Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lincoln Custom

The Lincoln Custom was a custom limousine and long-wheelbase touring sedan from Ford's Lincoln luxury division, manufactured only in 1941 and 1942. It was a replacement for the large Model K Lincolns (produced from 1934-1939) and earlier luxury cars that had been well-known and respected through the 1920's and 1930's.

The Lincoln Custom was based on the Lincoln Zephyr, a smaller, unit-bodied, mid-range priced vehicle introduced in 1937 with a smaller 292 cu. inch V-12 (based on the Ford V-8). This car competed with the smaller Packard 110, Packard 120 and Cadillac Series 60 and La Salle; smaller cars introduced in the mid-30's to a shrinking luxury car market. For example, the mighty Lincoln Model K sold only 3024 in the first year of its introduction in 1934 and only 133 units in 1939, the last year of production. 1940 saw only the Zephyr and the ultra-high priced Continental carrying the Lincoln name.

The wheelbase of the Lincoln Custom was 138 inches compared to the Zephyr's 125. Both vehicles used the same V-12 engine that was enlarged for 1942 to 305 cubic inches (130 horsepower). The engine was the weakest point of the 1942 models, being very prone to overheating and premature wear. The 305 cubic inch version was reduced to the 292 inch (120 horsepower) version after World War II in an attempt to promote longevity. The V-12 was the only engine used in Lincolns until the totally new 1949 models came out with a flathead V-8 based on a Ford truck engine.

The 168H (1941) and 268H (1942) Lincoln Custom featured two models: the Model 31 eight- passenger sedan and the model 32 eight-passenger limousine. Differences included a division window and different front seat upholstery for the limousine. Both utilized a 3-speed transmission with Borg-Warner overdrive. A small number were modified by the few custom coach builders left in the United States before the was. An interesting fact is that the 1942 models introduced power windows to the luxury car field; electric and hydro-electric powered limousine dividers having previously been offered.

Specifications were as follows:

1941 - Model 31 Sedan, 4250 lbs., $2750, 355 built

Model 32 Limousine, 4270 lbs., $2836, 295 built
1942 - Model 31 Sedan, 4380 lbs., $2950, 47 built

Model 32 Limousine, 4400 lbs., $3075, 66 built

For 1942, the Zephyr-based waterfall grill was changed to a broad full-width grill that extended above and below the hood and was also used in the 1946-1948 models (Lincoln sedan and Lincoln Continental). These changes were undoubtedly due to the major Cadillac and Packard grill design changes during these immediate pre-war years, whose production and sales far outpaced Lincoln.

After World War II, production of these vehicles was not resumed. The former Zephyr became the only Lincoln sedan and was available in both standard and DeLuxe versions. The famous Lincoln Continental remained as a limited production, very expensive (and not very reliable) semi-custom offering from the luxury division of Ford Motor Company. For 1949, a major revamp of the entire Lincoln line was made, eliminating the slant-back Zephyr and custom Contintental and introducing relatively modern V-8 power.

A special 1942 limousine was provided to the White House for the President's use. This car weighed more than 7000 lbs. and was refitted with a 1946 grill clip after the war for modernization. Cadillac and Lincoln vied for visibility and prestige by supplying limousines and other special vehicles to the White House (generally by means of a $1.00 per year or other low-cost lease arrangement). Packard and Chrysler were rarely able to penetrate this exclusive market.