1949 Cosmopolitan Coupe images posted at the Cohort by William Rubano
Cadillac’s rise to dominance of the luxury car field in the 50s was not all its own doing. It certainly had the right looks, drive train, and market positioning. But it got more than a bit of help from the competition, like this 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan Coupe.
Although the 1949 Lincoln arrived one year after the first new post-war Cadillac, it showed up for a knife fight with a…wet bar of soap. Actually, its design was decidedly more modern than the Cadillac’s, but that turned out to hardly do it any favors, especially so when Cadillac rocked the industry with its 1949 hardtop Coupe de Ville. Yes, this two-door sedan that looked like a Mercury is all Lincoln had to go up against the new Coupe deVille.
The results were highly predictable. Why else do you think the Lincoln looks so sad?
It’s probably not necessary, but let’s take a quick look at what Lincoln was up against. I covered the design development of the new post-war GM cars here, but in a nutshell, GM’s VP of Design Harley Earl rejected the aero-inspired, used-soap-bar-slab-sided “pontoon” look that the industry was all gaga about and rushing to adopt. Instead, Earl’s new 1948 Cadillac (1949 coupe shown) stayed decidedly conservative with a tall, proud front end and rear fenders that were anything but flush with the body. This added a critical break in what could readily become monotonous, at least in Earl’s eyes. And of course the iconic tail fin added a whole new upkick to the heavily-sculptured rear end.
Bold, yet conservative. And utterly in tune with what Americans related to and aspired to have in their driveway.
Then just one year later in 1949, Earl unleashed a monster with the first regular production hardtop coupe, the seminal Coupe de Ville. It wouldn’t be until 1952 that Lincoln would offer a hardtop coupe. The CdV forced everyone’s hand, and Lincoln essentially folded, the slowest to respond in the premium field.
Let’s not even bring the poor “pregnant whale” Packard into the equation. “Suddenly it’s 1941!”. This is exactly what Earl was avoiding at all costs.
And I’m not sure I should bring Chrysler into this comparison either. As well built it undoubtedly was, this New Yorker coupe, all new in 1949, looked like what it essentially was: an elongated eight-cylinder Plymouth.
Just in case you didn’t believe me…but the Plymouth has nicer bumpers.
The 1949 Lincoln was styled by Eugene T “Bob” Gregorie, who had done such fine work for Edsel Ford with the original Continental as well as a number of Fords, perhaps the most attractive American cars in the 1933-1937 era. And the ’49 Lincoln is hardly without merit, although it and the similar 1949 Mercury are perfect examples of the pitfalls of the bar-of-soap pontoon look.
Starting with the front end, which just looks sad, due to the drooping grille. And the deep-set headlights, which had originally been planned to be hidden, only enhance that depressed mood. Needs some Prozac. Compare it to the eminently confident and upbeat face of the Cadillac.
Ironically, Lincoln was in the process of handing the keys to the most exclusive and desirable coupe from its own Continental to the Coupe de Ville, as 1948 was the last year of that classic. But it was ten years old, and its face was hardly aging well, having been injected with fillers and flashy dental implants.
One of the issues with the new ’49 Lincoln was the utter lack of stylistic continuity, unlike Cadillac, which had long cultivated a distinct look, one which Earl was not going to ever ditch quickly. But then Lincoln was not in that enviable position, especially with its non-Continental models, like this ’48 sedan. They were a direct evolution of the original 1933 Zephyr, which was an eternity ago. So Ford was willing to start fresh. More like needed to.
1949 was essentially a reboot of the whole Ford Motor Company’s products. Henry Ford II oversaw a complete transformation, with the ’49 Ford, Mercury and Lincoln finally ditching all of grandpa Henry’s beloved but long-obsolete Model T underpinnings: the transverse springs and solid front axles, the torque tube drive, the skinny frame and tall bodies. A total house cleaning was affected.
The initial plan was for a 118″ wb Ford, a 121″ wb Mercury and a 126″ wb junior Lincoln “Zephyr” (plans for a new senior Lincoln Continental was shelved), all to share the same basic chassis and significant portions of their bodies, especially the Ford and Mercury. That would have continued the previous pattern of the Mercury being little more than a slightly longer deluxe Ford. But two things rearranged all of that.
In 1947 HFII merged Lincoln and Mercury into the Lincoln-Mercury Division, in order to more effectively compete against GM’s mid-upper brands, which had their own larger bodies. And around the same time, Ford’s policy committee, led by Ernie Breech and Harold Youngren, decided that the new ’49 Ford should be built on a smaller 114″ wb, with a unique body.
That resulted in a crash development program, and outsider Richard Caleal’s design won the competition over the in-house design team, and the production ’49 Ford (above) was almost unchanged from it. The result was a quite distinct difference between the Ford and the larger cars, unlike what had originally been intended.
So the 118″ wb ex-Ford was pushed up the ladder and became the ’49 Mercury. And it was an unqualified success, setting new records for the oft-struggling brand during its three-year run and hitting the #6 sales rank in some of those years. What was working so well for Mercury would not work quite so well with Lincoln.
The ’49-’51 Merc became a favorite of the early “lead sled’ customizer set, being chopped channeled and frenched to various extremes. This one I shot a while back is fairly mild.
So the 121″ wb car that was originally going to be the Mercury now became the junior (Series EL) Lincoln. In other words, a Mercury with a new front end.
So now there were two Lincolns in this ’49 – ’51 era. The Cosmopolitan (red), with a 125″ wheelbase was the “senior” Lincoln.
The junior Lincoln’s prices were decidedly lower than the Cadillac or Cosmopolitan. Like with the low end Packard models, which were even cheaper, having a mid-priced Lincoln may have expanded total sales, but did little to enhance the prestige of the brand.
This is where Cadillac really nailed it; after the war they pushed upwards while Lincoln and Packard put a lot of resources into the mid-price sector. Cadillac even dropped its somewhat cheaper and shorter Series 61 after 1951, which pushed the brand even further upmarket. Which turns out to be exactly what the market wanted: a luxury brand unsullied by cheap versions. Something Cadillac forgot later in life, with the Cimarron and other missteps downwards.
The frame, chassis and suspension of all three (Mercury, Lincoln and Cosmopolitan) were essentially all the same. It was a modern chassis, with an X-member braced low and wide frame (for the times), coil spring independent front suspension, Hotchkiss-style rear axle supported by longitudinal leaf springs, hydraulic drum brakes, and “balloon” tires on 15″ wheels. Front and rear track are the same (58.5″/60″); the only material difference was in the wheelbase length, and of course the bodies. As said, the Mercury and Lincoln bodies were essentially identical except for front end styling and length.
But the Cosmopolitan’s body is somewhat wider as well as lower as the Mercury and junior Lincoln, and obviously has a totally different roof structure, door construction and external sheet metal all-round. yet it does share a significant amount of its inner structure with the others. It also got a single pane windshield.
In addition to styling very different from Cadillac, the Lincoln was equally different under the hood. But in an inverse way, meaning decidedly less modern. Yes, the miserable Zephyr flathead V12 was finally gone. Apparently Lincoln wanted to develop a new V12 engine (ohv?), but it was not to be. Given the lack of other options, the “big” Ford truck flathead V8 with 337 cubic inches displacement was adapted for the Lincoln. It’s not like Cadillac was going to sell Lincoln its superb new ohv lightweight V8 along with the Hydramatic.
Given the original intended use of this engine, in Ford’s biggest F-7 and F-8 trucks, it was obviously designed to be tough, so durability was not going to be an issue.
This big block flathead was new in 1948 for Ford’s large trucks, and although it looks a lot like its smaller siblings, it is physically much larger as well as heavier, weighing in at a hefty 800-850 lbs. The crankshaft alone weighed 105 lbs. One obvious difference is the rear-mounted distributor.
Like the smaller Ford flathead V8s, it’s a very undersquare engine, with a 3.50″ bore and 4.375″ stroke. The version used in the 1949 Lincoln, which even got hydraulic lifters, was rated at 152 gross hp @3600 rpm, and 265 lb.ft of torque @2000 rpm. Looking at it, it says “1939”, not “1949”.
The 337 has much larger valves, smoother ports and other significant advantages over the 24 stud Ford/Mercury V8, and could easily make 250+ hp with the right modifications. It has terrific torque. And of course that unique flathead exhaust sound. It also has the potential to be bored and stroked up to some 400 cubic inches. Because of its weight, it never developed much of an aftermarket for performance parts, other than a dual carb manifold and these Edmunds aluminum heads, both of which are now extremely rare. Cams had to be custom regrinds.
All this immersion into these Cosmopolitans and that big 337 flathead has given me my newest MM object: a Cosmopolitan sedan with a warmed over 337 like above, three speed, and overdrive. And of course genuine dual exhausts to share the flathead music with the world. I’d prefer one with original paint and a bit of authentic patina, steel wheels and blackwalls. It would make a great stablemate to my other recent MM object, that 1951 Hudson I shared with you a while back. Flatheads in my head, especially big ones!
Transmission choices were the standard three-speed manual, with overdrive optional. Automatic? Sorry, none available. But GM feels sorry for you, so starting in 1950, GM’s four-speed Hydramatic, was optional. It would be until 1955 that Lincoln had its own automatic. Meanwhile, the take rate on Hydramatics on ’49 Cadillacs was probbaly getting pretty high. Another chuckle is heard from Cadillac.
Now to the back end. Needless to say, this is where the Cadillac and Lincoln diverge the most. The Lincoln’s rear end is eminently modern, sleek, flat, smooth, tight, innocuous, European, and…droopy. Forgettable, in Americans’ eyes, unless you were into the lead sled look.
The Cadillac’s couldn’t be more different. Earl knew exactly what Americans wanted in a butt, 60 years before so many Americans became obsessed with a certain Kardashian’s rear end. Unforgettable, for better or for worse.
Speaking of bodies, we should also take a quick look at Lincoln’s four door sedans. In the Cosmopolitan series, there were no less than two, including this fastback Town Sedan. What made Lincoln think that a fastback four door sedan would be the wave of the future in 1949? Ever since the 1938 Cadillac 60 Special, the trend had been away from fastbacks, especially four door luxury sedans.
The Tatra influence was a lasting one. But the Lincoln Town sedan is handsome. Looking at it is like looking at a car from Russia; I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the flesh. All these Lincolns from this era were exceedingly rare on the streets after 1960 when I arrived as a kid. Maybe even before.
The Cosmopolitan Sport Sedan looks even more European. If I told you this was a 1949 Ralbot-Tago Super Roush Gran Lux, you might believe me. It should have been called “Continental”. Actually “Cosmopolitan” nails it pretty well. This is the most “European” American car of the 50s.
The Cosmopolitan’s similarity to the little 1950 French Ford Vedette coupe is not coincidental. They were both styled by “Bob” Gregorie, who also did the 1949 Mercury. Its origins were in a small Ford to be built in the US , but ended up being built in France (full story here)
In a two-year old response to the Coupe deVille, for 1951 Lincoln gussied up its Cosmopolitan two-door sedan into the Capri Coupe, But a padded top and some new upholstery wasn’t going to hold a candle to the CdV, which was now already in its second generation, as Cadillac had a substantial restyle in 1950.
The junior Lincoln also offered a padded roof coupe dubbed “Lido”. Meanwhile, all the GM divisions, even Chevrolet, now had two-door hardtop coupes. Too little, too late.
So how did the Lincoln fare during the ’49 -’52 era? Not so well, despite a very good start in 1949, due undoubtedly to the post-war buyer’s market being not quite done yet. And perhaps because the new ’49 Lincoln appealed to a certain buyer looking for something more understated and yet modern. But if so, those buyers were quickly exhausted, as sales cratered in 1950.
Cadillac sales rose steadily from 1949 -1951, as much as production could keep up with demand. 1952 sales drooped, undoubtedly due to Korean War related supply issues, which probably also explains why they dropped the low-end series 61 that year, to focus production on the more profitable models.
Packard enjoyed a very short-lived boost in 1951, thanks to the arrival of all-new cars that year. But that would be its last good year ever, as it then went into a steep terminal dive.
Lincoln did a total design about-face in 1952, ditching the smooth nose, faired-in headlights and slab sides for Harley Earl-approved jet-intake rear fender extrusions, along with a decidedly more Cadillacky look all-round. It didn’t help sales any, as they slid further, undoubtedly also in part because of the the Korean War. But it did set Lincoln on a new direction.
And thanks to its new Y-block ohv V8 and competent chassis, that new course included race courses, in the form of the Pan American Road Race, which it won in 1952 and 1953. And sales finally perked up some in 1953. But the 1950s were a difficult decade for Lincoln, and the plug was almost pulled on the brand by Robert McNamara after the failure of the radical 1958-1960 models, which imitated nobody.
A bit of a stylistic postscript: Harley Earl eschewed unbroken slab sides (and horizontal trim that accentuated them) for the rest of his career, until the 1959s were essentially forced on him. It must have been hard, for the man that had done everything possible to keep the eye from moving from front to back without being forced to stop at least once or more often. And now the tables were turned; the ’59 Cadillac’s unbroken sleek flanks owed more than a tip of the hat to the ’49-’51 Lincoln.
There’s no doubt that the grafted-on jet engine intake (and garish tapering trim) on the 1959 Sixty Special sedan was Earl’s doing. The ’59s may not have been his idea, but he was going to put his signature extruded and chromed stamp on at least one of them. As such, it was his final shot at GM, harking back to the time when that approach had won Cadillac’s race against the slab-sided Lincolns and Packards in 1948-1949.
But Lincoln would have the last laugh, at least stylistically. After giving up on copying and trying to out-do Cadillac in the 1950s, in 1961 Lincoln went back to what might be considered a rather direct evolution of its 1949 slab-sided design, right down to the suicide rear doors. And the ’61 Lincoln’s design influence would ripple throughout the industry for decades to come, including Cadillac. Thank you!
Well, looking at these pictures, it’s pretty clear just why Cadillac was doing well and Lincoln wasn’t. I certainly won’t deny that the previous Continentals were getting stale, but at least they looked different from their corporate siblings. Like you said, this looked very similar to the Mercury Coupe but, the details just don’t work. There’s a fine line between understated and boring, I feel like this car was trying to do understated, but it ends up being boring.
Certainly, the early 60s continental is still a great design, and it did help influence a lot of cars (Just look at the Imperials that came starting in 64, though that’s also because of Engel’s input). But, correct me if I’m wrong, wasn’t Cadillac still outselling Lincoln by a somewhat sizeable margin in the early 60s? I seem to remember that, even with the praise of the 61 Continental, Cadillac still had a lead on Lincoln in terms of sales. Obviously, the Continental is a much cleaner and much more fondly remembered design, but I still recall Lincoln playing second fiddle to Cadillac in the 60s in terms of sales numbers. I feel like it wasn’t until Lido came in with the Mark III in 68 did Lincoln have something that really helped bolster it’s sales. (And if it didn’t, it certainly paved the way for their increased sales in the 70s, I think even outselling Cadillac at one point). Obviously, I could be wrong, but from what I’ve read, I feel like it took Lincoln quite a bit of time before it could even get close to the sales that Cadillac was doing. Obviously, sales numbers are not exactly indicative of the influence or quality a car or design will have, like I said, there’s a reason why we remember the Continental and not the early 60s Cadillacs (Generally speaking), but I seem to remember that even with this new design, it wasn’t helping Lincoln dethrone Cadillac from it’s number one spot in the American luxury car market. I could be wrong, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Of course Cadillac vastly outsold Lincoln in the 60s, especially the early 60s. I’m just pointing out the stylistic influences. And the ’65 Cadillac was very slab sided, undoubtedly strongly influenced by the ’61 Continental.
By 1961 Cadillac was on year fourteen of a virtually unstoppable roll that had at least the rest of the decade to go. The 1961 Lincoln Continental didn’t come close to matching Cadillac in sales (I don’t have the sales figures at hand as I write this), but it did increase Lincoln sales to the point where the marque was once again worth keeping in production – which I think hadn’t happened since about 1956.
Lincoln could have done an exact nut and bolt copy of the 1961 Cadillac, and it still would have been completely outsold, because after fourteen years of getting right anywhere from decent right to absolutely perfect, Cadillac WAS the luxury brand.
The 1961 Lincoln succeeded in two areas: 1. Alongside the Corvair, it was probably the biggest design influence on the automobile industry. 2. It kept the Lincoln brand from the long slide into “who cares?” that affected the Imperial.
Which goes to show, you do things right for a long while, and the reputation becomes very effective. It worked for Cadillac back then, and it worked for Toyota a couple of decades later.
Actually, looking at Wiki’s Divisional production figures Lincoln built about 300 more cars in 1961 over 1960 (a touch over 25K units). And about 1800 fewer cars than in 1959. The 1961 Lincoln was a stylistic masterpiece but as big of a sales dud as the prior generation. Lincoln would not finally break 40K units until 1965 (and even then it was still a touch below 1957’s production).
But Lincoln’s design continuity finally started paying off in the second half of the 60s.
Remember, though, those ’61-2 Lincolns were only two models where in 1958-60 they had fielded a full line. So the breakeven point was probably a lot lower.
When comparing sales figures of the 1961 Lincoln Continental with those of its immediate predecessors, remember that there was a slight recession in 1961 that affected car sales.
Also remember that Lincoln was down to two body styles, and offered no hardtop coupes until the 1966 model year. If I recall correctly, the best-selling Cadillac body style during this era was the two-door hardtop. Lincoln’s failure to offer this body style was a major handicap in the sales race.
Lincoln also retreated to the upper reaches of the luxury market. The 1961 Continental competed with the Cadillac Fleetwood series. Lincoln didn’t offer a direct counterpart to the Cadillac Series 62.
Given those factors, Lincoln’s sales figures for 1961 weren’t terrible, although Ford was hoping for a higher tally.
Fewer body styles helped keep costs down and probably cost some sales, but Lincoln’s 2 door cars of the 58-60 series sold horribly. And higher transaction prices definitely would have helped the bottom line. My only point was that there is a popular misconception that the 58-60 cars were a sales disaster (which was true) and that the clean, beautiful 61 model saved the day by being immensely more popular. It just isn’t true. These cars became popular and beloved as they got older and they built a following through consistent styling and providing a legitimately good luxury car. But it took about a decade before Lincoln finally got some real sales traction and even then they still fought to hit 25% of Cadillac’s sales volume. Lincoln managed to hit 1/3 of Cadillac’s production volume in 1956. It would not hit that measurement again until 1971.
I think you’re forgetting somewhat what a huge role the Thunderbird played in Ford’s overall line up, and share of the premium/luxury market. The original Coupe deVille was marketed as a “sports coupe” as were many of the big luxury-brand coupes.
But the ’58 TBird totally redefined what a personal luxury/sports coupe was, and was of course a big success for Ford.
And one has to remember that the ’61 Conti was really a four-door coupe and not a sedan, which intrinsically limited its sales. That was not remedied until several years. The fact that the Conti convertible had four doors only further reinforced that this was essentially a sporty luxury coupe/cabrio that happened to have four doors. Which rather enhanced its exclusivity. As did it higher price.
Given that the ’61 Conti’s roots were in a Tbird concept, and that the two shared quite a bit under the skin, the logic is obvious to me.
Ford was quite right in not offering a Conti coupe in that early 60s era, as it probably would just have cannibalized both the Conti “sedan” as well as the TBird.
It seems to me that Ford actually was the real leader in luxury-sports coupes at the time, with their TBird and four-door coupe Continental.
Oh, I agree that the 58 Thunderbird was a real segment buster, and may have been a huge part of the reason why 2 door sales of the 58-60 Lincoln were so dismal. The Thunderbird was as close as FoMoCo ever got to a Coupe DeVille until the late 60s. I also have no doubt that Thunderbird provided an alternative to the demographic which might otherwise have bought a Continental. And sharing a production plant and some underpinnings with the Thunderbird surely helped keep Lincoln alive during some lean sales years. The Bird was certainly the car that pointed the way for the modern Ford that could sell $100K luxury F-450s. I was just pointing out that the 61 Continental was not the breakout sales success that folklore would suggest.
To be fair, it occurs to me that the Wiki figures I was using are (I believe) calendar year production. A little looking into model year production shows 1960 at around 11k units for Continentals and about another 7k Premieres, so about (a bit under, actually) 18K 1960 model Lincolns.
There seem to have been about 25K 1961 models built, so 6-7K of those were probably built in calendar 1960. So going from 18K units from a broader line to 25K units of a smaller, pared down lineup was an improvement. But it was still well under production for every single year from 1949-57.
Yes, I meant to point that out, about those sales figures. I started to use those numbers from Wikipedia for this post, but realized they made no sense, and had to extract the MY numbers from my Encyclopedia.
Calendar year number are useful in some instances, but in the type of analyses we tend to do here, not so much so. I wish they would also have a MY table like that.
According to my Cadillac history book, the Wikipedia automobile production by year is model year production not calendar year, at least for Cadillac.
I’m guessing that what really killed the sales of the 1961 Lincoln was that it was quite downsized and actually a bit shorter than a 1961 Galaxie. Also very low. This resulted in a clearly smaller interior than the competition, including visibly much less knee/legroom in the back seat and a rather small trunk. Returning Lincoln customers who had a ’56-57 or more likely a ’58-60 would definitely notice, or anyone comparing it to the competition in their showrooms. One thing American luxury car buyers were expecting and paying for was more room inside compared to cheaper cars.
Ford addressed this as fast as they could with the 1964 facelift, adding 3 inches to the wheelbase, all of which showed up in rear seat knee/legroom, and reconfiguring the trunk with the fuel tank vertically up against the rear axle instead of flat under the floor, leaving a deep bin (same as in the redesigned 1965 Galaxies). Sadly some corporate edict had them go back to flat side windows, also on the new Thunderbird.
Before that they humped up the trunk lid in 1963 to create more trunk room.
They probably made some sales to people who wanted the coolest looking luxury car with a more sporty, designy but understated image. The front seat wasn’t a simple bench but had separate curved shell backrests with a fold down armrest in between, something not seen before.
Yep, Lincoln’s indecision cost them after the war. While the ’52-’55 models were pretty good road cars, it wasn’t until 1956 that Lincolns became visually impressive again. Of course, they blew it for 1958 by going over the top. While the ’49 Cosmo notchback sedan wasn’t too bad, the Town Sedan looked like a whale. Here’s an even less flattering view. It was dropped for 1950 – no surprise.
Thanks for the pic tonyola! That is the rear end that I thought I remembered!!
I have actually seen a’49 Town Sedan in the flesh! It must have been way back in 19 & 82, S.W. corner of 13 Mi & Orchard Lk. Rd., in Farmington Hills, MI, and I was out to dinner with my parents and while parking the car I saw it.
What was special is that it was fresh out of a barn where it had been sitting for 20 years. It’s seemingly black (but I have the faded inkling that the, then new owner said it might have been dark blue or green).
The owner was filling the radiator with more water because it leaked, and was waiting for the car to cool a bit before doing so, so he had time and was happy to talk we hit many of the high points of Paul’s article here.
He showed me the flat head, first I’d ever seen. I was amazed at the size of the massive heads. I was just getting into engines then, so compared to the narrow valve covers of newer cars I remarked that it looked old fashioned. The owner laughed and said because it was (could he have called it something like an “L-head”, I can’t remember), and it was better suited for a cement mixer than a car because Ford had not the money for a new Lincoln engine, they used this low compression whopper instead.
The car was covered in dust and the paint was deeply crazed, in some places IIRC it was gone and there was a rust patina on the surface.
I recall some kind of brownish mohair interior (but am less certain of this point.) and a very large steering wheel.
I think we even talked about the presence of a clutch pedal which seemed out of place in a luxury marque.
But what has resonated in my memory for these last 35 years was the swoopy roofline, the plate in the middle of the bumper bearing a nice stylized Lincoln script, and those little round taillights! I can tell you that even on a dirty, rusty, obscure car I thought the design looked so cool, looking like some kind of Hudson Super Hornet (at least to me, perhaps standing closer and above than the pics helped to give it a Hot Rod Lincoln look).
I recall mentioning how I liked the design, as it seemed aerodynamic yet cool (inset lights front and rear) and the owner laughed, “too bad you weren’t around in ‘49, because Lincoln would have appreciated the support!”
I’ve often thought of that moment and not having seen one of these cars from the rear since then (admittedly not looking in google pics either), I’ve oft wondered, in a passing thought, whether I correctly remembered these details.
I’ll also add that, in person, at least then, these are very large and long cars (not like the super long ‘59/‘60 tho) and that the new owner had not decided if he was going to restore it or customize it.
Thanks for setting these musings to rest Paul!
Ps it is hard to believe, that that car then, was 15 years younger, than my 1969 cougar is today; it seemed ancient by 1982, and, somehow, the mid to late 1960’s cars, while dated, don’t feel quite so ancient nearly 50 years on!
What a wonderful memory!
+1. Reminds me of some of my early memories. Vivid!
Great piece! Thank goodness this sad-sack front-end is one Lincoln “face” that the division hasn’t opted to bring back as they flail around for a retro-fresh Lincoln “look.”
Earl’s mastery of detail is on proud display with the Cadillacs. When you look at the Chrysler for ’49, in many ways it shares the same elements as the ’49 GM cars (streamlined front fenders, proud prows, visible rear fenders), but the Chrysler products looked dumpy, while the GM cars looked stylish–proportion and details being the vital difference between “wow” and “meh.”
I will give FoMoCo credit: the ’49 Ford and Mercury were very daring and fresh designs that worked well for those marques–the look just didn’t translate to Lincoln, but two out of three ain’t bad…
Captivating stuff, Paul. I kinda like the ’49-’51 Lincolns and I never knew why. That Tatra 600 made it all clear. Hehehe…
These are not the most elegant cars ever made, but they did have a presence that I feel was absent in the later ones – until 1961 came around. The ’52s were generic and bland; the ’56s were clumsy and fiddly; the ’58s were frightening and massive… No, if there’s one ’50s Lincoln worthy of a second look, it’s the ’50.
But I wasn’t aware these still had flatheads. And from a truck engine, no less. Now, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing – Delahaye 135s also had a truck-derived motor, for instance. But just like Delahaye, Lincoln’s prestige would have likely suffered from this parentage if it was widely known. Folks who buy these kinds of cars don’t usually like their neighbours or friends mocking their ride’s proletarian lineage.
I think we often underestimate what an unexpected game changer the Oldsmobile and Cadillac OHV V-8’s were. Thru 1948, the only manufacturers that were using OHV engines were Chevrolet, Buick and Nash (GMC, not sure?). Everyone else was using the flathead, and it was considered state of the art.
Then GM dropped it’s double bombshells, and suddenly everyone (except Hudson) realized they needed to do an OHV. And I’m probably correct in guessing everybody – can we say crash programs? It took Studebaker two years afterwords to get their OHV V-8 going (I get the feeling they may be been a little more forward thinking than the competition?) Chrysler took three years to get their Hemi into production, and they were the first of the majors. Pontiac, Packard, Plymouth and Chevy didn’t make it until ’55, Ford was just a year earlier (and only another year or so earlier on the straight six).
Yep, between 1948 and 1949, GM upended EVERYTHING.
One other thought: For 1949, Ford was tasked with bringing out three completely new lines of cars, dropping all the archaic, er, traditional Ford engineering, and financially stabilizing the company. It was probably a bit much to expect them to come up with a new line of engines while they were at it. Just doing a modern (for the time) level of upgrades to the current engines was probably stretching themselves as far as they could go, given all the other factors.
Studebaker and Chrysler came out with their new V8s the same year – 1951. You may have been thinking 1950, which was when Studebaker introduced the Automatic Drive (about 5 years before Chrysler got a fully automatic transmission.)
Thanks for the correction. I knew Studebaker was ’51, but didn’t have enough coffee in me this morning to have all my facts straight. The joy of doing my morning posts from memory.
Thinking about it a bit more, there had to be some foresight in both Studebaker’s and Chrysler’s engineering department to be able to react within two model years to the GM engines.
In Chrysler’s case, they weren’t just reacting. They’d known a new modern engine was going to be a necessity in the post war era, and had been working on hemi head engines already during the war. There was no way they imagined a post war era with their ’30s flatheads powering them, except the very low end cars.
Studebaker’s V8 has a lot of basic similarities to the Cad/Olds engine, so in their case, a bit of cribbing was in the equation.
Another interesting point is that those first four OHV V8s (Olds Cadillac Chrysler and Studebaker) turned out to be some of the best of all of them. Their combination of solid basic engineering, durability and performance potential were not always matched in later designs from other manufacturers. Those four early V8s were some of the best ever.
Jim — Chrysler got a fully automatic transmission in 1953, although it wasn’t available in Plymouths until MY1955. TorqueFlite debuted very late in 1956, but PowerFlite preceded it by about three years.
The early Studebaker V-8 wasn’t a great engine. Its power-to-weight ratio wasn’t terribly impressive and early ones had reliability problems that cost Studebaker a lot in warranty repairs and goodwill. The later 259/289 versions were much more durable, although they still leaked oil and were quite heavy.
I thought the Powerflite began to get built in numbers in 1954 after trickling out in late 1953.
The Stude engine was heavy and of small displacement, so power to weight ratio was not it’s strong suit and there were certainly some issues with the earliest ones. But power for its displacement was always quite good. The 55-56 259 outperformed the Chevy 265 and by the time of the R-1 (non-supercharged) 289 it was only 10 horsepower shy of the significantly larger Chevy 327. It would take significantly more abuse than any Chevy smallblock.
IIRC Delahaye’s engine, though truck derived, was tuned up way beyond what their trucks would have had, and looked quite impressive too with multiple carbs and alloy detail parts. Lincoln’s motor, though it undoubtedly did the job as a torque monster, just didn’t look impressive. Guess the owners didn’t show off the engine.
How ironic Ford now unabashedly sells heavy duty work trucks for 100K and they really do carry prestige (at least among certain demographics).
I’ve always hoped some visionary hot-rodder would bash together an early heavy Ford truck and Lincoln to make a “what if?” 1950 Navigator. Same could be done with an early 50’s Suburban and a Cadillac to make an early 50’s Escalade.
Like something from an illustration, such as a TinTin cartoon-familiar, but not quite representing something that would actually get produced. Good ideas, but not quite finished. Contrast this with the careful attention to where the designer wants your eye to be drawn on the Cadillac. See how the front edge of the rear bumper is in line with the front edge of the taillight, stopping your eye and drawing it upward. And the upper, horizontal edge of the same bumper is higher than the line of the side chrome, again so your eye can be drawn upward, rather than continuing back. The Lincoln’s rear bumper just continues the line, as if the designer felt he had to emphasize in every way how long the car is. The Cadillac is just so much more confident.
To me, the 49 Mercurys and Lincolns are both somewhat whale-like – kind of stretched and lowered versions of some early ’40s designs. I wonder if it would’ve helped, had the really new ’49 Ford body been used on the Lincoln, and then Ford would’ve shared bodies with Mercury, like they had previously.
Of course, if they had stuck that ‘sad-look’ ’49 Lincoln front on an enlarged version of the new Ford body, probably not. And I’m sure not having an automatic transmission and a modern OHV V8, was another deal-killer.
Happy Motoring, Mark
Somewhat ironically the big Lincoln body has quite a bit in common with the little Ford, stylistically speaking; the smooth sides and discreet use of chrome. But that’s okay; all the GM cars had the same stylistic theme anyway.
I can’t help thinking the Lincoln would look better with a more conventional headlight placement, perhaps slightly frenched like the ’52-4 Fords. And maybe a simple horizontal bar grille – it worked for Cord.
These cars would look great with hidden headlights a`la the Cord 810 or every mustache-mobile of the 70’s and 80’s.
Good article Paul – I learned a lot about these cars from it!
Great overview. Of all the “bathtub” designs of the late 40s-early 50s, I like the Lincoln best. Certainly the front end is an acquired taste, but the sunken headlights were unique and always caught my eye.
My opinion only but the ’56 Lincoln is the brand’s most attractive design of the decade, and that includes the Mark II.
Agreed on the ’56 Lincoln. It was definitely right everything. Proper size, outlandish enough to be noticeable, yet not too far over the top, and attractive. It’s only failing was that it wasn’t as attractive as the ’56 Cadillac. It had the misfortune of going up against the best looking stretch of Cadillacs in the company’s history (54-58).
And I love the 52-55 Lincolns. Their only failing is that there wasn’t enough, visually, to compete.
One point that should be emphasized is how massive of a departure this car was from the 1948 and earlier models. Through 1948 Lincoln continued to use that suspension system and chassis layout that had first appeared on the 1908 Ford Model T. Those transverse leaf springs underpinned nearly everything Ford Motor Company made during Henry’s lifetime. Just getting a modern chassis design was a huge matter.
Ditching that awful V-12 was another huge accomplishment. I don’t think the 337 flathead was a bad thing for Lincoln. It provided a 30+ horsepower jump from the V-12 (which was only 292 cid) and gave good service (which the V-12 didn’t do). As engines went in the 1949-51 period it was pretty competitive. Also, that high 1949 production may have meant that the car got an early start as 1948 production plummeted to something like 7700 units.
One of my pet theories is that every so often there is a period of time when the next big styling trend is really up in the air. I think that the cars of the immediate postwar era show that this was one of those periods. There was full bathtub (Nash, Packard, Hudson) and squarish 3 box (Ford, Kaiser). The rest tried to come up with something else. Studebaker went with the sloping low rear end and Lincoln/Mercury tried to blend the fenders into the doors in a creative way. Harley Earl’s vision turned out to win the day.
One last point, the Continental-style thin bright window frames (which the Continental stole from the 38 Cadillac Sixty Special) really save the Cosmo from the worst of the other bathtub cars’ heavyness. That light greenhouse makes this car really modern and attractive to me and balances out the heavy lower body.
One additional thought hits me – in 1949-51 Ford stumbled onto the A-B-C body system that had made GM king of the world. Unfortunately, with only 3 Divisions/nameplates instead of 5, Ford was never able to make it work. The Ford did well and got enough volume that there was probably no need to add a Mercury version. The Mercury did well too. Perhaps the difference might have been if Mercury had gotten a shorter wheelbase version of the big Cosmo to add some volume on that body, or if the big Cosmo had been Lincoln’s exclusive offering.
Hindsight says that 1949 might have been the year to launch the Edsel. It could have taken the place of the Jr. Lincoln and maybe added a short wheelbase version of the big Cosmo. But as things turned out FoMoCo would whipsaw every which way with body sharing into the early 60s when things settled down.
Good idea to give the small Lincoln another name. But I wonder if it was too soon after his death (1943) for that?
After reading this article (more detail than I’ve read on the ‘futuristic’ 49-51 Lincolns than I’ve run across any time in the past, it’s like this car is deliberately ignored for some reason), I’ve come to the conclusion that it should be subtitled “Harley Earl: The Man Who Killed 40’s Futurism Stone Dead.”
With my buying style in the ’60’, ’70’s and more. I intended to own and experience every car I could, looking for the ultimate cars to keep the rest of my life. My first ’49 Cadillac was a Series 62 Sedanette in emerald green with tan interior, power seat and windows, had wide whites, looked new and cost $100. Of course, no power steering or brakes but still very smooth and steering was light enough with 5 turns lock to lock. I was driving the Cadillac the day I bought the ’49 Cosmo. I came out of the store, and parked next to the Cad was a midnight blue (so dark some people thought it was black) had dirty wide whites, was in very nice shape, had a gray brocade interior, power windows and I think seat, it was the 4 door notchback Sports Sedan. The fellow said he was thinking of selling his car. I mentioned I’d just paid $100 for the Cadillac, he ask if I could pay that much for the Lincoln. I had him start it, it sounded great. Might mention also the Cad had a Hydramatic, the Lincoln 3 speed and overdrive. I ask if he could follow me to park the car and I bought it. I always liked that style Lincoln (’49-’51), a neighbor had one from new until he bought a new ’55 Lincoln Capri sedan. At that time I was driving them back to back most times. I think a big problem was getting people to try the Lincolns, I rapidly found the Lincoln was more comfortable than the Cad, even without automatic, also with the overdrive I was able to make two shifts without the clutch. Detailed out the Lincoln had an elegance to it, the Cad was sportier. In top end they weren’t that far apart. The Cosmo took a bit longer getting there, but reached an actual 102-104 mph, the Cad did 2-3 mph more, in acceleration the Cad took 16-17 seconds to 60 and the Lincoln was just a hair faster. At 50-70 mph the Cosmo got 3-5 mpg more than the Cad, they both stopped well. Both were quiet inside but it came back to the seats and driving position was just better in the Cosmo. I sold the Cadillac (it was still a beautiful car) as I was adding other cars, In the next year I had two more ’49 Cadillacs, both ’62 series, both emerald green, a sedan and a convertible with tan top., The following year I had a ’49 60 Special…in emerald green again. I didn’t do many trips more then 200 miles with the Cosmo, but it was very comfortable and seemed to have more torque than the Cad. As I added more convertibles I sold the ’49 Cosmopolitan, then I missed it. Then the best situation arose, I bought a 1950 Cosmopolitan convertible, black, tan top, red leather interior, primo condition with 42000 miles, and a Hydramatic, with power windows and seat. It felt really good to drive and sounded so good with the top down. I put wide whites on it, the rest mechanically was good shape. A high school friend whose family moved to Arkansas asked if I could visit. I decided to drive the Cosmo. It was coolish weather going back, I stopped by the Grand Canyon, and it ran perfectly. Coming back, the temp was over 110 and the Lincoln would start to cut out at cruising speed but kept running. Then in Arizona, it quit, but near one of the road side stands. As I raised the hood a fellow from the stand came over. Vapor-lock? he asked. I thought so. He pulled out a large grapefruit from the bag he was holding, cut it in half and packed it around the fuel pump. He said give it a try. It cranked a bit, then fired up. He said when that one dried out, put another on. I bought the bag of grapefruit. About every 75 miles it would start sputtering and I would repack. Other than that it was a wonderful comfortable trip. and I personally thought the big convertible was gorgeous. Things happened and I sold the Cosmo. About a year later I talked with two elderly sisters that bought their Cosmo Capri coupe new in 1951. I told them how much I admired the Cosmo’s. They were planning to stop driving soon, a deal was made so when they did I’d buy the car, black with tan saddle leather inside and normal Cosmo equipment, a power steering ram had been added to the steering linkage which made it even easier to drive, and it had just under 20,,000 miles with the original super wide whitewalls on it (I replaced those). It had automatic also. This one apparently had an optional rear end ratio, it was a second or so slower to 60, but in a five mile run would reach just under 110 mph, and at 70 was pushing 21 mpg. It also had add on A/C and a 4 core larger radiator. It also had the fuel lines and pump insulated. I got the name of their mechanic and used him til he retired. Over several years I had every year Lincoln up to 1969, then later some Marks and others. During those early years I also had a ’49 Chrysler Town & Country convertible and same year New Yorker, it was sunshine yellow with white top, wide whites, fender skirts had been added as well as fog lights and spot lights, and even in that time, it drew as much attention as my ’49 Cad convert and was a super comfortable, easy driving car. I was amazed it could get to 99 miles an hour, the T&C was a bit faster, I don’t like fender skirts but had to admit it made enough difference it had more of a GM look. especially with the tack on tail lights of ’49. I had a ’50 Packard Victoria convertible also, with Ultramatic, in yellow with red leather and white top. The big old strait eight in it pushed to 97 mph, and it was very smooth, but loved lots of gas. The Lincoln Cosmopolitans won me over for best choice. I know the engine was outmoded, but it still worked and I still love the looks. BTW I did have two Rare ’49’s. fastback Town sedans, one from Texas, and one local, which must have been a record since only 49 were built according to the Lincoln dealer. Oh, and according to SIA article, the headlight were supposed to be hidden but ended up not.
@LRF: It is simply fascinating to me to read your recounts of cars made (that you actually owned) before I was born! Your descriptive details are excellent! 🙂
The 49 Lincoln Cosmopolitan used those chrome splash guards over the front wheels. I don’t know of another car to use them before Lincoln. After two years they stopped using them but Mercedes Benz later used them to great effect.
In ’49 or ’50, I would buy one. Would have to be a Cosmopolitan w/ Hydramatic. It looks sleek, streamlined, futuristic; yet elegant.
In person it’s a hard, solid monster–you’d feel safe, like riding in a solid billet of steel. The “truck” engine smoothly loafs, and with care should last forever. Wonder what the handling is like–kingpins, not ball-joints–no power assist for that enormous steering wheel!
Always reminds me of the super-luxury car (the “Zoom V-8”) that Huey, Dewey, & Louie won in the cartoon “Donald’s Super Service.” Donald Duck ends up destroying the car in the end…”No, Donald! Nooooo!” Traumatized me as a kid!
Yeah me too. Also “Dad, can I borrow the car?” was traumatic when I was 10, but probably helped when I was 16…
Oh, that’s a real gem of a movie! Between “Speedfella” from “Misdemeanor Used Cars” to the talking cars on the lot, to driving Uncle Charlie’s ’59 Cadillac convertible thru the car wash, there are a lot of laughs and great scenes. Why can’t Disney make anything that down-to-earth and funny today?
My paternal grandfather had a 1949 Lincoln that he purchased second-hand. He drove itf for years and years, finally replacing it in the mid-sixties with an austere 4-door 1959 Ford. He was a practical fellow who didn’t care about status or image. I guess a ’49 Lincoln was perfect for him! He got it for next to nothing, of course. I never EVER heard anyone say anything positive about it. It was always “That old Lincoln.”
What I find so interesting is how the American manufacturers haven’t bothered to offer the V12 (or even V16) for their passenger cars after the last one died out in 1948.
Of course, the Americans hadn’t ignored the prestige of V12 motors. Cadillac developed a stillborn V12 motor and planned a quite ostentatious V16 for its Eldorado in the 1960s. In 2003, Cadillac fitted the Escalade its new 7.5-litre V12 based on Northstar V8, which was originally developed for Cien concept car. Unfortunately, that Escalade XV12 remained one-off project. To make the matters more excruciating for us: Cadillac Sixteen with its amazing 1000-cid, 1000-hp V16 motor, which was almost given a green light for production with realistically thinking V8 and V12 motors.
Chrysler showcased its ME Four-Twelve concept car with Mercedes-Benz V12, and Ford dabbled with V12 stitched from two Duratec V6 motors for its GT90 and Indigo concept cars (that ‘Duratec’ V12 became the Aston Martin’s staple motor in 1999). Lincoln tried its luck with its 2002 Continential concept car that remained, well, concept.
What would happen if Lincoln was given the approval to develop and offer the new V12 motors in the 1950s? Would that be a game changer? Would others follow Lincoln’s lead in adding V12 to their portfolio?
To illustrate the point: when BMW broke its eight-cylinder barrier in 1986 with its 750i/750iL, that started the heady rush to offer the V12 in the 1990s. That pushed what was considered very exotic and very exclusive (Ferrari, Jaguar, and Lamborghini, for instance) into something more widespread and mainstream.
To name a few, Mercedes-Benz grudgingly joined the bandwagon in 1991 with its grotesque looking M120. That surprise announcement delayed the W140 introduction slanted for 1989 to rush the V12 development project. Several small manufacturers such as McLaren and Pagani introduced their hyper sport cars with V12 donors from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Toyota made Century more prestigious with Japan’s first-ever V12 motor in 1997. Rolls-Royce finally got its wish in 1998 with BMW V12 after being ‘stunted’ for many decades. Volkswagen combined two VR6 motors to make W12 for Audi A8 in 2001. Audi tried its luck with world’s first passenger diesel V12 motor for its Q7 in 2008 and almost for R8. Being late to the game is Hongqi with its first Chinese V12 for its presidential HQE in 2009.
You get the idea…
We did see a couple of V-10s here. Both of them (Dodge and Ford) were initially developed for truck use and Dodge got some pretty decent performance out of theirs in the Viper. But the V-10 lacks (at least to my understanding) the inherent smoothness of the V-12, at least at any common cylinder bank angle. This is one more example where American manufacturers have simply walked away from the top end of the market.
From an engineering point of view, what’s the optimum bank angle for a V10 – anyone know?
My understanding is to take 360/# of cylinders. Any multiple of that number (up to 360 degrees) is an optimal angle for minimal vibration. 10 cylinder engine needs a 36, 72, 108 or 144 or 180 degree angle.
The problem was, and is with most modern V-6’s, is that the expensive factory equipment was designed for 90 degree V engines. Those V-10’s were pretty rough. Volume was never even close to justifying separate 72 degree V engine tooling.
As you noted, Cadillac seriously flirted with a V12. But the comparisons to the European V12s is not really all that valid, as in Europe back then, there was a serious power/speed/image race going on. Meanwhile, the US had restrictive speed limits. There just wasn’t any real reason to go beyond V8s, as the V8s had become extremely smooth and effective for their role.
Anything beyond a V8 would have been overkill, and not enough buyers would have been able to justify the price. Keep in mind that US luxury cars in the past 4-5 decades have not been sold on their performance; quite the opposite.
It would have required cars with more capable suspensions, etc. to justify the power and speed of a V12. The smooth running wasn’t enough; no one could hear the V8 inside a Cadillac or Lincoln due to all the sound deadening.
That makes sense, though. I consider V12 more of a status symbol than something practical and useful for daily driving. They’re excellent for the Chinese and Russian markets where flaunting wealth is a serious occupation.
I drove a secondhand 1992 Mercedes-Benz 600SEL, which was the first V12 car I’ve droven. I could tell the huge difference when I accelerated. The motor felt like a silk-smooth turbine, and the driving experience was so different for me.
I drove plenty of American cars and trucks with V8 motors when I lived in Texas and Colorado so I do see your point. They might not be as smooth as V12, but they do their job well, making drive a very leisure experience.
Packard considered a V-12 spinoff of their OHV V-8, although their financial problems made it a nonstarter. Cadillac wasn’t ever seriously going to build the ’60s V-16 — that was really just a concept car fancy — and dropped the V-12 project because they were having a hard time getting enough power out of it to justify the cost and got nervous about having to make it meet emissions standards. (BMW, incidentally, was going to do a 4.5-liter V-12 in the ’70s, but pulled the plug because of the oil crises.)
In all likelihood, had Packard or Lincoln introduced a V-12 in the mid-50s, it probably wouldn’t have had a dramatic impact. Both Ford and Cadillac really overestimated the potential for ultra-luxury models; the Continental Mark II and Eldorado Brougham lost piles and piles of money while not moving the needle in any noticeable way for the cheaper volume models. V-12 engines would have only made it worse in that regard.
Also, Lincoln’s earlier Continental V-12 had such a bad reputation that if they’d brought out a new one within a decade or so, they might end up fighting assumptions that they’d just revived “that awful old sludge-pot from the Continental.”
You may be forgetting a key player here… What was the next saloon with a V12 after the ’48 Lincoln? The Jaguar XJ12.
Here’s something interesting. Fastback versions of the Mercury and low-line Lincoln sedans were planned for 1949. However, the models were dropped not long before production was to begin.
Also because due to a drawing scaling error, all the tooling was ordered at one tenth of the desired size 🙂
Yes, I’ve seen that picture. Good call!
I think Lincoln was also badly hurt by that Ford engine. Had they developed a new V12, it woulda done better…
Enjoyed this article very much. Probably this is the first comprehensive look at these since “Special Interest Autos” covered them around 1972.
I’ve never seen one of these porky Lincolns. Growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, I saw plenty of Cadillacs and Packards from this era, but no Lincs. With all that bulk and that flathead engine, driving one must be a bovine experience. Seen in retrospective, I rather like the Truman-era vibe, but would I buy one over a ’49 Cadillac? Heck, no.
Another ungainly luxury fastback: the current 2017 Rolls Royce Wraith
Great article. I need to spend more time reading it again.
This is a great article on a series of cars that has fallen off the radar for many people today.
When comparing sales figures for this car, remember that Ford rushed its 1949 models into production early. Henry Ford II believed that the company literally could not afford to wait until the normal fall introduction for these cars.
The 1949 Ford was officially introduced to the public in June 1948, and the Mercury and Lincoln debuted at roughly the same time. The 1949 model year was thus an extra-long one for the company.
Not only did Ford rush these cars to market, but it was also basically rebuilding its engineering department from the ground up at the same time, as it had atrophied under Henry For I. Because of these factors, the 1949 Lincoln was riddled with defects, and soon had customers up in arms. Dealers were upset, too. Ford made several improvements to the 1950 and 1951 models, but the cars quickly acquired a bad reputation among customers and dealers alike.
Thanks for that additional info, especially the issues with the ’49s. That was of course also the case with the Fords too. And it helps explain the big drop in Lincoln sales in 1950.
ford built a plant to build lincolns and t birds the lincolns were disasters
the t birds were a smash so did ford win or lose on this deal
also how long did this Wixom plant go on
Great article! I’ve always loved the 49-‘51 Lincoln Cosmos and consider it one of the most elegant cars of the 50’s. Really like those BMW 2002 looking taillights on the ‘49 & ‘50 models, although not crazy about the awkward taillight update on the ‘51 Cosmopolitan.
I think it is worth mentioning that GM’s postwar ‘48-‘50 designs had a fastback in each division, A,B, & C bodies – due to low sales the 4 doors were first to be dropped leaving a single 2 door model, which was then discontinued due to low sales.
I’ve never really understood the Cadillac appeal. One thing Lincoln & Imperial could count on was the snob appeal of exclusivity, especially when Cadillac was producing 200,000+ cars a year in the 1960s.
I too think these are more attractive than the Cadillac, especially from the rear where the Linc is neat and elegant whereas the Caddy is a collection of ‘look at me’ lumps and bumps, though I prefer the taller 1951 rear lights; I feel the round ones look rather lost (bigger might have been better here). Where it really falls down is the front. Not the intriguing recessed headlights, but that sad, sad grille. I suspect the simpler crossbar would have been too downmarket and Ford-like so instead I’d suggest something taller and narrower without resorting to a pre-war style grille (I feel can work very well with the Pontoon style but I think it was off the rader for a modern post-war American design). Anyway, using some elements of the previous generation Lincolns, I would suggest something like this:
Not half bad. Kind of reminds me of contemporary special-bodied Fiats, for some reason. Ghia or Viotti or some such. Also has a bit of a Packard feel.
Bernard’s car is not too far away in styling from a 1948 Packard bodied by Vignale.
Ah well! I guess I was around in the right era, in styling terms. Initially I tried a simple rectangular grille, but felt it was too plain so I added the raised top piece, the idea lifted from the 1951 Ford GB Zephyr (also not a million miles away from the 1949 Morris MO). I think it looked better for it, though I also did wonder if others might think Packard.
Not having the wide part enclosing the sidelights reveals that they’re neatly recessed just like the headlights, easy to miss on the actual car.
My apologies for the misspelling of ‘radar’. By the time I noticed it was too late to correct it.
Great write-up and analysis Paul. You make mention that the headlights on the Lincoln were supposed to be covered with glass, but as I recall they were originally intended on being concealed, similar to a 1942 Desoto. ET (Bob) Gegorie had done the original clay in about 1943 for the Lincoln. This car had concealed lights and was what evolved into the 1949 Lincoln. When Breech came into the picture and suggested the smaller Fords, it was around this time management also decided to update Gregorie’s design including a facelift. This is when the frowning grille was incorporated and the concealed lights were scrapped. Engineering determined they were unable to make the system reliable. Since it was too late to eliminate the tooling for the concealed lights, the solution was to use the sunken in lights, with the tunnel like bezels.
In any case, we’re lucky the 1949 Lincoln even existed. If Henry Ford would have stuck around and had his way, it probably wouldn’t have existed. But luckily Henry relented and handed the reigns over to Henry Ford II.
Thank you for that additional info on the headlights. I’ll amend my text.
I didn’t have much material to go on for this post, which actually started out as a short Outtake. But then I’ve always been intrigued by these, and it got longer and longer.
Fortunately I can depend on our better-informed commenters to augment and correct me, which is how CC works at its best, as a collaboration.
What always amazed me about the 3-way race between Caddy, Lincoln and Packard was that Caddy had all the style and flash, Lincoln’s were roadworthy and Packard managed to design their own automatic transmission, the only independent to do so without outside help. Yet the buying public wanted flash and style, something only Cadillac managed to hit year after year. Nobody it seemed really cared that Lincolns were winning races, and even fewer cared about Packard with their aged designs, despite their Ultramatic.
After doing without and sacrificing through the depression and WW2, Americans were desperate for style and flash. Cadillac tapped into that.
Great, informative piece. The benefit of hindsight notwithstanding, even taking a cursory glance at both the Lincoln and the Cadillac of this vintage, the Cadi looks much more elegant – to me, anyway. I have always liked the recessed headlights of the Lincoln, though. I’m glad to know of their origin, courtesy of Vince.
Many thanks for this great write-up, and to you all for the informative comments. I’ve always been fascinated by these cars.
It’s probably worth noting that a lot of manufacturers bought Hydra-Matic during this period: Nash, Hudson, Kaiser-Frazer, and Willys, inter alia. Rolls-Royce of course bought its own manufacturing license for the Dual-Range Hydra-Matic in 1952. Nashes so equipped actually had “Hydra-Matic” fender badges. So, it wasn’t quite as odd as it would have looked 15 or 20 years later.
As for the engine, Lincoln was working on its own OHV V-8 when these debuted, but it wasn’t ready for production yet, hence the big flathead truck engine. (OHV development started in 1946.)
Very minor point: Regarding modifications for the big flathead, there’s a typo in “regrinds” (“custom redrinds”).
What a great read on a series of cars I know next to nothing about (and have rarely seen)!
I have a general question I’ve been wondering about regarding luxury vehicles – how long were they referred to in advertising, etc, as ‘fine cars’?
I’ve seen documents about Packard as late as 1955-’56 (they were the only ‘fine cars ‘ available that still offered a manual transmission).
Did the designation last any longer than that?
And what comes to YOUR mind when you hear, read or see the term ‘fine car’?
Great article explaining how and why the ’49-’51 Lincolns were such an also-ran. Forty years ago in Classic Car magazine long-time Lincoln enthusiast Tim Howley penned a history of these, name them the “Water Buffalo Cosmopolitans”. The name stuck.
They’re the last Lincolns that have look and feel of a pre-war car. The one feature that redeems the styling to a degree is the narrow, chromed window frames which were carried over from the Continental.
More comments after Hershey
Wonderful dialogue. Agree with earlier comment that Cosmo window frames greatly helped lighten the body. The car surely must have looked modern at the time. Too many details were left wanting though, imho.
I think Lincoln’s first missed opportunity to catch Cadillac was by not adapting Continental styling to the 1941 138″ long wheelbase Custom.
Or could have done as 4-window instead of 6.
Where are you from, Mahoning63?
Currently Motown but NE Ohio is where it started.
If Lincoln did originally want to do 130 wb car, let’s assume the 5 inches would have been added to axle-to-dash. Might have looked good especially with longer deck/rear overhang and 4-window greenhouse.
That is quite nice.
On a roll, they could have kept it going with properly proportioned replacement that worked in hardtop styling. Like Packard, Lincoln dimensions didn’t match Cadillac in these years. Too short front and rear.
Count me in as another admirer of the Lincoln’s styling; if I had to choose between it and the Cadillac it would be no contest. In fact what I like about it is that European air – put modify that 337 to 250 hp, tie down that suspension and you have a continental cruiser in the true sense of the word.
This Lincoln is a mobster’s car in the excellent 1950 film noir “Where The Sidewalk Ends”. Looks the part, don’t you think?
Photo from IMCDB
>> good start in 1949, due undoubtedly to the post-war buyer’s market being not quite done yet
You have that backwards. It was a sellers’ market after the war, when buyers had to bribe the salesmen just to get on a waiting list.
I noticed that the Junior Lincoln model for 1949 has a split windshield whereas the Senior Lincoln, that is the Cosmopolitan, had a single pane windshield. Interesting that they decided to differentiate those two models that way and did so again the following two years. At that time only Nash had a single pane front windshield but by 1954 all the majors and all the independents featured them. I wonder which company actually came up with that novel idea, or whether Nash and the designers at Lincoln came up with it simultaneously. But whatever was the case, they sure caught on quick.
The Imperial Airflow of the mid 30s was the first one-piece windshield in a production car. The first in a volume production car was in the 1941 Studebaker Commander/President “sedan coupe”. The 47 Studebaker used a one piece windshield in several models.
Hey there!! COOL ARTICLE!! The first picture of the 1949 Cosmopolitan is MY CAR!! I did a google search for the car and this was the first thing that popped up, then I realized it was my license plate! VERY COOL!!! I was wondering if I could get credited for it?
Chris Fasulo, Long Island NY. It was taken at Eisenhower Park. The blanket on the front seat was made by my mother. 🙂
The car is all original, I had the motor redone about 10 years ago. Only mod I did was add a switchable electric fuel pump just to prime it. Switch is under the dash. Original pump still active. Car runs great, but overheats OFTEN when you drive more than 20 minutes. In fact, on the way to this particular show, it overheated and I coasted into a gas station a block away from the show. It is a 3 on the tree manual, AND has the relay based “overdrive” VERY interesting car. Hydraulic windows, no power brakes or power steering. It is a JOB to drive this thing, but super cool…