ABOVE: The photo on the hill of Gary’s 1956 Convertible taken in 1960.

By Wayne P. Leithner, Ormond Beach, Florida
Originally published in the May/June 2009 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 288.)

Ever since the 1956 Lincoln was introduced, my older and only brother, Gary, thought it was the most beautiful car on the road. He bought one for himself in 1960 when the car was only four years old and he was only 19. Where he found it, how much he paid for it, and how he managed to come up with the money, I don’t know. I was just 15 at the time and had little interest in my brother’s financial situation. It was such a contrast to the car he had driven before, a 1950 customized Ford convertible that was nosed, decked, dropped, frenched, and loud. Our dad could not understand why a 19-year-old would want a luxury Lincoln.

What a beautiful car it was! It was a Premiere convertible in Starmist White with a Huntsman Red and Presidential Black leather interior and a white top. I will never forget that car. We worked on it together, maintained it together, and double dated in it. Later, he even let me drive it. He called his beautiful Lincoln “The Big White” and he drove it around Westchester County, New York, for many years. It was his daily driver, his only car. The photo on the hill was taken on a day trip in 1960, possibly in Connecticut. His date is in the front passenger seat and I am in the back with my date. The girls were sisters. The Lincoln played a big part in my life during those formative teenage years and well beyond. The memory of this car and so many details of its features and styling are clearly etched in my memory.

“The Big White” was my brother’s absolute pride and joy and he took impeccable care of it. Then, one day somebody pulled in front of him and he had no choice but to hit their car. No one was hurt, but the elegant beauty of its front end was definitely diminished. She was laid up for repairs and we began our search for parts. The cars we found, however, became drivers while the convertible sat and waited. In the late 1960s I found a 1956 Lincoln Premiere hardtop in a barnyard on Route 20 in upstate New York. I located the owner who agreed to sell it for $50.

Gary with his 1956 Lincoln Convertible in 1960.

Gary with his 1956 Lincoln Convertible in 1960.

Gary came up with a friend and a tow bar and I met them in nearby Richfield Springs. He got the Lincoln home, cleaned the hay and barnyard crust from the undercarriage, replaced one tire, installed a new battery, and it was his daily driver for years. This was not bad for a $50 car, even in those days. While the car had some cosmetic issues she still looked sharp and elegant in her Amethyst and Starmist White paint. He called this Lincoln “The Pink Panther”. I later found him a black four-door sedan with a red and black leather interior.

He ended up with five 1956 Lincolns and the ones he wasn’t driving were parked on our parents’ property near Brewster, New York. When they prepared to sell their home and move to Ohio in 1978 the cars had to go. Where they went I do not know. The convertible was never completely repaired.

Gary’s love of Lincoln luxury continued. During the 1980s he drove a white Lincoln Continental sedan that he affectionately called “USS Enterprise”. Gary died of a heart attack in 1996 at age 55.

While I have always admired the 1956 Lincolns since those early years with the experiences involving my brother’s cars I never looked for one myself. However, I have always been interested in cars since childhood and since retirement I have owned a number of cool cars, most of which have been Ford products. Then, in the fall of 2004 I saw an ad in Hemmings for a 1956 Lincoln Premiere hardtop located in Schenectady, New York. After flying from Florida in January to see the car I flew up once again in February to drive it home. This one is Summit Green with a Starmist White top, factory air-conditioning, and a bit of intriguing mystery, but that’s another story. Meanwhile, the legacy of my brother’s love of the 1956 Lincoln lives on every time I cruise the roads of Florida behind the wheel of this majestic classic beauty.

POSTCRIPT: As a multiple Lincoln owner for years I am very proud to be a member of LCOC. I enjoyed my first National Meet in Columbus, Ohio, last August and thoroughly enjoyed the entire event. It was indeed a classy affair held in a terrific location with so many exciting activities. I would call it a “pretty perfect” event. Tim Wilson is to be commended for an outstanding job.

Wayne P. Leithner.

"The Pink Panther"

“The Pink Panther”, a Wisteria and White 1956 Lincoln Premiere Coupe found for $50 after “The Big White” was wrecked.

The of the 1956 Lincolns

Three of the 1956 Lincolns that sat in their parents’ back yard until 1978.  Who knows where these cars are now.

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