Zephyr Continental Cabriolet
In 1938 Zephyr designer Bob Gregorie was commissioned to come up with a special car for Edsel Ford's March 1939 vacation in Florida.  Using the Lincoln-Zephyr as a starting point, Gregorie came up with a convertible with a redesigned body seven inches lower than the Zephyr and a number of European-style touches, including minimal chrome trim.  The car was ready on time and the reaction to the car was so strong as Edsel Ford tooled around the Sunshine State that a decision was quickly made to put the car into production on a limited basis.  Around two dozen 1939 cars and 400 1940-built ones used hand-hammered body panels as dies for pressed were not available until 1941.  Most of the cars were "Cabriolet" convertibles, with only a few coupes made.  The "Continental" name for this Lincoln was used to note the European-inspired details.

1946 Lincoln Continental Club Coupe
The first design changes to the car were in 1942, with squared-off fenders and a revised grille but production was curtailed by World War II.  The Lincoln Continental returned to production in 1946 with a redesign by Raymond Loewy with a big chrome grille in keeping with the style of the time, which added nothing to the gracefulness of the original design.  1948 marked the last year of the original Lincoln Continental, and the last cars with a V12 engine to be marketed by a major US automaker.

1955 Continental Mark II Sport Coupe Prototype
The Mark II was not actually a Lincoln but was the sole product of the Continental Division of the Ford Motor Company.  It was a massive 5,000 lb ultra-luxury coupe that was the most expensive domestic car sold in the United States.  The car, produced only in 1956 and 1957, used a 6 litre V8 that produced 285 hp the first year, upgraded to 300 hp the second.  It was originally planned that there would be three cars in the Continental line but only the coupe saw production.  3,005 of these well-equipped cars were built and it is claimed that Ford lost money on each one.  The car on display was the first Continental Mark II to come down the line and was extensively tested before actual production for customers was to start.  There were three prototypes and this was scheduled to be crushed like the others but eventually ended up in the Henry Ford Museum before a private owner obtained it and donated it to the Lincoln Museum.

1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V Four Door Hardtop
Even heavier than the Continental Mark II were the Lincolns produced subsequently but it appears that only the 1960 car got the Continental moniker.  The others were simply Lincoln "Mark III" and "Mark IV."  The Lincoln Continental Mark V and its immediate forebearers are among the largest standard non-extended wheelbase cars ever made and the heaviest, with some versions hitting 5,700 lbs in limousine form.  It is interesting that this car appeared after the Continental Mark II and before the 1961 Lincoln Continental, both very restrained in their design language.

1962 Lincoln Continental 4 Door Sedan
After losing more than $60 million on the 1958-1960 Lincolns, Ford needed a winner if the brand was going to continue. The 1961 Lincoln Continental, sold only in four door form as either as sedan or convertible, was a totally different car and is considered an icon of design today.  It used components from the 1961 Thunderbird, such as the chassis, and had actually been originally envisaged as a four door T-Bird.  The car remained in production until 1969, although refreshed twice, in 1964 and 1966.  The 1966 car saw a body lengthened five inches for additional rear seat legroom and the roof was also raised.

1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III 2 Door Hardtop
Henry Ford II once described it as "A Mustang for the Chairman of the Board."  The Lincoln Continental Mark III was the brainchild of Ford President Lee Iaccoca, who instructed his designers to put a Rolls-Royce grille on the front of a Thunderbird.  Introduced in 1969, the car, featured a prominent grille and retro styling cues,notably the faux spare tire hump in the trunk lid.  Powered by a 460 cu. in. 365 hp V8 engine, the Mark III was the direct competitor of the Cadillac Eldorado.  It weighed 4,866 lbs and sold for nearly $7,000.  It was an enormous hit and spawned a series of Mark cars that made a great deal of money for Ford.  Iacocca claimed that it cost less than $30 million to develop the Mark III due to the ability to use existing Thunderbird components and in 1984 he said that the Mark series was the greatest financial success he (of Ford Mustang and Chrysler Minivan fame) had seen in the car industry.

2017 Lincoln Continental Concept Car

Introduced at the New York Auto Show in 2015, the Continental name returned with this concept car, which was the basis for the new sedan launched in 2015.  Powered by a V6 engine, the new Continental is a handsome, if somewhat subdued, car that is related to the Ford Fusion.  To mark the 80th Anniversary of Edsel Ford's 1939 Lincoln Continental a special commemorative version was built with rear-hinged rear doors, as in the 1961 Continental.  Sales of the current Lincoln Continental are as strong in China as in the United States, at roughly 12,000 cars in each market annually.
The Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum
Continue to Part 8 of the Gilmore Car Museum visit here.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent report on the Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum & Research Center. Obviously, the writer is an automotive historian at heart and someone who appreciates the heritage of the Lincoln automobile. It's always good to know that the museum "tells the Lincoln story." Thank you for a fine report!