Fun in the ‘59

Fun in the ‘59

As many LCOC members know, my first car was a ’59 Mark IV convertible.  After several requests to document the thrill of ownership  here goes.

  I started looking for a ’58 or ’59 convertible in the spring of 1966, armed with only a psychotic lust for a Mark II and a budget of $600.  I found a maroon “58 at a used car lot, but the lot owner (Honest Johnny’s Used Cars) took one look at me and refused to see it.  An honest used car salesman! 

  Next, it was a succession of junkers and worn out examples, or overpriced (all the way up to $1,400 for a Derham bodied ’58, with a top that aped the original ’41, but looked like a pickup truck on the ’58).  Finally, my sister Vicki and I were returning from the Baltimore airport on Easter Sunday night after dropping my Dad off for a business trip.  We decided to drive through the city.  I spotted a ’59 convertible.  It was dark.  It looked good.  I was desperate.  I pulled up next to the driver, a large black man and motioned for him to pull over.  Now, remember that it was 1966.  He thought I was one of Baltimore’s finest.  He was not happy.  Imagine his surprise when he found that I only wanted to buy his car.

  A week later I was the proud owner of a worn, Earl Sheib light blue, black leathered Mark IV.  For the next three years, its insatiable need for repairs managed to keep me broke.  But, it didn’t seem to matter.  I loved the car.

  First, it was fast.  Like 0-60 in under 9 seconds, near 120 mile top speed.  The sight of the Wurlitzer-like Lincoln leaping off the line with a little chirp from the tires and smoking an over-carburetted ’56 Chevy was priceless.  Except to the driver of the Chevy.

Long distance drives were great, when I put 9.50/14 Atlas Plycron tires on (a budget killer at $32 each) and fitted extra heavy truck shocks.  The car handled like some huge GTO on carefree jaunts through the countryside.  Except for the brakes.  They were non-existent after the first stop from speed.  5,200 pounds, 14” wheels, full wheel covers and drum brakes were not the best solution.    I remember holding both feet on the pedal and pushing as hard as I could to stop it from creeping through a stop sign.  There was a practical reason that those cars had two brake pedal supports, one would have snapped.     Performance was also enhanced when the real mufflers reached their annual end of life and were replaced with…nothing.  Using just the resonators gave the Mark a real Gold Cup speedboat sound.

  The combination of an old Lincoln, a young owner, limited funds and a vast desire to drive led to many adventures, only some of which can be documented.  Like the time that my then wife and I double dated with my best friend and his girl Sue Agnew, Maryland governor Spiro Agnew’s daughter.  We went from Annapolis to Washington D.C. to see a concert.  In 1966, the road between DC and Annapolis was pretty deserted.  Of course, with the concert tickets, dinner and all, there was precious little money left for gas.  Let’s see, 100 odd miles round trip, $2.00 should do it, about 5.5 gallons plus what’s in the tank.   Almost.  We ran out on the way home, at about 2:00 A.M.  Unbeknownst to us, the governor’s security detail noted that we were way overdue and put out an all points bulletin for us.  We were found an hour or so later by a state policeman who was none too happy to be looking for a carload of kids.  He had a couple of gallons of gas in the trunk and proceeded to dump it into the hungry Lincoln, muttering all the way.  I suggested that he leave a few drops for priming, remember that the fuel line was about 20 feet long.  He suggested that I desist from making suggestions (or words to that effect).  After a few tries to start without success, he removed the air cleaner to prime.  Now, he was really mad. Again, I suggested that I prime and try to start (being an expert, since this happened about once a week).  Again, he suggested that I shut my pie hole.  This was not good.  The 430 was a bit grumpy whenever it was reminded of its reduced station in life under its present owner and tended to spit out the carb when prodded.  The trooper poured a good bit of gas down the carb and ordered ignition while still `leaning over the engine.  OK, I tried.  Turn the key, two or three revolutions and then, the mother of all backfires.  Not just a backfire, a backFIRE.  In the dark surroundings, it looked like Hiroshima, a brilliant flash highlighting the trooper and then nothing. I got out and we silently retrieved his hat as he stood stunned.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t retrieve his eyebrows.  I quickly started the car while the trio helped the trooper back to his car.  We got back to the Governor’s Mansion, where Sue got us $5.00.  We never saw the trooper again.

  The ’59 convert was an endless source of non-cooperation on dates, maybe she didn’t like competition for my affections.  Like the time the radio killed the battery while watching the Saturday night submarine races at the reservoir. Actually, county police helped to jump start the beast, saving all sorts of embarrassment.  Or the time that I had a date about 50 miles away and had to get a full tank of gas.  After spending the day cleaning the car, waxing the chrome and scrubbing the mildew off the carpets, I got spiffed up and went to the gas station.  Announcing the fill up request, the incredulous attendant yelled out “Hey, Kramer’s fillin’ it up!”.  Everyone came out to see the miracle.  As the pump bells chimed and the gallons climbed, My highly developed sense of impending disaster started ringing, also.  Maybe it was the growing pool of gas under the tank that set it off. It had been so long that the tank had seen more than $2.00 that it couldn’t take the strain. Cooly, I screamed “It’s leaking, it’s leaking…do something”.  Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed and Mike ran out with a self tapping screw, a rubber washer and some Fels-Naptha soap.  All I could see was the dollars reserved for the date going down the station drain.  In a few minutes the leak was reduced to a drip.  I drove down, picked up my date and she suggested the drive-in.  Now, normally, this would top a testosterone laden 19 year old’s list of places to go on a date.  This night, all I could think of was the little hill that you drove up for viewing the screen, the hill that would push the gas to the rear of the tank.  So, while the movie played and we settled down for the evening, a steady drip kept running through my head.  I went to get refreshments about three times, surprising my date with my unexpected largess.  Of course, I managed to notice the spreading puddle behind the car each time.  She was equally surprised when I wanted to call an early end to the evening.  I sailed back home praying that I’d make it, since the extra fuel, extra refreshments and all had totally depleted my finances and I should mentioned that the gas gauge had long since given up the ghost.  At about two in the morning, I pulled up to the house and gave a sigh of relief.  Concurrent with the sigh, the Lincoln also sighed and ran out of gas.  Perfect date.

  After meeting my wife, I went through Navy boot camp.  We decided that, upon my return, we’d take a long drive to celebrate.  July, top down, a long drive, what could be better.  Let’s see…how about some hair?  I was freshly boot camp shorn and it didn’t take long for nature to discover henceforth undiscovered territory.  I did what any 20 year old would do, I ignored the warning signs.  Upon waking the next day, I had the headache of a lifetime and little perforated pieces of red skin littered my pillow.  Now, I was bald and red. I looked like the light on the top of a state police car.  It took weeks to recover.

  In December, the Lincoln needed a water pump.  I was, as always, broke.  I got a rebuilt unit from an auto parts store and went to my friendly service station (remember those?), where they had recovered from the “full tank” repair described previously to allow me space to r&r the pump outside.  Remember, it’s December in Baltimore.  28 degrees.  Cold.  Armed with only a Chiltons  general repair manual, two wrenches, a screwdriver and determination, I started.  First step, remove the hood. OK.  Wait, read the small print…BEFORE removing the hood, mark its location on hinges.  Oops.  Never mind, keep going.  To make a long story short, it took me two days and the hood never fit right again.  I still have the scar from the petcock.  Saved $15, though. 

  My first car finally succumbed to old age and incompetent maintenance in 1968.  I was returning five other friends to Norfolk from Baltimore after a weekend leave.  It was about midnight Sunday when our 75 M.P.H. trip came to a screeching halt with a seized wheel bearing.   The car slammed to a halt.  We abandoned it and hitchhiked back to Norfolk, arriving just in time for roll call.  I immediately asked permission to retrieve the car. I left and hitchhiked back to where we left the Lincoln (about 180 miles) and found it gone!  I walked two miles to the next exit, called the state police and found that it had been towed to a junkyard at the next exit, three miles away.  I walked down and was greeted by a typical auto junk yard, but there was a lovely little cottage right in the middle, like something out of Disney, white with red shutters, garden, picket fence.  I knocked and a grumpy man told me it was $20 towing and $2 per day storage.  He tells me it looked like a bad bearing.  By now, it’s about 5:00 and the auto store in town is closed.  He points to a half buried ’53 Lincoln and snaps, “It uses the same bearing, here”.  He hands me a shovel.  I’m in my dress whites.  I dig out one wheel and the bearing comes right off.  I go over to my car and start to get the jack out.  He reemerges and says, “I guess you’ll need a decent jack” and produces a big one.  I jack the car, pull the wheel and find a fused mess.  The bearing and spindle had melted and become one.  He looks over my shoulder and growls “Now, you’ll need a grinder”.  Which he gives me.  It’s getting dark when I start to try to grind off enough metal to fit the new bearing on.  After a half hour, it looked close, so I tried to tap the bearing on the mangled spindle.   After two taps, the bearing cracked.  Wordlessly, the old guy went back and reproduced the shovel.  I dug the other wheel up and retrieved the second bearing.  His wife, a lovely, grandmotherly woman brought me a sandwich and Coke.  It sure tasted good.  After further grinding, at about 11 o’clock, I finally got the bearing on, but it wouldn’t turn.  I knocked and he said, well, what about the $22?  I said that I only had $10.  He wouldn’t even take that, but never broke character as I thanked him and started the drive back to Norfolk.  Top down, vent adjusted to blow on my face, no sleep in three days, it took forever.  I arrived filthy, just in time for roll call, caught hell from the chief, showered and did a day’s work.

Two weeks later, I stopped by to try to repay the folks for their kindness.  Maybe I got confused, but I never could find the place again.

Since the ’59 would only go straight without horrible groaning, we babied it that week, only taking it out to Virginia Beach (mostly straight) before the last trip home.  On the drive, I found the beautiful ’60 coupe that would become Lincoln #2, but that’s another story.

The Tim McManus Story

The Tim McManus Story

Tim MacManus was master of ceremonies at the LCOC National 2016 Western Meet in Westminster, Colorado and an important member of the Rocky Mountain Region Committee that organized the meet. He was born in New York City in Forest Hills, just beside Brooklyn.

The family then moved up to Old Greenwich, then down to Montgomery, Alabama where his father had a truck refrigeration company. When his father saw the original story on the Edsel he went to the Detroit Auto Show and saw the car for the first time and fell in love with it because the tail lights went all the way across the back when most of the others just had round tail lights in the fender and the front had a most unusual look and the instruments had a speedometer that rotated. It also had a button that when you pushed it it would lubricate your front end.

So he became an Edsel dealer in Burlington, North Carolina. But right away came the recession of 1958. The Edsel fit into a slot to better compete with General Motors. The Pacer and Ranger were on the Ford frame and the Corsair and Citation were on the Mercury frame. Then in December 1957 an article came out in Time magazine that put the car in ill repute and it never recovered from that. Women stopped coming into the show­rooms. This was also the first year that over a million imports were sold in the U.S. The Edsel the wrong car at the wrong time with the wrong design. For 1960 it was given a Ford design but it was too late. While the car lasted, Tim worked in his father’s dealership detailing Edsels and that’s where he learned to love cars.

After college, he went to work for Procter and Gamble. He started out with product goods, Head and Shoulders, Crest, Gleem, Scope, Prell, Secret, and he was so successful in three territories that he was selected to head the introduction of Pampers. It was so successful they couldn’t keep them on the shelves. From that success, he took a course in industrial real estate. He has sold industrial real estate ever since, for forty-six years.

When he was young he had five hears­es. He has always had two or three cars, even when things weren’t going so well. He now has a 1957 Cadillac Brougham, two 1958 Edsel Citation convertibles, a1964 Cadillac convertible, a 1979 Continental Mark V, a 1957 Continental Mark II, and a 1957 Thunderbird which is an Amos Minter ground up restoration. All of these cars are kept in a climate con­trolled facility near downtown Denver.

The 1979 Continental Mark V is a Collector’s Series that is black on black with a leather interior and a moonroof. It has the 400 cubic inch engine. He bought this car in the summer of 2015 from a dealer who had bought it out of a family estate with only 16,000 miles. The car had 22,000 miles at the time Tim bought it in the summer of 2015. At the time of the 2016 Westminster LCOC meet it had 23,000 miles. Only the 400 CID engine was offered for 1979. Most Collector’s Series were either white or midnight blue.

We have never seen a black one before and we do not know how many of this color were built. Four Designer Series were built. There was also a Luxury Group Series. Total 1979 Mark V pro¬duction was 75,939. The Mark V was an enormously successful car. Downsized 1980 Mark VI production was only about half that amount.

Annual Lincoln Homecoming and Grand National Meet, August 9-13, 2017

Annual Lincoln Homecoming and Grand National Meet, August 9-13, 2017

The 2017 Homecoming recognized the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Lincoln Motor Company, which was created in 1917 to build Liberty V12 motors for the Allied Forces during World War One. (The company was re-incorporated in 1920 to build motor cars.)

This was the 2017 national meet for all Lincoln clubs, featuring both judged and display-only classes. Though hosted by the Lincoln Owners Club, all Lincoln clubs were invited to attend: the Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club, Road Race Lincoln Register, Lincoln Continental Owners Club and the LOC.   Almost 150 Lincolns arrived to celebrate this milestone.

For several days preceding the weekend car show, attendees had the chance to choose from numerous driving tours that catered to a multitude of interests. Tours of the Off Brothers Automobile Collection and Bill Parfet Auto Collection brought passionate collectors together to marvel at the variety and endurance of these cars.

There were opportunities for great photos of our classic cars at Charlton Park Historic Village and a chance to imbibe in local craft beer at Bell’s Brewery.

A highlight was the tour of Kellogg Bird Sanctuary followed by a delicious plated lunch at the Kellogg Manor House. Docents shepherded small groups through the Kellogg’s summer home and shared numerous details of their life there.

Another option included a drive to Grand Rapids to visit beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Varied and exotic horticulture, both in the indoor conservatories and in the 158 acre park, meshed beautifully with the over 200 masterworks by renowned sculptors spread over the site. An added treat was an exhibit in the main building featuring work by renowned Chinese artist and social critic, Ai Weiwei.

Air buffs had a chance to see more than 50 diverse aircraft on display at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Center. Before dinner they were afforded close looks at everything from a replica of the first Wright Flyer, to World War II era fighters and bombers, all the way up to the modern and one-of-a-kind SR-71B Blackbird – the fastest plane ever built. The daring even tried high-definition 3D full motion flight simulators which allowed the brave to perform full-motion loops, rolls and more while dog-fighting in a fighter plane—closest thing to real flight without having to leaving the ground!

The weekend included the usual Friday dinner and lively auction of Lincoln memorabilia with “auctioneer” Tony Russo.

On Saturday the Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum hosted the fourth annual gathering of Lincoln motorcars, showcasing Lincolns from the 1920s and 30s. Judging will be done by the individual clubs. Later in the afternoon, there was as a dedication in the Lincoln museum of a rare Liberty engine by Dr. David W. Roycroft. His wife’s personal family history with that engine prompted him to search for, find and restore one for the museum.

LOC and LZOC awards were presented at that evening’s banquet, after which guest speaker Jack Telnack, retired global Vice President of Design for Ford Motor Company, shared his perspective on the key elements of good design and how those could be seen in different models over the years.

The weekend concluded with one final trip to Hickory Corners on Sunday for a car show which included presentation by the LCOC of its awards as well as photographing of the winning Lincolns. The Elliston H. Bell Founder’s Trophy for Most Outstanding Senior Lincoln was awarded to Warren and Lori Wubker of Orlando, Florida for their 1956 Premiere Convertible.

Thanks for planning this 2017 event go to a LMCF standing committee comprised of the four Lincoln presidents (Eric van den Beemt, LOC; Tom Brunner, LZOC; John Talbourdet, LCOC; Mike Denny, RRLR) and David Schultz, LMCF chairman. Also assisting were Greg Bilpuch, who played a major role in planning the museum’s dedication in 2014, and LMCF board member Vaughn Koshkarian. Additional thanks go to LCOC members Bob Johnson and Dennis Garrett who handled registration and other meet responsibilities.

Dearborn Gathering

Dearborn Gathering

Prior to the Grand National Meet in Hickory Corners, dedicated LCOC members gathered in Dearborn, Michigan to soak up more nostalgia. Organized as a pre-meet trip by meet organizers, this was an opportunity to visit both historic and contemporary sites in car manufacturing history.

The visit kicked off with a welcome dinner at the host hotel, the historic Dearborn Inn, built by Henry Ford to service those flying into his nearby airfield. The next day, an extensive bus tour took folks to the original Piquette Plant, where Ford created and initially built the Model T, and then wound its way through downtown Detroit highlighting the Fisher Building, the Albert Kahn Building, Cadillac Tower, Cadillac Place, One Detroit Center, GM Headquarters, and Minoru Yamasaki’s One Woodward Avenue, to name a few. The city has lost almost two-thirds of its population through several economic downturns and evidence of that decline could be seen in boarded up buildings juxtaposed with areas of revitalization.

Following the lunch at Andiamo overlooking the Detroit River and Canada on the far side, the bus travelled through the Grosse Point and Grosse Pointe Farms neighborhoods and along the scenic Lake Shore Road past beautiful homes on the river, stopping for an extensive tour of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford 1930’s era estate and grounds in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Dinner at the Dearborn Country Club offered an opportunity to see some of our vintage autos side by side with the new Lincoln Continental and the 2018 Navigator on the grounds of the club. Lincoln representatives were on hand to answer questions as guests sipped cocktails, browsed, and tried the new models on for size.

Kumar Galhorta, Vice-President of Ford Motor Company and President of Lincoln Motor Company, addressed the group after dinner and took spirited questions from the audience.

Before heading to Kalamazoo, attendees had the chance to take their classic cars for a photo op at Ford Motor Company Headquarters, check out the gift shop and have lunch in the company cafeteria.

Numerous people also planned side trips through downtown Detroit, toured the Rouge Plant where the F-150 trucks are assembled, and visited Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.

More pictures and details will be in an upcoming Comments issue.

Low Mileage 1979 Continental Mark V in Missouri

Low Mileage 1979 Continental Mark V in Missouri

Recently, I was surfing the internet looking at Lincolns. Some of the most beautiful motorcars ever produced rolled off the Lincoln assembly line, and I like to look and admire. One of the cars I stumbled across was a 1979 Mark V. The turquoise paint caught my eye, so I opened the classified ad. In a word, the car looked stunning. It was triple turquoise, a color combination I hadn’t seen before and it looked to be extremely nice. The clincher was the fact that the odometer only showed 21,000 miles. It really captured my attention, so I left a message for the seller and he called me back the next evening. He had owned the car for 16 years and had bought it from the original owner’s estate. The story he related was the original owner had traded a smaller car for the extra-large Lincoln, and was not comfortable driving it because of its size. As a result, he didn’t put many miles on it before he passed away. His widow didn’t drive it, either, but did have the dealership come out once a year to ser- vice, wash and wax the car. Then back in the garage it went. When she passed away, the car landed in the hands of her daughter. Once again, it was seldom driven. After a year or so of attempting to buy it from the daughter without any luck, the second owner received a phone call from her informing him that if he wanted it, he had to come and pick it up that day, which he did.

The second owner painted a picture of the car that was almost too good to be true. He described a car so pristine that if I wanted it, I had to come and pick it up. It even had its original belts and hoses. He came across as very sincere in his glowing description of the car, not as one who was trying to oversell the car. Still, it was a story that was almost too good to be true.

I found out that he was only 2 1/2 hours away from me, just outside of St. Louis, so I made arrangements to go look at the car. When I arrived on the next Saturday, he took me out to the garage to look at the car. He had recently retired, had downsized his home, and the massive Mark barely fit in the confines of his new garage. The car was stunning in its sea of turquoise. I had never seen one that color, and it reminded me of Fiestaware from the ‘50s. It was every bit as nice as he said it was. He pointed out a few things that needed attention, such as the inoperative fuel gauge. He asked if I wanted to drive it, but as nice as the car was, and as I was unfamiliar driving the car and the area, I asked him to take me for a ride instead. He did, and the car drove out like a brand new car. Even the eight-track tape player works! I could tell the rotors needed to be resurfaced, and the a/c didn’t work, but otherwise it was hard to fault the car. It was like a time warp back to 1979. We returned to his house and struck a deal. I was by myself,so I made arrangements to return the following weekend for the car.

During the following week, I sent off for a Marti report. The report came back that my car was one of 75,939 Mark Vs built in 1979, one of 3,136 with the Turquoise Luxury Group, one of 2,732 with Medium Turquoise Moondust paint, and one of 684 with my particular paint and trim codes. It’s also very well-optioned. It’s definitely not a common car.

Debbie and I returned the following Saturday, and headed back home with the car. I stopped to fill up the fuel tank and

off we went. We had been on the road for just under an hour when all the traffic on I-44 came to a standstill. After idling for a few minutes, the Mark died and wouldn’t restart. Traffic was moving, but at a snail’s pace. Debbie had parked behind me in her Honda and there we sat, blocking one lane. After a while, some guys in a Ford pick- up helped me push the Mark off onto the shoulder. We sat for about an hour, and then I tried to start the car. It wouldn’t start. Plenty of battery, no fuel. Debbie had learned from the MODOT website that someone had left the highway and struck a huge tower holding high-voltage power lines. The impact had knocked the power lines from the tower, and they were lying across the highway and the service road. There was nowhere to go. After another hour or so, we decided to call a wrecker when the Mark still would not start. Over the course of the next three hours, we waited for the wrecker and were in contact with roadside assistance. The wrecker driver tried, but he simply could not get to us. Troopers had begun routing traffic off the next off-ramp and up north twenty miles and back around to the west and then south back to I-44. They were two- lane, curvy back roads and that was slow going for the truckers, so traffic was still moving very slowly. After waiting for four hours, I made the hard decision to lock up the Mark and leave it on the shoulder, keys hidden with the car, hoping the wrecker would get to it sometime. Needless to say,

I was very apprehensive. I had asked the wrecker service to tow it to a Ford dealer that was not too far away.

We arrived home, eleven hours after we left, on what should have been a 2 1/2 hour drive. At 8:00 that evening, the highway was still not clear and the Mark had not

been picked up. I think it was around 10:00 p.m. when it was finally retrieved and on its way. I was concerned about having to leave it on the side of the interstate and having it towed, so we drove to the Ford dealer the next day, Sunday, to inspect it. We couldn’t find it. We called the wrecker company and they assured us it had been towed there, but it was nowhere to be found. On a hunch, we drove a mile down the road to the Dodge dealership, owned by the same person and with the same name on the sign. There it sat. It appeared to be fine, but was in the wrong place. I called the wrecker company, maybe they had towed it to the wrong place and would move it down to the Ford

dealership on Monday morning. On Monday morning, I called the Ford dealership and they said it would be three weeks before they could diagnose it. This is a small Ford dealer in a small town, so I knew they weren’t that busy. They just didn’t want to work on it. I then called Carl, the man whose shop had built my Hemi Lincoln, and who was not that far away. He agreed to go pick it up and take a look at it.

Carl had the car for almost a month. He re-routed a fuel line to solve the vapor lock issue,which was why it had died on the highway and wouldn’t restart. While it was running to

make sure it didn’t die again, the a/c compressor clutch started smoking. It had to be replaced, along with a leaking radiator. I also asked him to repair the fuel gauge, change all the fluids and turn the front rotors. When he pulled a front wheel off, he found that the car still had the OEM brake pads! They were still good, but we replaced them anyway.

I finally got the car back home almost a month after I started the journey. I washed it, clayed it, waxed it, and treated the leather. I touched up a few rock chips and spot-cleaned the carpet. For a 37-year- old car, it didn’t need much cosmetically. We have a couple of minor mechanical issues to address yet and because of that, I haven’t driven it much. Unfortunately, by the time I get it back, there won’t be much driving season left before the snow starts flying here in the Ozarks. I’ll surely be looking forward to spring!