Classic Lincoln Caraven
with Rick Parker
Originally published in the November/December 1999 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 231)
In recent years we have begun seeing Lincoln Ls and Ks at our national meets, and there is getting to be a lot more interest in them in LCOC. I have wanted to buy one for some time, so I have looked at a lot of them all over the country, and hopefully one of these days I will have one, probably a 1937 or later model as that’s what the budget seems to dictate. I want a nice presentable driver, and not a show car.
When I first got bitten by “The Early Lincoln” bug I began asking people what is out there for me to buy and what is it going to cost? The numbers have run all the way from $10,000 to $50,000. The car featured here is for sale for $125,000 which is quite a bit beyond my budget. But it is a fascinating car.
This is a 1931 Dietrich Convertible Sedan with about 55,000 original miles, and is in Northern Ohio. I met the owner at the Lincoln Owner’s Club banquet last year in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He was telling me about the Lincolns he owned, and said L, L and L. Then he said K and my ears perked up. After that he said Convertible Sedan and my eyes got big. I then asked, “Can I come and see your cars?”
This is an almost all original car that he has owned for some 30 years. The car was purchased from another collector in northeastern Ohio who had lots of Lincolns. The car is all original, except for the front seat upholstery which was replaced in the late ‘50s. The rear seat upholstery, carpeting, top, paint and chrome are all original.
Some of the paint is chipped off and that is an unusual story. I was told that in the late ‘60s the car was in a movie that was filmed in the Cleveland area in the dead of winter. The car was stored in a heated warehouse at night while the movie company was using it. One morning the car was driven out into the crisp, cold air and some of the pieces of paint decided to “leap off’ with excitement. Right off the body. Something you should consider if you have a very old car with original paint.
Despite the fact that the car needs repainting because of this unfortunate incident, overall the car is very impressive for its originality and the patina of use. Everything, and I mean everything is there, right down to the leather straps that hold the folded top in position.
Several people asked what the differences are between the various Ks built in the ‘30s. So, here is Rick’s short primer on the engineering of the Model K (we will discuss styling at another time):
In 1931, the Model L was replaced with the Model K. It had the 384 cid V-8 used in the 1930 Model L, modified with downdraft carburetion, improved manifolds, a separate generator and starter, a different water pump, and a mechanical fuel pump replacing the vacuum tank. The new engine had a 33% increase in power output over the ‘30 L engine, bringing it up to 120 hp. The only chassis built in 1931 had a wheelbase of 145 inches.
For 1932, a new engine was introduced. This was a V-12 displacing 448 cubic inches, using fork and blade connecting rods. This engine produced 150 hp, and was available only in the 145 inch chassis. This car was called the Model KB. A new 136 inch chassis was introduced, and the last use of the Leland-designed V-8 was in this chassis, which was called the KA. A vacuum-powered booster was added to the braking system.
In 1933, apart from styling, the KB was unchanged. The KA received a new engine. This engine was a 381 cid V-12, producing 125 hp. In an effort to reduce production costs, this engine abandoned the fork and blade rods in favor of offset connecting rods, and would only be in production for one year.
In 1934, both engines were replaced with a new V-12 displacing 414 cubic inches. The 414 produced the same 150 hp as the 448, and was the first Lincoln engine to use insert bearings, where the previous engines had used babbit metal. As before, the KB was the long wheelbase car, and the KA was the short wheelbase.
For 1935, there was only the Model K, built on both chassis. There were no major engineering changes either in 1935 or 1936.
In 1937, the 414 received hydraulic lifters, and a revised camshaft profile. The listed output of the engine remained at 150 hp, but some people say that the ‘37 engine has more horsepower and torque. You can put any of these cars in first gear, and they will happily idle down the street at walking speed. No further engineering changes were made to the K through the end of production in 1939.
The Ls are completely different cars from an earlier era. While they are beautiful cars, some will argue that they are more work to drive. The L had updraft carburetion, and generally speaking they do not handle or brake as well as the Ks. I will say, however, that I have never driven an L. Are there any L owners out there who might want to give me a road test?
Some classic Lincolns are more desirable than others. At the top of the heap is the ‘32 and ‘33 KB. Generally speaking, the 1937-39 Lincolns are less desirable than the earlier cars because some people don’t like the look of the headlights in the front fenders. By the way, those are dead-stock ‘37 Lincoln-Zephyr headlight lenses and trim rings.