ABOVE: The Lincoln Boano was honored at the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
By Tim Howley. Photos courtesy of Frank Maffucci.
Originally published in the November/December 2002 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 249).
In Continental Comments #207, January-February, 1996 we reported on the near forgotten 1955 Lincoln Boano Coupe which was found and was slowly being restored by an LCOC member in New Jersey.
That restoration has now been completed, and the car made its first public appearance in 46 years at the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d ’Elegance in California. The car is now owned by one Mr. Kerr of Pennsylvania, and was restored by Jim Cox and his crew from Sussex Motor & Coachworks in Matamoris, Pennsylvania. This latest information comes from our own Frank Maffucci who supplied many of the 1955 original parts for the restoration. Mr. Mario Boano, who built the car originally, is still living, and provided much helpful information so that parts could be fabricated to bring the car back to its original condition.
During the fifties, Ford produced a bevy of show cars, many of which influenced production car styling and a few of which still exist. The Boano Coupe was a special model built for Henry Ford II. While it was a fully operational car, it was never very influential or very well received on the show circuit, but it was one of the few that escaped the wrecking ball, passed through several owners over the years and finally was restored to see the light of day again, over four decades later.
The Lincoln Boano Coupe is also called the Indianapolis Sport Coupe. It is one of the most unusual looking Ford show cars ever built. No major Ford stylist was ever connected with it. The car was built in Italy to a different drummer. Since it was intended for Henry Ford II’s personal use and was only shown overseas it did not have to follow current U.S. styling trends. Then Mr. Ford decided to sell it to the dashing movie actor Errol Flynn. When Flynn died in 1958 his niece inherited the car. It then passed through several owners, ending up in 1972 in the hands of Chuck and Rita Hannah of Hawthorne, New Jersey. Hannah was a LCOC member and professional auto restorer. He restored the car slowly over a period of 25 years, then died in 1997, before the restoration was complete. Then Mr. Kerr bought the car and had the restoration completed.
The car originated with a 1955 Lincoln chassis that was shipped to Italian designer Mario Boano of Turin, Italy, and a former partner in Ghia. While the chassis retained the 123-inch 1955 Lincoln wheelbase, it was given all new steel body and was powered by a pre-production 1956 Continental Mark II engine and 1955 Lincoln powertrain. The power steering and basic assemblies are also 1955 Lincoln. The steering wheel is stock 1955 Lincoln. The instrumentation looks like a 1955 Thunderbird but it is more Lincoln and Mercury than Thunderbird.
The car was first shown at the 1955 Turin Auto Show and arrived in the United States in late 1955.
Back in the fifties, Henry Ford made a lot of trips to Europe. He struck up a friendship with Mario Boano who left Ghia coachbuilders of Turin, Italy, in 1953 and formed his own coachbuilding firm, along with his son, which was operated until 1956. During this period of time, Boano made yearly trips to Dearborn soliciting business from Ford and Chrysler.
Even though Henry Ford II commissioned the car and its unique styling, the car was not well received on the European show circuit. It never was put on the U.S. show circuit, and received very little publicity in the U.S., none of it very good. Perhaps this is why Henry Ford II decided to sell it to Errol Flynn in 1956. Ford was known to hob-nob with movie stars and sell or give them special cars.
The car did not follow Ford design trends of the time. In fact, nobody in Ford styling from those years remembers the car. There was an erroneous story at Ford that the car was lost in the Ford Rotunda fire in 1962. Most likely the Boanos designed the car, and they may have been influenced by a 1949 dead end design for a Lincoln Continental. That particular car could never be developed because it originated from an earlier GM design and Ford might have been sued had they ever promoted the car. So the Boano Lincoln has a strange and mysterious design history.
A lot of Ford show cars were non-functional, many were even made out of fiberglass. The Boano is an all steel car with complete running gear and everything works. We can only assume that both Henry Ford II and Errol Flynn drove the car because when the Hannahs bought it in 1972 the odometer showed 12,000 km or about 7,200 miles.
When the Hannahs bought the car it still ran well but had been damaged by a dash fire. Immediately, Chuck Hannah took the paint down to the bare metal and repainted it to its original orange color. He had a glass maker in Wisconsin reproduce the original windshield and black glass. But because customers’ cars always came first, Hannah never completed the restoration.
The car had a lot of trim, much of which the final restorer found to be incorrect by contacting Mr. Boano. The front and rear bumpers, the headlights, tail light pods, and the front fender chrome strips were all custom made as were most of the other trim pieces. The roof is permanent, it cannot be removed. At the openings of the back of the front fenders are fake exhaust pods. The openings at the front of the back fenders are also fake. But these openings could be made functional, the front ones to release engine heat and the rear ones to cool the rear brakes. The full wheel covers on the car are made of spun bronze with smaller Mark II type fins separately attached. The wheel covers are attached to special hubs on stock Lincoln wheels by “spinning” them. Under the hood the engine looks pretty much like a stock Mark II with Mark II aluminum valve covers. The fan shroud is about 15 inches deep and is made of finned and polished aluminum. The firewall and fender wells are covered with polished aluminum.
A checkered flag is located in front of the Indianapolis crest on each front fender. Gold plated script on the back fenders identify the car’s builder, Boano Torino.
Behind the Boano Torino script is the Boano family crest .An interesting feature of the car is a drawer where the spare tire and jack are located. The drawer is below the trunk area. It is released by a lever from inside the car. The center of the back bumper functions as a handle that pulls out with the drawer for easy access to the spare tire.
The car is strictly a two-passenger coupe, ala 1955-57 Thunderbird. It has a one piece seat bottom and separate seat backs that fold forward to give access to a very small luggage compartment. The car has no formal trunk. The power windows are operated by an internal cable and pulley mechanism.
The car has a 12-volt electrical system which Lincoln did not have until 1956. The dash knobs and parts are 1953 Lincoln.
The car’s color is a unique orange which was never used on a standard Lincoln, but a color similar to it was used on Mercury in he mid-fifties. This color is carried to the interior on the dashboard and seats which are also trimmed in white leather. Any way you look at it, the Boano Lincoln is a stunning car, and more in tune with the times today than in 1955.
ABOVE: The Boano Coupe as illustrated on the cover of Auto Age, November 1955
Originally published in the January/February 1996 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 207).
For years, stories have circulated in the automotive community that some, and maybe most of the 1950’s concept cars long thought destroyed, still exist. Joe Bortz, who collects and features concept cars in his Chicago “Blue Suede Shoes” museum, has at least one Ford Motor Co. concept car from the ‘50s that was supposedly found deep in the Michigan woods many years after plant employees certified it as having been destroyed. Because the ‘50s concept cars usually weren’t road worthy, or if road worthy, not thoroughly tested, they were often destroyed at the end of their perceived useful life. This was common practice at Ford Motor Co. It was felt best to literally “eliminate” any potential liability problem. Even at Ford Motor Co., however, no consistent policy was followed. The 1955 Lincoln Futura survived to become TV’s Batmobile and the 1953 X 100 is to this day on display at the Henry Ford Museum.
According to a popular version of the story, employees unable to watch these beautiful machines cut up for scrap, spirited them out the back door in the middle of the night, and ever since then have kept them hidden in the woods, or more likely in private garages. As these employees have retired, or so the story goes, a few of these long hidden concept cars have come out of hiding. Until more of these “lost” concept cars either show up or with the passage of even more time, fail to appear, there is no real way of substantiating or debunking stories about other concept cars that are said to still exist but haven’t yet been documented. Based on the concept cars certified as destroyed, but confirmed to still exist, the least that can be said is that there is some truth to the stories.
One of the concept cars long thought destroyed is the 1955 Lincoln Boano Coupe, also called the Indianapolis Sports Coupe. The Boano Coupe is one of the most unusual looking Lincoln concept cars ever built. Although most concept cars contain styling features later found on production automobiles, it’s hard to see where any of the styling cues on the Boano Coupe ever made it into production. It certainly doesn’t look like any production Ford Motor Co. product ever built. Because the Boano Coupe was built in Italy at a time that the Ford Design Studio was also turning out a whole series of concept cars that accurately predicted styling on future Ford Motor Co. cars, it seems probable that the Lincoln Boano Coupe was intended to be a fancy, sporty type car for the boss and nothing more.
Most of Ford Motor Company’s records on the Boano Coupe were destroyed in the Ford Rotunda fire in 1962. Records that do exist claim that the Boano Coupe was destroyed in the late 1950’s. Contrary to what these records say, and to paraphrase Samuel Clemens, reports of the demise of the Boano Coupe were premature.
Since 1972, LCOC members Chuck and Rith Hannah of Hawthorne, New Jersey, have owned the one and only Lincoln Boano Coupe. As nearly as they can tell, they are the fifth or sixth owners. Although they have not been able to document what they have been told about what happened after it left Ford Motor Co., it was apparently owned, at one time, by movie actor Errol Flynn, passed on to his niece at his death, was for sale at another time on Ed Juris’ Nyack, New York Showroom floor, and was later sold by its New Hampshire owner to a friend of the Hannahs. The Hannahs’ friend bought the Boano Coupe to restore, but after getting the first bill from a local restoration shop, he quickly changed his mind and sold it to the Hannahs. Chuck has talked to a salesman at the Ed Juris dealership who remembers the car and to Errol Flynn’s niece, a lady named Smith, who confirms that she inherited it from the famed movie actor upon his death.
Built in 1954 but titled as a 1955 Lincoln, the Boano Coupe was at least the third special one-off car that Henry Ford II had built for his personal use. One of these earlier special cars was similar in looks to the post war Lincoln Continental V-12 but it was built on a Mercury chassis. See Continental Comments #184. The other one was a custom Model A Ford Sportsman designed by Bob Gregorie.
The Boano Coupe looks very vaguely similar to a 1984 drawing done by Bob Thomas, a retired Ford Motor Co. stylist, of a proposed 1949 Lincoln Continental. See Continental Comments #179.
The Boano Coupe was named after its builder, Italian designer Boano of Turin, a former partner of Ghia. It was built on a modified 1954 Lincoln chassis and has a 123” wheelbase like other 1954 Lincolns. The body is all steel. The car is also fully functional. It is powered by what appears to be a pre-production Continental Mark II engine, that even has cast aluminum Mark II valve covers. The power steering and brake assemblies look identical to those on the Mark II. The car, which has a metric speedometer and odometer, showed 12,000 km (about 7,200 miles) when the Hannahs bought it; the mileage appears to be original. The rest of the instruments are stock 1954 Lincoln. The engine has never been apart; the valve covers appear to have never been off. The engine and transmission numbers match original Ford Motor Co. records. The Hannahs have rebuilt the transmission and in the process were able to confirm that the transmission is the same as was used in the Mark II. Whether the engine & and transmission were with the chassis when sent to Italy for body construction, or were installed after the car was returned to Dearborn, is unknown. (The car was first shown at the 1955 Turin Auto Show and arrived in the United States in late 1955.) The electrical system is 6 volt.
By the time the Boano Coupe was built, plans for the Mark II were fairly well set, and thus it seems unlikely that it was ever considered as a prototype Continental.
From 1959 until he retired in 1985, Chuck Hannah operated a full time automobile restoration business. Chuck says he has always been partial to Lincolns. The first car he restored was his own 1948 Lincoln Continental coupe. In addition to Duesenbergs, Rolls-Royces, and Pierce-Arrows, Chuck has restored several 1941 Lincoln Continentals, three 1942 Lincoln Continentals, his own 1942 Custom, several Mark IIs, including his own, lots of Lincoln-Zephyrs and so many ‘60s four door
convertibles that he has lost track of the number. He admits to having owned at least ten ‘60s Lincolns. Since retirement, Chuck has limited his collector cars to a 1954 Lincoln Capri two-door hardtop, a Jeepster, a 1965 and a 1966 Corvair, two Cadillac Fleetwoods, a 1950 Cadillac Derham limousine originally built for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the 1955 Lincoln Boano Coupe.
Ford Motor Co. was surprised to find out that the Boano Coupe still existed, but was very helpful in supplying the Hannahs with the information still available. They also offered to buy the car back, if the Hannahs ever decide to sell it.
When the Hannahs bought the Boano Coupe, it ran well, but had been damaged by a dash fire. Heat or fire had scorched the dash and driver’s seat, and cracked the front windshield. The back window was apparently broken out to gain access to fight the fire. The carpeting was gone, probably removed as a result of fire damage, but there was evidence that the carpeting had originally been orange.
Right after the Hannahs brought the Boano Coupe home, Chuck began its restoration. The orange paint was removed right down to the metal. The metal finishing on the car is fantastic. All butt welds on the hand constructed body are finished so well, very little filler was originally used or was necessary during restoration. Chuck was able to match the original paint to a stock Lamborgini color. The car’s custom Italian made radiator was rebuilt, and all the chrome and 24 carat gold plating were redone. The original detailing was fabulous.
After months of trying to find replacement windshield and back glass, Chuck contacted a glass manufacturer in Wisconsin who agreed to reproduce them. Molds were made by putting stiff mesh wire into the rubber moldings in place of the windshield and back glass, and then making the form rigid by applying fiberglass resin to the wire mesh.
Because someone else’s car always came first, the Hannahs have never completed the restoration of the Boano Coupe. Consequently, it’s spent most of the time since 1972 in the shop and out of public view. Right now, it’s being repainted again. As soon as that’s done, and the car is back together, the Hannahs plan to get it on the road and to an LCOC national meet.
Contemporary articles published when the car was new don’t do a very good job of describing the car. Just above the front bumper in the center, the name Lincoln is spelled out in small block letters, and on the front just below the hood is a gold plated Lincoln crest identical to the crest used on the 1948 Lincoln Continental. The front and rear bumpers, the headlight pods, tail light pods and the front fender chrome strips were all custom made as were most of the other trim pieces. The roof is fixed; it cannot be removed. The gas filler is located in the center of where the trunk lid would otherwise be and is released by an interior lever. There is no exterior trunk or outside rearview mirror. At the openings at the back of the front fenders are fake exhaust pipes. The openings at the front of the back fenders are also fake. (Contemporary news articles explained that if the car was put into production the front fender openings would be used to exhaust engine heat, and the rear fender openings would be used to cool the back brakes.) The full wheel covers on the car are made of spun bronze with smaller Mark II type fins separately attached. The wheel covers are attached to special hubs on stock Lincoln wheels by “spinning” them on.
The hood is hinged from the back by chrome plated cast hood hinges. When opened, springs on the hood hinges hold the hood up without need for other support. The fan shroud is about 15 inches deep and made of finned and polished aluminum. The firewall and fender wells are covered by polished aluminum panels.
A checkered flag is located in front of Indianapolis script on each front fender. Gold plated script on the back fenders identify the car’s builder, Boano Torino. Behind the Boano Torino script is the Boano family crest. The same crest is also on the plate where the back license plate would normally be recessed into the center of the back bumper with a Plexiglass cover in the same shape as the bumper. (There is no provision for a front license plate.)
The most interesting exterior feature of the Boano Coupe is the drawer where the spare tire and jack are located. The drawer is below the trunk area. It is also released by a lever from inside the car. The center of the back bumper between the tail light pods functions as a handle that pulls out with the drawer for easy access to the spare tire.
The car is strictly a two passenger model. It has a one piece seat bottom and separate seat backs that fold forward to give access to a small luggage area behind the seats. The upholstery is orange and white pleated leather. The power door windows are operated by an internal cable and pulley mechanism. The door garnish moldings are painted metal shaped to appear as if a continuation of the instrument panel. The black steering wheel and steering column are stock 1954 Lincoln. The turn signal stalk and the shifting control are also stock 1954 Lincoln and are located on the steering column. The metal unpadded instrument panel is car color, but there is no radio (although one was installed aftermarket). There is no glove box either. The instrument panel face can be closed off by means of a metal panel that unlocks and slides down out of sight to reveal controls and full instrumentation finished in 24 carat gold plate.
There you have it. A very unusual one-of-a-kind Lincoln long thought lost is really alive and well and awaiting completion of its restoration. If the truth be known, the Hannahs are probably a little puzzled by all the fuss others are making over the car that, to them, has never been lost.
What about the other “lost” concept cars? If they are out there, how do we encourage their owners to go public? There’s probably not one answer that fits all situations, but there are solutions. After 30 or 40 years, Ford Motor Co. is probably as happy as hobbiests to learn that these national treasures may still exist.
Webmaster Note: A special thank you to David Moyer for sharing this color photo of the Boano Coupe taken at the 2007 Greenwich, CT, Concours d’Elegance.