White House Lincoln becomes a new California Landmark at Nixon Library

White House Lincoln becomes a new California Landmark at Nixon Library

Above Photo:  This White House Lincoln Continental Limousine was delivered to President Johnson in October, 1968 and continued to serve Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter.  It was retired from White House service in April, 1978.

White House Lincoln becomes a new California Landmark at Nixon Library

by (uncredited)

Originally published in the November-December 1996 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 213).

The Richard Nixon Lincoln which carried the 37th President to Russia and China, came home to him in Yorba Linda, California on August 26. It will now stand in the Nixon Library & Birthplace as a symbol of power and peace. Actually, this late 1967 model with a ‘69 grille also served Presidents Johnson, Ford and Carter, but it is for Nixon’s administration that it is best remembered.

A ceremony installing this Lincoln in the Library was attended by LCOC Vice President Elect Cal Beauregard who was instrumental in getting the limo out of storage and into the Library, and by former LCOC President Walt Rhea. Several years ago, Beauregard drove the limo to an Eastern National Meet in Delroy, Ohio with former LCOC President L. Dale Schaffer in the President’s seat.

The Presidential limo had a busy trip across the country from Michigan to California, making its second to last stop at the Republican National Convention in San Diego where it was inspected by Bob Dole. The vehicle was then driven by the Secret Service accompanied by police motorcycle escorts to the front steps of the Nixon Library and the keys were given to the Library by Peter J. Pestillo, Ford’s Executive Vice President of Corporate relations.

It carried President Nixon 50,000 miles. It was a world symbol of U.S. strength and leadership for a decade. Now the Presidential Limousine most associated with Nixon, Watergate and historic peace negotiations, comes to rest in Yorba Linda.

“This is a genuine piece of U.S. history and a very impressive symbol of the American Presidency, having transported four First Families, plus countless heads of states, consular members and other dignitaries— including Pope Paul VI,” said John H. Taylor, Executive Director of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda, California.

After a widely attended public ceremony, the limo is now on display at the library as part of Nixon’s impressive life in politics.

The Presidential Limo was retired in 1978 during the Carter Administration and returned to Ford for storage and occasional display. Earlier this year, the Ford Motor Company decided to restore the car and donate it to the Nixon Library.

During its 10 years of service, this historic Lincoln went all over the world—32 countries in all.

It carries more than 4,000 pounds of armor plating, has bulletproof glass and a bubble top that is said to be thicker than the protective cockpit of an F-16 fighter plane. It was the first Presidential limousine built from the ground up after the Kennedy assassination in a 1961 Lincoln Presidential limousine. The Ford Motor Company spent an estimated half-a-million-dollars to built it, then leased it to the White House for a dollar-a-year. The vehicle will remain on display in the garden next to Nixon’s boyhood home until a permanent indoor location is chosen.

Bob Thomas and the Confessions of an Automobile Stylist

Bob Thomas and the Confessions of an Automobile Stylist

Above Photo:  Bob Thomas, Harley Copp and John Reinhart at the rear of the fiberglass styling model of the Continental Mark II complete with interior.  Spring, 1954.

Bob Thomas and the Confessions of an Automobile Stylist

by Tim Howley (Editor’s Corner)

Originally published in the September-October 1996 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 212).

Anybody who is a student of the Continental Mark II should be familiar with the name of Bob Thomas, one of the principal architects of that milestone automobile. Thomas was descended from the McGuffeys who wrote the McGuffey Reader. Senior Henry Ford’s interest in the McGuffey Reader prompted him to call young Bob to Greenfield Village. There Ford personally offered him a job as a guide, draftsman and artist. Later Bob was hired as an apprentice in the original Ford styling department in 1937. This put him at that point in history when and where the original Lincoln Continental Cabriolet was styled in 1938. He is the only stylist who worked on the three famous Continentals—the 1940, v1956 and 1961.

In 1939, Thomas moved over to Hudson styling and then went into the Army. After the war, he worked for GM styling, then returned to Ford in 1947 to get in on the tail end of the 1949 Ford design project. When they draped it with chrome to create the 1950 Ford Crestliner, Bob got so mad he defected to Nash. Then he returned in 1952 as a key member of the Continental Mark II design team. He remained in Ford styling until his retirement in 1974. Few stylists have a career that compares to this one. Today, Bob is anything but retired in San Diego, California. He teaches piano, plays musical instruments and makes videos on collector car shows for public access television. He has written two books, or should I say one book, now with a major revision. Confessions of an Automotive Stylist, published in 1984, is about Bob and his life and many years in automobile styling. The recently revised book is more about the remarkable people he met during a career that spanned four decades.

He talks about Harley Earl who he says, “Scared the hell out of everybody he came in contact with, even me”. He says that even though Earl didn’t lift a pencil to design cars he is the father of American Automobile styling. He talks about Bob Gregorie and his incredible relationship with Edsel Ford that produced those amazing Ford designs of the late ‘30s. A staff of only about 25 people designed Ford cars and trucks, Mercurys, Lincolns and the Lincoln Continental. This included stylists, clay modelers, assistants and apprentices. He remembers Frank Spring who was the head of Hudson styling. He also remembers Bill Mitchell who followed Harley Earl at GM. He remembers Gordon Buehrig who was chief body engineer on the Continental Mark II. But most of all, he warmly remembers John Reinhart who was the Continental Mark II chief stylist. Reinhart and Thomas ate together, traveled to Europe together, drank together, and burned midnight oil together to take the Mark II from rough sketches to reality. The book is a must for every Mark II enthusiast, if for no other reason, to gain keen personal, often tearful insights into the heartbreaking Mark II story.

But this book is hardly limited to the Mark II saga. Take, for example, the 1949 Ford. At Hudson in the late ‘30s there was a fellow named Dick Caleal. He dressed like Raymond Loewy and smoked 25 cent cigars. He was more of a promoter than a designer. Well, as fate would have it, Caleal got involved with George Walker in the ‘49 Ford styling project. The design, prepared by Studebaker stylists moonlighting, was delivered by Caleal to Ford, and was picked over Ford’s own in-house presentation. Ever since, Caleal has taken credit for the ‘49 Ford. Thomas sets the record straight, telling how much Joe Oros and Elwood Engel refined that design to bring Caleal’s cigar smoke into a production reality. It is insights like this that make the revised Thomas book such enjoyable reading, and there are dozens of unique and humerous stories told here.

I won’t try to chronicle all of them. The Mark II story is the most fascinating of all because it represents the high point in Bob Thomas’ career, and it is told so compellingly. Thomas deplores the cars of what he calls “the crazy ‘50s,” when anything went and stylists blasted off for the moon in rockets. Harley Earl was in his age of golden gorp thrown on with a trowl. Virgil Exner over at Chrysler gave the world the highest fin and Earl made the fin high camp. Detroit styling went nuts.

At the newly created Special Products Division of the Ford Motor Company cooler heads prevailed to create the Continental Mark II, one of the great classic designs from a totally befuddled era.

For the third time at Ford Bob Thomas was in the right place at the right time. Or as Bob tells it in his book, “What happened to me during the crazy ‘50s? I got lucky”. He became a key player in one of Ford’s greatest Shakespearian dramas.

“Bill Ford was given the job of doing the Continental and as it turned out, he was the right man for the job,” writes Thomas. He was named vice-president of the Special Products Division of Ford Motor and was given the buildings of the old Ford Trade School as headquarters. The beauty of the place was that it was isolated from the rest of the company (meaning all the crazy goings on) and the basketball court made a great styling studio. Bill’s right hand man in this new setup was Harley Copp. Harley was a great engineer but I think his genius was in organization. He had a knack for putting his key personnel as chiefs in body engineering, chassis engineering, manufacturing, product planning, sales, and styling while backing them up with assistants who had different personalities and abilities…John Reinhart was the consumate stylist with impeccable taste. I was hired to keep order. Progress reports came to my desk in writing, but working for John Reinhart and Bill Ford was the most rewarding styling experience of my life”.

The first design they did was a deliberate update of the 1948 Lincoln Continental Coupe. Henry Ford II was not impressed. He walked out of the meeting suggesting they start over. All were crushed. The worst was yet to come. Ford hired four outside consultants to help them design the car. They were George Walker, Walter Buhl Ford, Vince Gardner, and Grisinger and Miller. Then fate dealt a strange hand. Without knowing who had designed what, the styling committee unanimously selected Reinhart & Company’s second proposal. “It was an interesting choice for the design was the most modern of all  the proposals,” recalls Thomas.

How the Continental Star emblem came about is a story as bizarre as Caleal and the ‘49 Ford. Here is what Thomas recently told Continental Comments: “When the basic design of the car was approved and we were doing the details, Bill Ford was to make a speech to build a 25 million dollar plant for the manufacture of the car, and the podium for the speech had Ford, Mercury and Lincoln emblems on the front. So, we were asked to do an emblem. During the flurry of getting our clay model ready for showing, we forgot about the emblem. The next morning I woke in a start. ‘My God, we don’t have a design for this morning’s meeting.’ I got to the studio and started working on the design. I had been thinking about a Continentalo emblem for several months and settled on a four pointed star from the Lincoln emblem and the lions and roundals from the Ford Crest. All I had to do was to put it down on paper. It took me about an hour. Bill Ford got approval for the new plant and we had an emblem. It was featured in the center of the steering wheel and as a hood ornament without the lions and roundals. It was an example of doing the right thing at the right time.” This story is carried in great detail in the book, as are many other amazing stories. This is why the book is called Confessions.

Naturally Thomas has his own version of why the car was taken out of production after only two short years. He blames it all on the “beancounters”. John Reinhart was utterly devastated and soon left Ford. Thomas rolled with the punches. He stresses that the whole industry at the time was nuts. Bob kept his cool. In a few years he would become a key player on the 1961 Lincoln Continental project.

Elsewhere in this issue of Continental Comments, William Clay Ford recalls the Continental Mark II project and tells why he thinks the car was killed after 1957. Read William Clay’s version. He pretty much agrees with Bob. Get ahold of the Bob Thomas book and you’ll have the whole story and a whole lot more.

For $25 Bob will personally autograph the book and send it to you first class. His address is 10539 Caminito Polio, San Diego, CA 92126.

The Ambassador’s Lincoln

The Ambassador’s Lincoln

The Ambassador’s Lincoln

by Jim Farrell

Originally published in the July-August 1996 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 211).

In October and November 1927, Ford dealers were eagerly on their way to Dearborn, Michigan—some on Ford Tri-Motor airplanes—to get their first look at the long awaited Model A Ford. The comment most often heard from dealers who saw the soon to be introduced Model A, was how pleased they were that it looked like the Lincoln. That family resemblance was not by accident. Edsel Ford had spent the previous five or so years, refining the looks of the Lincoln, and had succeeded in making it a style leader.

The success of the Lincoln L and the Ford Model A were instrumental in proving to Henry Ford that when it came to styling, Edsel not only knew what he was doing, but what he did sold cars. In the years to come, the clean but racy styling of the early Ford V-8, the Lincoln K, KB and KA, early Mercurys, the Lincoln-Zephyr, and the early Continentals were all the result of Edsel’s earlier successes in determining what Ford Motor Co. products ought to look like.

Lincoln L

The Ambassador from Peru used this car until 1943. The second owner turned it into a cargo carrier and tow truck. Collector Bill Kuettel found it in #5 condition, and now has turned it into a top prize winner from Dearborn to Pebble Beach.

The Lincoln L reached the end of its life span in 1930. By that time, Ford had caught up with the demand for new Model A’s, and the onset of the Depression mandated a new model if Lincoln was to remain in competition for those few buyers who still had the money and the desire to own a luxury car.

The Lincoln L was the original product the Fords got from the Lelands when they bought the company in 1922. Starting in 1922 Ford improved construction techniques at Lincoln, and made a few refinements to the technologically superior mechanics Henry Leland had incorporated in the Lincoln Model L when it was first put into production in early 1920. The Lincoln the Fords got from the Lelands, although mechanically superior, had stodgy styling which was probably the reason the Lelands failed as automobile manufacturers.

If there was doubt in anyone’s mind, however, about the mechanical superiority of the Lincoln L, it was put to rest in 1923 when Lincoln beat out nine other makes asked by the Detroit Police Department to compete for use as a police vehicle that could perform well enough and went fast enough to catch the bootleggers and crooks who always seemed to have faster cars. By the late 1920’s, the Lincoln L “police flyer’ was preferred by big city police departments all over the country.

The Ambassador’s Lincoln takes Best In Class at the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

In its own right, and even though it was barely beginning to reflect the influence of streamlining, the Lincoln L of the late 1920s was recognized by the public as as fine a car as was then available. Even after the body and upholstery began to  show the effect of wear and tear, and with the passage of years became outdated, the chassis and running gear of the Lincoln L remained reliable and as good or better than anything else on the road. Old Lincoln Model L’s didn’t wear out. Probably more than any other car during that time period, Lincoln Model L’s were regularly converted into tow trucks, service trucks and campers. In the 1930s and even on up into the 1940s, it was common to see Lincoln Ls once fitted with the finest in custom body work, converted to commercial use by chopping off the body and replacing it with something that met the requirements of the preferred commercial use.

There weren’t all that many Lincoln Model L’s built in the first place, and the secondary market that developed for converting used Model Ls into commercial vehicles, further decreased the number of untouched, uncut ones that survived. Some of the ones that did survive into the early 1940s, were scrapped as part of the war effort during World War II. We will never know how many were lost this way.

During the calendar year 1928, only 6,362 Lincolns were built. (Compare this with 713,528 1928 Model A Fords built.) One of the rarest is the Holbrook collapsible roof, five-passenger Cabriolet. Eight 1928 collapsible Cabriolet Lincolns were built by custom coach builder Holbrook Co. A total of only 27 were built by Holbrook between 1926 and 1929. Each one sold for some $8,000. (Compare this to the $1,200 price tag for the 1929 Ford Model A Town Car and the $395 price tag for the Ford Model A Phaeton.) Holbrook, one of the smaller custom coach builders, was located in Hudson, New York. Before it went out of business in January, 1930, a victim of the Depression, Holbrook built special order bodies for Packard, Franklin, Cadillac and Lincoln.

In 1988, Bill Kuettel of Capitola, California, found one of the two 1928 Lincoln Holbrook collapsible roof, five passenger Cabriolets known to still exist. (The fancy name really means that it is a town car—no permanent enclosure over the driver’s seat area—but with a leather top over the closed passenger area that can be lowered just like a convertible.) The car Bill found has an interesting history that in some ways confirms the mechanical reliability and longevity of the Lincoln L.

The original owner of this particular 1928 Lincoln was diplomat Alfredo Gonzales Prada. Senor Prada was born into a wealthy and influential Peruvian family. His father was a well-known Peruvian author and political activist. Prada, while still in his early ‘30s, was assigned to the Peruvian legation in Washington D.C. as first secretary.

At about the time he took delivery of the 1928 Model L that Bill Kuettel now owns, Senor Prada was appointed Charge D’Affairs at the Peruvian legation. Senor Prada had seen a 1927 model Holbrook bodied Lincoln Collapsible Cabriolet at the Paris Auto Show. When he returned to the United States he ordered an identical car for his own use. The car Senor Prada ordered was built on the first Lincoln chassis and engine made in 1928. It is not hard to imagine the impression that Prada and his American wife made in their new Lincoln, both in diplomatic circles and on the social circuit. However, only a year later, Prada resigned from the diplomatic corp after a public squabble with the former American ambassador to Peru and the ambassador’s friend, the president of Peru and Prada’s boss, over the alleged mistreatment of a Peruvian servant of the American ambassador. It was a tangled affair. As happened all too often in that era in some South American countries, in 1930 the Peruvian president Senor Prada had squabbled with was unceremoniously removed from office by revolutionaries and replaced by a close friend of the Prada family. At the time the government in his homeland changed, Senor Prada and his wife were on a world tour, which was interrupted when Prada was sent to England to serve as Peruvian Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Once he arrived in England, Senor Prada promptly had his Lincoln L shipped over from the States, where it again was the perfect car for Ambassador Prada’s diplomatic and social duties.

After resigning from the diplomatic service for the second and last time in 1932, Prada spent much of his time traveling and editing his father’s writings. All through this time period, and up until the time of his death in 1943, when he “fell out” the window of his twenty-second floor apartment on Central Park South in New York City, Ambassador Prada kept and used the Lincoln, maybe as a reminder of the prestige of former times and certainly as a sign of his real affection for the car. The car also made many trips back and forth between the Pradas’ New York City home and Washington D.C. where they still had many friends and a full calendar of social events.

The second owner of the Lincoln L was Hans Hinrich of St. Louis, Missouri, who bought the car from the Prada estate in 1944. The Lincoln L was not purchased for its collector car value, but as a sturdy and reliable, if somewhat unusual, work horse. Mr. Hinrich was a collector of stationary gas engines. This Lincoln L, with its 485 cubic inch V-8 engine, was used as a fancy cargo carrier and tow vehicle; Mr. Hinrich traveled about the mid-west pulling a big trailer and looking for gas engines to buy. In 1946, during one of his trips, Mr. Hinrich stumbled upon a fire truck he liked. He bought and towed it home, behind the Lincoln L. When Mr. Hinrich died in 1980, the Lincoln passed to his son Ludwig, who had it shipped to his home in Grass Valley, California. Hans Hinrich also owned two other town cars, a Packard and a Cadillac. They went to his other two sons who had no interest in old cars, and soon sold them to the Imperial Palace Auto Collection in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they can be found today. Although Ludwig had the interest, he soon realized he didn’t have the resources to restore the Lincoln.

One of Ludwig’s sidelines was selling yogurt at local fairs. At one such fair he set up shop next to a concession run by one of Bill Kuettel’s tenants. As soon as Bill heard about the car from the tenant, he contacted Ludwig, and they soon struck a deal on the car.

When Bill Kuettel bought the car from Ludwig in 1988, it was but a shell of its former self. Hans Hinrich last used the Lincoln L in 1960, and even though it was in storage at his home in St. Louis until his death, the years were not kind to it. The body was rusted, the leather top torn, the upholstery badly water stained, and the wood frame of the 60 year old custom body was rotting away; but at least it was mostly intact, and it only had 44,000 miles on it. Bill trailered the car to his ranch near Capitola, California, and with a helper, started what became a five year long body off restoration. Everything was disassembled down to the frame and refurbished to its original luster and configuration.

The parts that were missing proved difficult to find. Bill spent several years going to swap meets all across the country looking for needed parts. The hardest to find were the back seat microphone, the back seat clock, and the cigar case ensconced in the vanity box.

Reproduction of the leather top over the passenger compartment of the car proved to be an almost insurmountable problem. The top was originally made out of a long grained embossed leather that hadn’t been made for years. It took finding a tannery in Ohio and coaxing the disbelieving owners into processing seven hides Bill was begging to send them on old time rollers long since gathering dust. It wasn’t cheap, but the problem was solved.

The exterior of the car is refinished in black as is the chauffeur’s compartment. The passenger compartment is finished in gray wool (no embroidery) with rosewood trim and is quite striking. The top is fully collapsible. When it is down, the door windows rolled down, the divider window rolled down into the seat back, and the “B” pillars collapsed inward on the front seat back, the car looks just like a four door phaeton.

Bill Kuettel’s Holbrook bodied Lincoln L, now restored to its former glory, won best of show at the 1995 Lincoln Owners Club Meet in Dearborn, Michigan and best in class at the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours. In 1996 this fine car won a Ford Trophy at the LCOC Western National Meet in Fresno, California.

Bill has two other Lincoln L’s; a 1927 Lincoln bodied sedan in original condition with only 13,000 miles on it, and a Dietrich bodied 1928 Lincoln pickup truck that was used for many years as a shop truck at a Virginia City, Nevada silver mine. Bill’s plans are to make the pickup into a rolling chassis display.

Photos for this article were furnished by Jim Farrell, and Bill Kuettel shown here.


Spring Color 1976 Continental Mark IVs

Spring Color 1976 Continental Mark IVs

Spring Color 1976 Continental Mark IVs

by Jim Farrell

Originally published in the May-June 1996 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 210).

The Desert Sand Spring Luxury Option Mark IV, shown above, is probably the wildest color combination of all.  We wonder if any still exist?

Since at least the 1930s, Ford Motor Co. has from time to time, offered Fords, Mercurys and Lincolns in spring colors-fancy, bright, solid or two-toned color combinations meant to entice winter weary buyers into dealerships. This practice has continued even into recent years.

The recent Continental Comments article about the 1976 Black Diamond luxury decor option Mark IV brought a response from Bob Bowen of St. Maries, Idaho. He reports that the Black Diamond Mark IV was only one of four special Spring Edition Luxury Option Lincolns made available starting in March, 1976. There were no brochures, no factory advertising programs and very little publicity about these four very rare luxury decor option Lincolns. The only reference to them Bob has discovered so far is in the 1976 Dealer’s Color and Upholstery Book as a March, 1976 “glue-in” supplement.

Bob estimates that no more than 50 to 100 of each model of the Spring Edition ‘76 Mark IVs were built, making each car very rare, indeed.

The four Spring Edition cars are identified as the:
*Black Diamond Mark IV.
*Black Diamond Lincoln Continental Town Coupe and Town Car.
*Lipstick and White Mark IV.
*Desert Sand Mark IV.

The Black Diamond Lincoln Continental Town Cars and Town Coupes have the same trim scheme as the Black Diamond Mark IV. The Lipstick and White luxury option Mark IV is different from previous Lipstick Mark IVs in that, like all other ‘76 Spring Edition Luxury Mark IVs, Town Cars and Town Coupes, it has patent leather seat straps and the landau roof is made from a different material.

Probably the wildest color combination on any Mark IV is the Desert Sand Spring Luxury Option Mark IV. The front end, tops of the front fenders, the hood, the “A” pillars, about two inches of the roof above the windshield, and a small area underneath, around the back of, and on the top of the side windows are painted dark brown. The landau patent leather vinyl roof is tan. The rest of the front half of the roof is tan, as are the trunk lid, back fenders, doors, and the sides of the front fenders. On the inside, the seats were in a dark brown crushed velour material with dark brown patent leather straps. It was distinctive to say the least.

Mysterious 1954 Lincoln Show Car Reappears

Mysterious 1954 Lincoln Show Car Reappears

Mysterious 1954 Lincoln Show Car Reappears

by Tim Howley

Originally published in the March-April 2004 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 257).

In about 1980, while driving through the Point Loma section of San Diego, I happened on a custom 1954 Lincoln Capri coupe at a service station. I was told that it was originally a 1954 Lincoln factory show car, and I was given the name of the owner who was in the construction business. He had no interest in collector cars, only in selling this Lincoln for an outrageous price, which, as I recall, was something like $10,000. I have since lost his name and address. Now I receive information from Sonny Gray in Houston, Texas, that the car has surfaced and belongs to David Schurmann, also living in Houston. Unfortunately, the car has deteriorated much since I last saw it over 20 years ago.

According to correspondence from Sonny Gray, the car’s VIN plate reads “54WA 5004H#.. .then.. .BS 60A SPECSPEC-K-1-86.” The car came to Texas from San Diego in about 1983, as best as can be determined by a key chain advertisement. A receipt was found for a battery purchased in Arizona in 1983, indicating its final trip east to Texas. Evidently, the car was  abandoned and left derelict in Texas. According to information from the garage/salvage yard seller, the auto was stored in a bam by an older couple, and then eventually moved outside before the building collapsed. The car then sat outside deteriorating for a lengthy period. Then the garage/salvage yard owner bought the car and eventually sold it to David Schurmann.

The car is totally complete and intact, and the body is straight with no rust, except for much surface rust. There are only two dings in the stainless trim. There is no Capri nomenclature on the exterior, only on the instrument panel. Old
Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and a Continental kit have probably been on the car since new. All the chrome needs replating, including the wire wheels. The car is sadly in need of paint and a new interior. The car does not roll freely, and the engine is seized.

There are quite a few clues that indicate this was a factory customized job for the 1954 show circuit. 1. The factory data plate reads “SPEC/SPEC” in the area indicating “color” and “upholstery” on standard models. 2. All interior metal garnish trim is gold plated. This includes screws for the windshield and back window trim, the trim itself, horn ring, switch surrounds, power window surrounds, step shields, and front seat base, etc. 3. The instrument panel, window arm rests, and wide metal trim between the headliner and side windows are painted a metallic pearl. 4. The upholstery is silk in red and white with gold piping. The white sections have a heavy scroll floral embroidering. The red areas on the seats are pleated with gold piping. The headliner is white silk. 5. The car originally had plush white carpeting. This is evident in the area visible when the front seats are tilted forward for rear passenger entry and exit. The front seat now has an aftermarket seat cover. The rear seat does not have a cover. 6. Door lock mechanisms and striker plates are chrome plated.

Some other indications of the car’s possible show status are the following: the trunk lip at the base has a professionally designed and installed shelf with an opening for the locking mechanism; there is a professionally designed and installed plaque on the area below the left side of the trunk; this is body mounted; the plaque is the Lincoln Knight’s bust within total shields; the design is divided into four sections with a single initial within each section; and the Initials are “S V G M” .

The color is difficult to determine as it is so badly faded and there is so much surface rust. But, it appears that the original color on the firewall was that very rare chartreuse which Lincoln offered in 1953-54. But the bottom of the firewall has been painted black, and the color under the rocker panel moldings appears to be a flat medium green so popular in 1954. Then the entire car was painted a pearlescent white with a green tint, but the only none faded portion of that color is on the underside of the trunk lid. Then the car appears to have been repainted again. The car is heavily undercoated. Recesses around the headlights have been painted body color. The paint is so badly cracked and shrinking it looks like the bottom of a dry lake bed.

A sedan customized something like this was the Maharaja, a 1953 Lincoln Capri done up for Ford’s 50th Anniversary and the 1953 auto shows. That car was painted gold with gold trim, and with an interior not unlike this 1954 Capri coupe. Ford also did up a pearlescent white 1953 Lincoln convertible with gold trim. There were more custom Lincoln show cars in 1955. At the time. Lincoln tended to put special paint and trim jobs on stock Lincolns, and later many of these cars were sold to friends of the Ford Motor Company. Several such cars have appeared in Continental Comments and other publications, but there seems to be no record of this one.

Could this car be a missing 1954 Lincoln-Mercury show car, and, if so, how did it get to San Diego, and then to Texas?

Mysterious 1954 Lincoln Show Car Interior
The 1990 Lincoln Town Car – The Inside Story

The 1990 Lincoln Town Car – The Inside Story

The 1990 Lincoln Town Car – The Inside Story

by Howard Payne

Originally published in the March-April 2004 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 257).

My involvement with the design development of the 1990 Lincoln Town Car was one of the high points of my design career at Ford Motor Company. After my June, 1956, graduation from The Cleveland Institute of Art, I was hired by Ford Motor Company, and assigned to the Lincoln Studio. My first project was to design a quad headlamp for the Mark II. The Mark II vehicle was later cancelled. Just a few weeks later, I was in the Interior studio and assigned to design the steering wheel for the 1958 Mark III. About a year or so later, John Orfe, a fellow designer, and I convinced management to let us “do our own thing” for the 1961 Lincoln Continental. Our design was well received, but it was not approved.

This was pretty heady stuff for a young designer so fresh from art school. A few years later, found me in Art Querfeld’s Studio working on the Continental Mark III. All were great experiences. It seemed that I just kept coming back to the Lincoln Studio.1990 Town Car Two Designs

In the fall of 1986, Gale Halderman requested my transfer to his Luxury Vehicle Studio, where I was assigned to the Mark VIII, and worked with Dennis Reardon and Rick Wells on a Lincoln show car we called “Slide and Slice”, but that is another story for another time. We were just finishing it for casting it in fiberglass about mid-January. Little did I know as that project was ending, another adventure was about to unfold.

Months earlier, the new 1990 Lincoln Town Car (code named FN-36) design had been approved and was moving into the “feasibility” phase. This phase is where studies are conducted, and necessary changes made to assure the vehicle can, in fact, be built with quality and maintain cost targets. We had watched the progress of the FN-36 from across the studio, and were pleased with the theme as it had all the hallmarks of a sure winner. Final design responsibility rested with Gale Halderman, director of Luxury Vehicle Studio.

The 1989 Town Car had evolved from the original 1980 design, and this series was eating away at Cadillac sales. The new design had to pick up on its predecessor’s success and move it into the ’90’s. It carried on the good looks of Lincoln, with a strong front end, and strong shoulder element running from the front fenders through the doors culminating in the distinctive Lincoln taillamps. It was a simple clean elegant Lincoln identity from every angle. Modem design for “newness” sake was not Gale’s way, and he made sure it would be recognized instantly as a Lincoln.

When the feasibility phase is initiated, the vehicle is turned over to the Body and Assembly Division whose task it is to build it. At this stage, production engineers from the assembly plant, suppliers, and Purchasing were working to make the vehicle perfect and ready for the market. Sometimes minor revisions have to be proposed. For these reasons, the design studio is still involved to assure the original design intent is preserved.

Upon approval of the FN-36 design, a formal event within the company, Ford had several new vehicles in the “pipeline” which all required immediate funding and staffing with feasibility expertise. Adequate staff was unavailable. This forced a decision to ” go outside” the organization and obtain the needed expertise on the open market. The rationale behind this was that a few Ford people could direct scores of other experts, multiplying their talent while saving the Company money and getting the job done, too.

The project was let out for bids to several automotive engineering firms. While not something new to Detroit for Ford, the size of the job to be done with outside help was a first. The decision was made to go with I.A.D. (International Automotive Design) of Worthing, West Sussex, England, just West of Brighton on the South Coast. I.A.D. was not new to the automotive scene, as they had a good reputation, good facilities, and had completed many programs for Rolls Royce and Volvo.

FN-36Soon, dozens of Ford people were on their way to England, with assignments of one to two years, long hours, and hard work preparing the new Town Car for “Job 1.” ” Job 1″ is automotive parlance for the first production vehicle of that model series.

Surface digitized drawings and the final clay model of the new FN-36 were prepared and shipped to Worthing. A Design Manager for Interior, a design Manager for Exterior, and a “resident Engineer” also followed the model to England. Almost immediately, problems started. The plane’s landing must have been rough, as the final clay model was broken into more pieces than one can count.

It was then up to I.A.D. to recreate the model using the scanner drawings accompanying the model, with the direction from those sent from the studio assigned to the program. Back in Dearborn, this was a major concern, knowing from experience how difficult it would be to restore a design without changing it, and our Design Management became very nervous.

In mid January, I received a call to come directly to Mr. Halderman’s office. It was late on a Thursday afternoon, and I had no idea why I was being summoned. I remember walking to his office wondering just what the cause was for my being
called.Two factory press releases

Once in his office, Gale was direct and to the point. “The FN-36 is in trouble,” he told me. “And it may not make Job 1!” (With federal regulations requiring airbags in 1990 model year, carrying over the old model was not an option.) “If it doesn’t” he went on- “It’s going to cost the Company one million dollars a day until we make Job 1! I’d like you to go over to I.A.D. and take over as Manager of Exterior Design. We’re also sending over a new Interior Design Manager.”

To his credit, he did not elaborate as to what was wrong, what had happened over there, nor what was going to happen. He was all business, “Talk it over with your family first, but” he continued “I must know by tomorrow first thing!” It was obvious to me that Gale was strained and not his normal self.

My wife and I discussed it, and reminded ourselves that our two youngest would both graduate from college in May. We decided we could work it out, albeit with a bit of “pond hopping” on my part, and we did. We knew that if the on-site management was failing, I could do no worse. With 31 years of design experience at Ford, I knew I could do better. The decision seemed simple.


Hood ornamentFriday morning, first thing, I reported to Gale’s office. His secretary, with a sweep of her arm, directed me into his inner office. Seated, I told him I was available, I would go. At that, he turned and asked his secretary to connect him with the studio in Worthing. She must have had them on hold, as he immediately started the conversation with the Manager in England without a hello or any pleasantries. He directed the two Managers to, “Be in my office first thing Monday morning!” and the call was ended. Now the urgency began to really sink in.

In short order I was on my way to England, not really knowing how long my presence would be required or exactly what I would find once I was there. However, upon arriving at the Worthing Studio, I was quickly brought up to speed. The studio engineering supervisor/manager Norm Ziegert, a good friend and an excellent engineer, showed me around. I was quite surprised at the number of items that were incomplete, but my biggest surprise was toward the rear of the clay model.

The Town Car used a carryover floorpan from the preceding 1989 model. The floorplan was something you knew you had to live with, as changing it meant developing an all new part which we didn’t have funding, nor time, for. Yet, there on the lower rear quarter panels was the trunk floor protruding through the rear fenders 1 1/2 inches on each side!! Unbelievable! This required top priority and immediate action.

“Norm,” I asked, “why aren’t there any door handles on the model?” His reply only increased my worries. “Well,“ he began, “We’re on design number 20, but still haven’t come up with anything Dearborn will approve.”

At this point I looked down to see if I just might be sinking into the concrete floor! Within two weeks we had an approved door handle design, thanks to long hours with a very talented I.A.D. draftsman. But with the “Cube Review” coming up in just four weeks, I knew we were in deep trouble. Together we started a list of what needed to be done, and prioritized each item. Most of them had four stars. Bumpers, body side moldings, tail lamps, head lamps, vinyl window moldings, grille, it went on and on.

Howard Payne with grillThat very first night we worked until 9:00 right along side of the modelers, which I was told they appreciated. I made my own quarter panel templates, went to the board, and quickly surfaced the rear quarters to cover the trunk floor with the required clearances. By 9:00 the next morning we had the rear fenders finished.

A “Cube Review” is an important step in verifying the dimensions of all the parts of the vehicle body. It is conducted on a surface plate. This plate is a very large platform of very thick steel, sometimes solid, that is dimensionally stable. With grid lines etched into the surface, measuring can be highly accurate, which permits verifying if the part will fit the whole. The cube review utilizes a cube or block of highly stable laminated wood with one side duplicating the surface of a section of the vehicle. This surface is developed from the surface drawings which are released to tool the vehicle. A cube or block for a door, a cube for a fender. Slide all the cubes together and you have a glossy black exact representation of the vehicle. With several bright lamps lighting on the surfaces, the highlights, (the reflected light can be checked to ascertain that they flow from one panel to the next. This is the designers’ last chance for any revisions as from these cubes the stamping dies will be cut. The cube review is one more formal event for the Company. This is a highly critical step in the feasibility process, and to fail this deadline can be fatal for a program (not to mention the personnel). From these approved cubes, the stamping dies will be cut.


Town Car Tail LampThe cube review would be conducted by Press Patterns in Nuneaton, near Coventry, as they had the contract to fabricate the die models. It was 150 miles to Nuneaton, but with the problems we faced, it might as well have been a million miles away.

Twenty or so Ford B&A engineers and six or so representatives from Ogihara, the Japanese metal stamping company who had the contract to do the sheet metal stamping for the FN-36 were also there.

As soon as the meeting started it was a disaster! People were mumbling and grumbling instead of focusing on the business at hand. Surfaces did not flow from body panel to body panel, the highlights (reflected light) jumped at every joint, doors didn’t match fenders, fender surfaces were lower than the hood or deck (trunk) lid. Good design practice locates the fenders surface 1 to 2 mm. above the hood or deck, so your eye will follow the surface and not look into the opening. The meeting was a very humbling experience. We did not want Dearborn to know what was being shown, yet somehow hoped they would understand what we were up against. Meeting members started to make comments like, “we’ll never make it, we’ll never get it right, what a mess; who allowed this to happen? You are not ready for this review” .

Rather than let the negativism continue and get out of control, Norm and I grabbed white grease pencils and started to  mark the various black cubes where corrections were required. Soon, a more positive air began to develop, solutions were offered, and group effort prevailed, and it continued for the duration of the program.

This was a pivotal point, as now the whole team knew that design had a problem and needed their help. A new attitude grew towards Norm and me, and strange as it may seem, this group was now looking at us to save the program.

I’m convinced that the FN-36 program produced a superior Town Car because of the re-examination of every part of the car. Instinctively, we knew that each and every part had to be re-evaluated and, in most cases, redrawn. Without holding a witch hunt, I think the fault lay with I.A.D. employing young inexperienced CADCAM draftspeople who had yet to master the basics. Always put the adjoining parts on the same drawing, insuring the pieces join and match. All surfaces must accelerate into the next surface, thus avoiding break lines and tangent lines in the surface. Always compare your drawings by overlaying the ‘release’ drawing (black line) to the scanner drawing from the studio (red line) to insure design intent is maintained. The draftsmen did not understand that the designer may put a twist in a body line for a reason, they just considered it a mistake and corrected it.

The second area of responsibility falls to the on site design management effort, as someone simply just was not watching the shop. At this point in developing a vehicle it is a cooperative effort, Design (Styling) , Engineering, Body and Assembly, and the Suppliers.

We found the headlamp and tail lamp frames were cocked, not level with the world. Grille bars, for example, were all drawn parallel, not splayed out to look parallel. I’m convinced we caught all the errors in a timely manner, but the pressure was constant. It was about this time that I became aware of five or six of the more knowledgeable IAD engineers who would come to me and ask to speak in private. Then, a suggestion would be made that I look at a certain drawing—for instance, the deck lid lock surface in relation to the latch mechanism. Sure enough, there would be a problem.

After six months Norm and I returned to the States and our previous assignments. However, I continued to fly to the UK and Worthing every two or three weeks and stay as needed. I’d check drawings, meet with part suppliers, and attend B&A meetings. When back in Dearborn, Norm and I started work on the 1991 model bumpers and body side moldings, while trying to keep a distant eye on the FN-36 in the U.K.

Town Car Deck and TrunkDesign intent was to have window moldings that were as smooth as possible, for the most flush condition possible. The molding supplier said they could only manufacture them with a vulcanized patch in the corners. This being a new design, a new direction for window design and construction, you find you must listen to the guy who is going to make it. Still I was not happy with the window moldings with the 3 to 3 millimeter lumps in each corner. The new Taurus and Sable were still quite new, and two of them were in the hallway just outside of the studio. For some reason, I decided to examine them. One had the required patches (it was built in Chicago) while the other had the smooth surface we desired (it was built in Atlanta), but both were from the same manufacturer. We set up a meeting, and we got smooth moldings, but no apology from the supplier. Why that company’s representative did not go the extra mile for a vehicle of the class of the Town Car and make sure it maintained the design intent I’ll never know.

Peeking sealSome readers may be wondering why a vinyl roof option was not offered. We designed one, and Arvin Industries in Columbus, Indiana, was to produce them. I thought it was a good looking option, not my cup of tea, but it looked good. It was a three piece design with appliques on each rear door and a cap on the roof. B&A assembled one on a prototype with the roof option in silver vinyl and installed on a maroon body (that combination looked horrid). Someone parked it in the Design Center courtyard shortly before Lew Veraldi, vice president of Product Development, walked across the courtyard with a cadre of assistants close behind. I’m told he stopped, looked at the FN-36, studied it and then announced, “I don’t want to see a Town Car with a vinyl roof.” The next thing we knew there was no vinyl roof option. It even  disappeared from the product assumption book, which outlines each and every feature for the vehicle. Lincoln lost control of the vinyl roof design, and a sizeable profit went to the dealers who did it themselves, sometimes not too wisely.

There is one more story readers may not know about: the Lincoln- Zephyr touring sedan. IAD, trying to improve relations with Ford and create some more income, came up with the Zephyr. They directed their designers to customize a Town Car prototype, to develop a Touring Sedan, and then send it over for our approval. It was not a design success. Gale proposed that I do some sketches showing IAD what should be done to improve the appearance. The moldings were crude, tail lamps and headlamps were devoid of any detail, and the front and rear did not say “Lincoln.” We made up a leather portfolio containing my sketches, and both it and the Sedan were returned to IAD never to be seen nor heard of again.

To the credit of everyone who worked on the FN-36, the Town Car was an instant hit in the marketplace (our court of approval) sales zoomed, and it was awarded the Motor Trend Car o f the Year for 1990.1 will always be proud of the 1990 Town Car, an elegant luxury vehicle.



Howard Payne was raised in Goshen, Indiana, and discovered his automotive interest when he built a ’32 Ford High Boy in 1950. Displaying his artistic talent caused relatives to send him a news article about George Walker an alumnus of the Cleveland Institute of Art who was heading Design at Ford Motor Company. Payne applied to CIA and was accepted. The summer after his third year, Joe Oros hired him as an intern in Alex Tremulis’ Advanced Studio, and he was offered a job at Ford when he graduated.

In 1956, he started his design career in John Najar’s Lincoln Exterior Studio, and then was rotated to the interior studio working on the 1958 Lincoln and Continental. Rotated back to the exterior group he then worked on Rulo Conrad’s Lincoln Envoy. Unhappy with the direction the studio was taking on the 1961 Lincolns he and John Orfe, convinced Najar and John  Reinhart to allow them to use the former lunch room to design and build a 1961 proposal which was well received by management.

Upon completion of the Continental proposal Payne was transferred to the Mercury studio where he was assigned the 1963 Mercury Marauder show car. Don DeLaRossa then had Payne moved to the Lincoln studio again where he worked on John Aiken’s 1966 Lincoln Continental, Then a transfer found him working on the Mark III in Art Querfeld’s studio, and then a move to Ford interior studio where he designed the 1972 Thunderbird instrument panel which was then shared with the Mark IV. Payne was responsible for designing the interior of the infamous “Anaheim Buck” which became the Mustang 11.

Promoted, he was then assigned to an advanced studio working on the ‘Bobcat’, ‘Fox’, and ‘Panther’ programs. An assignment in international studio led to his designing the Ford Probe II interior, and the Lincoln Concept 100. After a stint in the Koln Germany studios working on a Fiesta for Bob Lutz, Payne was transferred to Gale Halderman’s Luxury Vehicle studio. There he was assigned to the Mark VIII group, and was one of the three designers on the Lincoln,” Slide and Slice” . After his assignment on the 1990 Town Car he designed the Mark VII 1/2, and worked on the Mark VIII, before moving to the Color and Trim studios where he had Color Development and Color and Trim Design for Trucks and small Cars. Payne retired in January of 1997 after almost 41 years at Ford Motor Company Design.Howard Payne