Lincoln Zephyr

With integrated fenders and streamlined aerodynamic design Lincoln Zephyr was considered a car of the future. Belonging to the lower priced line of Lincoln luxury cars, Zephyr was introduced on November 2, 1935.

Many doubted the success of this innovative model since streamlined Chrysler Airflow models proved a failure a little time before. Still, Edsel Ford vision and Eugene Turenne Gregorie designs proved everyone wrong as Lincoln Zephyr reignited the sales in the following years.

Lincoln Zephyr had additional purpose to fill in the price gap between Ford De Luxe and prestige Lincoln Model K, which allowed Ford to cover to majority of luxury car market. Even though there were only 15,000 units sold in 1936, it was the key sales that accounted for 80% of Lincoln's total sales.

A very handsome conventional front designed by Gregoire, inspired by streamlined envelope body had front engine mounted within. A vertical radiator grille was used to hide the radiator, in an attempt to avoid radical look which may have caused the commercial downfall of Chrysler Airflow model.

Still, esthetics caused an unforeseen problem since the flathead V12 engine had radiator installed surprisingly low in the engine bay. Since the grille opening narrowed at the bottom, airflow was actually constricted. Buyers soon began complaining about the tendency to overheat which was result from previously mentioned issues. Gregoire measured the space between the front frame rails and decided to mount the radiator horizontally.

Testing of his idea in a primitive air tunnel proved effective, so the company placed the first modern horizontally oriented grille on Zephyr. In the end Lincoln Zephyr had a lower drag coefficient than the rival Chrysler Airflow. The 1938 Lincoln Zephyr low and horizontal mustache grille was revolutionary during that period. On this pragmatic solution of a serious technical problem General Motors Harley Earl made a famous comment: "Oh my God, how did we miss on that one? That's going to ruin us".

Zephyr rigid body designed by John Tjaarda had a weight of only 3,350 lb. The 1936 model was powered by a small 267 cu in V12 engine, with hydraulic lifters added later in 1938. Original engine was capable of generating 110 horsepower, achieving a top speed of 90 miles per hour.

Transverse front and rear springs, with dead axle front and torque tube rear comprised the suspension system. It was considered somewhat antique even in those days, but Henry Ford preferred it and his word counted. Early models from 1936 to 1938 had mechanical brakes installed, in opposition to 1939 and later models which used hydraulic braking system.

When the United States became involved in the World War II, complete American car production was halted. The last original Lincoln Zephyr line was produced on February 10 in 1942. After the war, many manufacturers reinitiated their former production lines, as was the case with Lincoln. Despite the brand, Zephyr name was no longer used and models were called Lincolns.

It wasn't the end of Zephyr, since a modern version was presented in 2006, before being renamed MKZ for 2007 model year. In many areas Lincoln Zephyr stood ahead of its time, being the most saleable and having the longest production line of all pioneering streamlined designs in 1930s. This beautiful car that paved the road for the modern car era is still highly appreciated in the collector community and its mark in the American automotive industry remains strong.

Next: Lincoln Model K | Return to library | Follow on Facebook