Car Show Classic: 1954 Lincoln Capri – What A Road-Racing Luxury Car Should Be

(first posted 11/10/2014)     Today, we’re going to touch on some of the forgotten Lincolns. Sure, everyone remembers the Continentals, the $10,000 1956-57 Continental Mark II and the 1961 Continental, but how about the 1952-54 Lincolns? If anyone remembers them at all, it is usually to their success in the Carrera Panamericana. And while not having near the sheer luxury and exclusivity of a prewar Model K or 1941 Continental convertible, they were still fine cars in their own right.

Lincoln Panamerica
Yes, the Lincoln of this era was a fierce competitor in the famous Mexican road race, finishing 1-2-3-4 in not only 1952 but also 1953, but other than that, how many modern collectors or car enthusiasts really know these cars?

For all their prowess in racing, these were still Lincolns at the end of the day, and promoted as such. Comfort, elegance, quietness, and plenty of power assists were still heavily promoted in sales literature and advertising.

First appearing in 1952, these not only replaced the “bathtub” 1949-51 models, but also featured the very first Lincoln hardtop, in your choice of Cosmopolitan or fancier Capri models.

Despite the options and 123-inch wheelbase, however, there was still a marked family resemblance between lesser Fords and Mercurys. But if you could overlook that, the overall design was very attractive, and the more powerful 317.5 CID V8 with four-barrel Holley provided ample power for the mid Fifties, at 205-hp. That was certainly an improvement over the ’52 Lincoln engine, which had only 160-hp with two-barrel carburetion.

Despite the common corporate look, the Lincoln distinguished itself with the most mature version of the theme, and had lots of chrome jewelry, such as this elegant Capri script on the rear quarter panel. I think this detail is my favorite feature!

While the 1952-53 Lincolns were virtually identical, the 1954 model received more moderate changes, gaining an inch in both length and width, more substantial bumpers, a full-length side molding instead of the earlier one starting behind the front wheel, new wheel covers and other assorted trim bits.

Inside, it was clear that you were not in a Ford Customline. Lots of chrome bits, two-tone upholstery and elegant door panels made it clear this was a premium automobile. And what a nice place to spend time! As a Capri, this was the nicest interior you could get from FoMoCo at the time.

Indeed, the 1954 Capri two-door hardtop was the most popular Lincoln of the year, with 14,003 of the $3869 coupes being made. The rarest model, not unexpectedly, was the Capri convertible–the sole drop-top on offer. Only 1,951 found buyers.

1954 was the last year of the Carrera Panamericana, and during this event, Lincolns “only” finished in first and second place, rather than the 1-2-3-4 sweep of 1952-53. So while the 1955 Lincoln would still use the 1952 body shell (albeit with a substantial facelift), there would be no more road racing victories. Just as well, as the remarkable 1956 Lincoln was waiting in the wings to take over. It would be even more elegant and luxurious than the 1952-55 model, and worth the wait.

If you haven’t already guessed, this mint black over blue Capri hardtop was another specimen from the LCOC Rockford meet last September. I was especially drawn to the color, with all the chrome trim bits shown off to maximum effect. What a car!