1939 Lincoln Zephyr Series 96HO
n November 2nd of 1935, the Lincoln Motor Company announced a new model called Lincoln-Zephyr that was priced at $1,275 to $1,320, a significant reduction from the least expensive Model K Lincoln at the time. Many companies at the time were moving down-market, creating lower-priced alternatives, in efforts to stimulate sales and attract new customers who were unable to afford luxury items due to the Great Depression. Lincoln sold barely 1,400 examples of the Model K for 1935. With the arrival of the Zephyr came a revitalization of styling and a resurgence of sales.
The modern design was developed from designer John Tjaarda's innovative Sterkenburg concept studies of the late 1920s. Although the smooth and streamlined formula was futuristic, it was a gamble whether the public would approve of the new styling direction. Chrysler had introduced a car named the Airflow in 1934 and it was the first full-size American production to use streamlining to reduce air resistance. This fundamental change in design was ultimately considered a commercial failure despite its innovation and forward-thinking.
The Sterkenburg had a low frontal design, was streamlined, and was intended to be powered by a rear-mounted engine. Edsel Ford was intrigued by its design and commissioned Briggs - one of Ford's body suppliers - to build a mockup that appeared at the 1934 Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago.
The production versions were built by Ford and many significant changes were implemented, the most significant was the relocation of the engine to the front, which necessitated design changes to the front. The advanced bridge-truss integral frame, however, was retained. Power was from a V12 based on the Ford flathead V-8 and the body style was initially a four-door sedan or a two-door 'Coupe-Sedan.' In April of 1936, a division-window Town Limousine was added to the lineup. Total Model K Lincolns for 1936 were 1,515 units while 14,994 examples of the Zephyr were sold.
The Zephyr used a sliding gear, three-speed transmission with a single dry plate clutch, and a centrifugal clutch. Mechanical brakes were located at all four corners hidden by pressed steel wheels. They had dual windshield wipers operated by a button located above the ashtray, a steering wheel and ignition lock, and a starter button located at the driver's left. The vast array of gauges included oil temperature, battery, fuel, and speedometer. Located beneath two large dials were controls for the choke, throttle, instrument panel light, and cigarette lighter. The exterior lights were controlled by a switch located on the steering wheel hub.
The 75-degree, V-12, L-head, four main bearing engine breathed through a Stromberg downdraft two-barrel carburetor. It displaced 267.3 cubic-inches, had a 6.7:1 compression, and delivered 110 horsepower at 3,900 RPM. The wheelbase measured 122 inches and had an overall length of 202.5 inches. The larger Model K produced 150 horsepower and rested on either a 136- or 145-inch wheelbase platform. While the list of Zephyr bodies was limited, the Model K was vast with nearly two-dozen options that included factory bodies and coachbuilt bodies (including LeBaron, Brunn, Judkins, and Willoughby).
A three-window coupe made its debut for 1937, and the following year designer E.T. 'Bob' Gregorie made revisions to the nose. The 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr received modest restyling, with twin grilles placed in the forward end of the 'catwalk' section of the fenders. This not only gave the Zephyr an updated appearance, it also improved engine cooling. The headlamps became flush with the fender contours, and the vee-shaped nose was softened. Two new body styles were offered, the 740 five-passenger convertible sedan and the 750 three-passenger convertible coupe. Both were introduced on October 23rd of 1937 and came with manually-operated, spring-assisted convertible tops. The 760B five-passenger convertible coupe was added later in the year. Total convertible sedan production totaled 461 units.
Changes, modifications, and improvements continued into the 1939 model year, with the most significant and important being hydraulic brakes and improvements to the electrical charging system. The bodies received lower body skirting completely enclosing the running boards, and the hood line was raised slightly to allow for larger grille openings that allowed more cooling air to flow through the radiator. The interior received changes as well, with the dashboard designed to be asymmetrical with gloveboxes on each end, and a centrally mounted combination speedometer/instrument cluster which included gauges for oil pressure, fuel, coolant temperature, and charging.
21,000 examples of the Zephyr were produced for the 1939 model year compared to 133 of the Model K during the same time period. Pricing on the Zephyr ranged from $1,320 to $1,790. The most popular Zephyr bodystyle was the four-door sedan which accounted for 16,663 sales. 95 wee limousines, 302 were 4-door convertible sedans, and 640 were convertible coupes. The two-door, six-passenger coupe proved to be fairly popular with 2,500 examples sold, and 800 of the coupe sedan found willing buyers. Buyers had the option of adding bumper guards, custom interior, leather upholstery, fitted luggage, wind wings, a radio, heater, or whitewall tires. For buyers who selected the leather option, the choices included red, gray, brown, and tan.
The Lincoln-Zephyr production continued until 1942 and after World War II, the name was dropped, lasting through 1948. The last Lincoln Zephyr was produced on February 10th. The Zephyr name re-appeared in 2006 which was soon renamed the MKZ for 2007.by Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2011
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