Back in 1953, Lincoln swapped its stovepipe hat for a beanie and gobbled up all comers in the 1,900-mile Pan-American road race. The next year they did it again, as hundreds of little Mexican boys screamed out to the rest of the competition, “They went that-a-way, senor!”
One thing about the Ford organization (which includes the Continental, Lincoln, Mercury, Ford and next year the Edsel) is that these boys are not set in their ways. With their Mexican successes behind them—successes which were accomplished because their cars were not only fast, but roadable and the finest-handling automobiles ever produced in this country— Lincoln switched character. Like the guy who reaches for his carpet slippers after he’s won the girl, or the gladiator who sheaths his broadsword after successfully pigsticking the dragon, Lincoln took off its competition coveralls, slipped into white-tie-and tails, and emerged as a conservative, distinguished gentleman with discreetly concealed muscles. The only holdover from the hell-for-leather “Mexican” Lincolns was the car’s outstanding roadability and handling prowess.
If a big car has ever been built that can out-handle the Lincoln, then I’ve never had the pleasure of driving it. This, plus terrific brakes, makes Lincoln as safe a car as has been built to date.
Performance-wise—meaning top speed and acceleration—Lincoln no longer is making a serious attempt to be the Whiz Kid of the drag strips or the speed trials. Like a retired Derby winner, Lincoln now rests on its laurels. Size went up, engine capacity was increased, and the old champ acquired a smooth but horsepower-robbing new transmission. In 1956, Lincoln was a close contender for the finest-looking automobile ever produced in the land of Soapy Williams and Walter Ruther. The cars were still fast, but had acquired an Ivy League look that made at least one of their competitors resemble the Limehouse Button King. With the addition of Ed Sullivan’s stumping, Lincoln enjoyed the best sales year in its history.
Superb roadability plus terrific brakes make this new 300 hp. white-tie-and-tails job “as safe a car as has been built to date,” according to Uncle Tom.
There are many types of buyers of cars in the Lincoln class, and they include the successful man who has made his pile and suddenly realizes he has forgotten to have fun along the way. Lincoln made its main pitch in ‘56 to this well-regulated character of taste who wanted superb and enjoyable transportation in a conservative package, a car that didn’t have to go in for hand-tooled saddlery and a garland of silver dollar decorations that shouted “money” in a loud voice.
From a performance standpoint, give or take a wheel turn or two, there has been no increase in over-the-ground rapidity from the ‘56 jobs. Zero to 60 still takes 12 seconds. When correctly tuned, these big Lincolns will just edge the 110-mph. mark. They do, though, have a way of slamming into a corner or whipping through a bend with all the steadiness of a bowling ball transversing a laundry chute at speeds that would dump some of the competition head over teakettles.