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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

1958 Lincoln



When planning the Lincoln lineup for 1958, stylists wanted to set the luxury field on fire with an edge that the competition—namely Cadillac--didn’t have. It was decided early on that Dearborn’s flagship would be built on a Unibody design. It was a bold decision because no large prestige automobile had ever been manufactured using monocoque construction. 

While Nash had pioneered the concept in mass production back in 1941, its largest automobiles rode on a 3073.4-millimetre (121-inch) wheelbase. Engineers and stylists at Lincoln would stretch that envelope and the imagination by a full 254 millimetres (ten inches)!

1957 Nash Ambassador Country Club hardop.
 In theory, a frameless Lincoln would be lighter and more powerful. An early prototype buckled badly when it hit a pothole. Lincoln engineers promptly purchased a new Nash Ambassador, the largest unit-body automobile in production, for intensive study. As engineers took the Nash apart, the new Lincoln was quick to benefit from many more welds and reinforcements but each one added weight. On top of that, the new engine being developed for Lincoln caused the car to vibrate badly. That problem was resolved by adding even more weight. This was going to be a very heavy piece of machinery.

This  full-sized Lincoln mock-up was rejected.
Now, if these engineering challenges weren’t enough, the entire corporate structure around Lincoln changed abruptly. One morning the Continental Division was folded into a new Lincoln-Mercury Division. Jobs were scrambled. John Reinhart, former boss at Continental, found himself working under Bill Najjar. Reinhart quit. So did Bill Schmidt who was in charge of the 1957 Lincoln. Management hated his finned design and ordered newcomer Najjar to make major changes late in the game.


Najjar and the team scrambled like mad to finish the 1957 Lincoln before getting to work on the upcoming 1958 models that sorely needed attention. The entire department sweated bullets, working virtually around the clock to get the task finished. The heat was on as rumours ran rampant within the company that Ford was running out of money for new tooling. To add to everyone’s woes was the fact that the new Lincolns were going to be built in a factory that was still under construction 32 kilometres (20 miles) away in Wixham.

The Lincoln Typhoon was nixed by management.
Two completely different Lincoln designs were developed at the same time in the four Lincoln studio bays. Theme 2 made use of split bumpers, heavily hooded headlights and a flattish,  open-ended appendage that hovered over the rear window glass. It was far less graceful than Theme 1 and was finally abandoned. 

The chosen design was gloriously rich in textured surface detail and met management’s edict that it not employ fins. These automobiles were not just long, low and spacious, advertising bragged that the latest Lincoln offerings were “the longest, lowest, most spacious cars in the fine car field.”   


Quad headlights were recessed in deeply Vee’d chrome pods at the fenders’ ends. A wide and ever so gently Vee’d meshwork grille filled the front. The bumper carried tasteful Dagmars and the ends wrapped around to the side where they fluidly fluted to greet and match the elegant lines accenting the front wheels. The hood carried a centre crease that became a tasteful prow-shaped pedestal for the stand-up hood ornament.

From the side, Lincolns were given a mid-line body crease that ran from stem to stern. A lower crease rose at the rear wheel well and traced the majestic car’s form to the fluted rear bumper wraparound. An almost imperceptible swell in the beltline rose in the rear quarter panel to ride to very end of the graciously canted, briefly chrome-capped rear fender. Premieres were distinguished with a chrome spear on the lower body, set off with a gold starburst.


Majestic describes the rear of the Lincoln. The massive bumper rose gracefully to envelop a deeply recessed, chrome-framed housing in which was set a meshwork panel, embellished by the Lincoln symbol at its centre. The four Continental Mark IIIs carried a trio of round taillights at the edges, the lesser Capri was given a set of semi-elliptical lights with built-in backup lenses.

Designers employed a tastefully restrained windshield that not only wrapped around to the sides but over the top, “to let you sight overhead traffic lights without craning your neck.”  The roofline was simplicity itself, its fluid lines ending in a breathtaking reverse-cant C-pillar, offset with the Lincoln symbol in gold. The rear window opened on Continentals. “Just a flick of a switch on the driver’s armrest control panel and the rear window slides out of sight-to give you open-car ventilation.” And that was true of the convertible, too!

The open Lincoln featured a fully retractable roof, a concept borrowed from Ford’s Skyliner. When the top was down the lines were extraordinarily clean and breathtakingly low. To no one’s surprise, the convertible weighed in at more than 2 267 kilos (5,000 pounds).

Rare in Detroit was a new vehicle with a new power plant but Lincoln would have both for 1958. The engine was rated at 375 horsepower and was mated to the three-speed Turbo-Drive Automatic transmission. Despite its weight, Lincoln but was no slouch. A driver could zip from zero to 100 kph (60 miles per hour--in ancient Canadian units of measure) in less than eight seconds.


Befitting one of the world’s most beautiful automobiles, interiors were appointed in soft, supple leather from none other than Bridge of Weir in Scotland. No expense was spared “if it could add to your comfort and ease of mind.” Each and every Lincoln had five ash receivers with individual lighters. A “keyboard” of electric window switches for the driver, included a novel new “lockout” feature to prevent children from tampering with the windows. A discrete button under the radio could be pushed to lubricate the front suspension and steering system. When the job was done, a light glowed a soft green. The instrument cluster was set up on what was referred to by styling staff as a TV screen-like tableau.

Every automobile needs accessories and owners could order their lovely Lincolns with the new Travel-Tuner Radio or the FM radio Tuner, dual automatic radio antennas, the new Single-Control Heater and Air Conditioner, Venetian sun visors, a sealed beam spotlight, an automatic headlight dimmer, six-way power seats, seat belts, power vent windows, the Push-Button Power Lubrification System, electric door locks, tinted glass, nylon cord tires, an electric trunk release, an automatic starter (!)  and  Curb Buffer Mouldings.

A few of the colours offered were Starmist White, Presidential Black, Arrowhead Blue, Shasta Blue, Sunset and Matador Red. Yes, there were tasteful two-tone colour combinations for those who desired them.

1958 Ford Anglia from Britain was popular with Canadians.
As beautiful and desirable as Lincoln was, it did not sell. It was a recession year and consumers were drawn to practical little Vauxhalls, British Fords and Ramblers. Records show that only 1,543 of the lithe and lovely Lincolns were imported and sold throughout the Dominion during the 1958 calendar year. Be-finned archrival Cadillac found favour with 3,632 buyers while in its final year the once proud Packard drew only a handful of owners.











           

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Copyright James C. Mays 2004 All rights reserved.

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