Rod Hilgeman’s 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan Convertible

Rod Hilgeman’s 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan Convertible

ABOVE: The Hilgeman family with the car at Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Photos by John Walcek and Tim Howley
Originally published in the May/June 2009 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 288.)

The 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan originated in a clay done by Bob Gregorie in 1943. But the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner front end was redone after World War II to look more like the bottom grille of the 1946-48 models. Originally the car was to have concealed headlights. When that plan was scrapped for time and cost reasons it was replaced with sad, sunken headlights lined with stainless steel tunnels. The companion to the Cosmopolitan was the Lincoln derived from the Mercury body. This model came about when Ford Motor decided to build an all new 1949 Ford and bump all the other makes up a notch.

Lincoln moved away from unitized constuction with 1949 models. The chassis was a new K frame that allowed for independent front suspension, Hotchkiss drive, and hypoid gears. GM Hydra-Matic was made available on all Lincolns beginning in June, 1949. The new 337cid 90 degree V-8 engine was a dramatic move away from a V-12 for the first time since 1932. This engine was originally developed for Ford trucks but was also used in the 1949-51 Lincolns because Lincoln was nowhere near ready to introduce an ohv V-8. It had a large dual concentric downdraft carburetor and the distributor was placed on top of the engine rather than in the front.

This was the era of monocoupe engineering and design. Witness the 1948 Hudson and Packard and the 1949 Nash. The idea was living rooms on wheels. The 1949 Lincoln instrument panel was a bizarre five-piece unit with controls that looked like church organ keys. The rear doors in the four-door sedans were hinged at the rear like in previous Lincolns.

William F. (Bill) Schmidt, who was Lincoln-Mercury’s first chief stylist, had nothing to do with the 1949 designs. His first assignment was to do the 1950 and 1951 facelifts. The first thing he did was replace the prehistoric looking diecast 1949 grille with a contemporary and all horizontal stainless steel grille and reduce the depth of the sunken headlights. The funny round parking lights inside the grille were replaced with rectangular units at either end.

The church organ instrument panel went the way of high button shoes. It was replaced with a beautiful one-piece unit with all of the instruments in single cluster under clear plastic and walnut graining on the body of the panel in the closed cars, but not the Cosmopolitan convertible. Mechanical improvements included easier steering, better carburetor, automatic choke, and spark control.

Two models disappeared in 1950, the Lincoln convertible and the Cosmopolitan Town Sedan or fastback. The Cosmopolitan Capri and Lincoln Lido, both two doors, were added during the 1950 model year. The Cosmopolitan convertible was continued but production was down from 1,230 for 1949 to 536 for 1950.

A lot of engine improvements came later in the 1950 model year. The 1949-50 vibration damper filled with silicone fluid did not work out very well. This was blamed for a lot of complaints about engine vibration Another problem was oil consumption. Lincoln had four piston rings in 1949 and early 1950, but this did not seem to stop oil consumption. Going on the theory that the fourth ring dragged they tried three rings later on in 1950 and this cured the problem. They further discovered that the vibration complaints stemmed not so much from the vibration damper as from a poorly balanced engine. Later 1950 models and all 1951s have improved engine balancing and improved vibration damping. The cylinder blocks were made with more alloy to increase cylinder bore durability. By eliminating one ring friction was reduced and the horsepower was increased from 152 to 154. Minor engine improvements included the addition of distribution tubes in the water passages for better cooling to the exhaust valves.

There were minimum styling changes for 1951. The Cosmopolitan’s stainless steel airfoils on the front fenders were eliminated in favor of one stainless steel strip running the length of the car. The sunken eye headlights were set further apart. There were minor changes in the grille and bumpers and the tail lights were reworked. The instrument panel was no longer wood grain. Colors matched the exterior colors. Cosmopolitan convertible production was up slightly to 856.

Any 1949-51 Lincoln Cosmopolitan convertible is rare today, especially the 1950 model because it was the lowest production of all three years. No 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan convertibles are listed as such in the 2008 LCOC Directory so we have no idea how many may survive. To the best of our knowledge, Rod Hilgeman’s is the only one ever shown at an LCOC National Meet. Hilgeman lives in Naples, Florida. His car won a Lincoln Trophy at the 2005 Eastern National Meet in Independence, Ohio, and its First Emeritus Award at the 2008 Eastern National Meet in Columbus, Ohio. The color is Chantilly Green which is almost a light chartreuse. The interior is red wine with leather seats. Rod bought this car seven years ago. At the time it was in boxes and many of the parts were missing. He took the car down to the last nut and bolt, powder coated the chassis, and put the car back together with all the new parts he could find. It took Rod two years to restore the car doing about half of the work himself. This was a Pennsylvania car with very little rust, but it had laid around as a basket case for years. We are delighted to have this rare beauty at our National Meets.

Lincoln Zephyrs at the 74th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Grand National Roadster Show

Lincoln Zephyrs at the 74th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Grand National Roadster Show

By John Walcek
Originally published in the March/April 2024 Lincoln and Continental Comments magazine (Issue # 377)

On Friday, Feb. 2, I paid a visit to Merv Adkin’s yard in Pomona, California. He told me about the 74th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Grand National Roadster Show at the Pomona Fairgrounds, featuring many customized and stock Lincoln Zephyrs from the 1930s. Merv said he probably sold parts for every car there and encouraged me to check it out. It’s a big city yearly event, now costing $18 to park and $30 to get in. Though hesitant, I bought a ticket.

Because a big rainstorm was coming in later on Saturday and it would surely be pouring rain on Sunday, I decided to go to the show on Saturday. Mike and Chris, my friends from H & H Flatheads, were there displaying all their goodies, including a supercharged V-12! They recently completed the rebuilding of a second V-12 engine for my pre-war Continentals.

I found the Zephyrs in one of nine buildings, which were all full of different groupings of cars. The 20 or so customized Zephyrs totally entranced me. The original “Scrape,” now painted black, was there, along with other candy-apple red Zephyrs and an even more stunning black and yellow one. There were fine stock original Zephyrs, too.

I talked with people from the “California Zephyrs Club.” My friend Merv Adkins was there, as was Todd Calder, another old car parts guy who was out from the East Coast for the show. Three gals dressed in ‘30s pinup outfits wandered by, and I posed them around the Zephyrs!

I checked out the cars in the other eight buildings that evening. Talk about overload! How about a gasser-type dragster with an engine with two blowers and a Mustang with three, yes three, superchargers (blowers) on top of an engine sticking out of the hood?

The rain came that evening and was heavier on Sunday. I’m sure glad things went so well for a variety-filled winter car day here in California.

John Walcek is the official LCOC photographer and lives in Placentia, California.