Thursday, August 25, 2016

1940 Lincoln-Zephyr Redesign

Ford's V-12 luxury Lincoln sales declined during the Great Depression, as was the case for virtually all American brands.  But for luxury brands with modest sales to start with, declines often were to unprofitable numbers of cars sold.  Such was the case for Lincoln.  The final year for those big Lincolns was 1940, but the brand was saved by the 1936 launch of a medium-high range model, the Zephyr (Wikipedia entry here).

Lincoln-Zephyrs were marketed over the 1936-1940 model years.  With the demise of the large K model Lincolns, the Zephyr name was dropped and what had been the Lincoln-Zephyr was simply the Lincoln as of the 1941 model year.

The initial Zephyr design was produced 1936-1939.  For the 1940 model year a largely redesigned body was placed in production which continued through 1948 with the exception of 1943-45 when American automobile production was halted due to World War 2.

All that said, let's consider that 1940 redesign.


This is a 1936 Lincoln-Zephyr, its first year on the market.

And here is a 1939 Lincoln-Zephyr, the final year for the original body.  The front forward of the cowling was facelifted for 1938, and the '39 model was a minor facelift of that, grille bars changing orientation and the hood prow made more prominent.  Another 1938 change from '36 was the running boards being hidden by sheet metal.

This is an illustration from an advertisement for the 1940 Zephyr.  As is usual with illustrations, proportions were distorted.  I include it because it was the only image I could locate that showed a car in a similar orientation to those in the previous images.  The 1938-vintage bodywork forward of the cowling is mostly retained.  Headlights are now the new sealed-beam variety required of all American cars.  The hood prow is straighter and more vertical than for 1939.  Aft of the cowling the body is new.  The most visible differences are the larger side windows and the now-vertical C-pillar.

Here is a 1941 Lincoln.  It's included because the image is a photograph and not an illustration.  Also, the design is almost unchanged from 1940. (1942 Lincolns got a facelift that I wrote about here.)  Changes visible here besides the ones already mentioned include a higher, reshaped fastback and the elimination of visible door hinges.  Rear fenders look like they might be unchanged from 1939, but these are tack-on items and not intrinsic to the basic body.

The 1936 body was used for four model years, a fairly long life in those days.  That factor perhaps along with the planned demise of K-series Lincolns might have led Edsel Ford to opt for a new, somewhat more substantial body.  The result was not a great success aesthetically because it gave Lincoln-Zephyr a somewhat more ponderous appearance.  Retaining the old-fashioned flat windshield feature was probably not a good decision.  The same could be said regarding the 1938-vintage front end; it is lithe, contrasting with the heaviness of the rest of the car (which the large side windows do little to help).

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