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.