The Ford Motor Company purchased the failing Lincoln Motor Company from Henry Leland in 1922 for $8 million. Henry Ford felt the Lincoln was a quality car that would give him a luxury addition to his lineup and help him regain market share from General Motors.
By the mid-1930s Henry’s son, Edsel, had control of Lincoln and developed, in conjunction with designer Eugene Turenne, the Lincoln Zephyr. Conceived to bridge the wide gap in cost between the Ford V-8 De Luxe line and the upscale Lincoln K-Series, the 1936 Zephyr was a streamlined sedan in the same price range as Cadillac’s lesser-cost cousin, the La Salle.
In 1939, Ford president Edsel Ford worked with stylist Bob Gregoire on a prototype for a one-off personal vehicle for Edsel’s use. Gregoire started with the Lincoln Zephyr frame and in just over an hour he had sketched a new stylized body, featuring a sporty-looking long hood and short rear deck.
Dubbed the Continental based on the car’s appearance to Ford’s wealthy elite friends, demand for more cars led to it becoming a hand-built production model. The smaller trunk resulted in the need to mount the spare wheel on a carrier behind the trunk. The externally mounted and covered spare had long been a staple item on European sports cars, but it would be the catalyst and beginning of the North AmSerican term, “Continental Kit.”
Automobile production in America continued until the country got involved in the Second World War in 1942 and didn’t resume until 1946.
To produce vehicles quickly following the war, most were simply warmed-over 1942 models and the Continental was no exception.
A larger front bumper and heavier-looking grille were the most noticeable changes. The relaunch of the Indianapolis 500 automobile race also took place in 1946. Shelved during the war years, the Indy 500 was a rebirth for racing and Ford answered the call for a pace car.
Due to a production rush and a late announcement of the race, Ford had to source vehicles from local dealers and several were chosen as pace car, back-up pace car and possibly two more to be used to ferry race officials and dignitaries. The Lincoln Continental Cabriolet, finished in pace car yellow, was driven by Henry Ford II to start the race and following, George Robson the winner, was awarded the Continental as a prize.
Continental production ceased in 1948 as Ford moved to a new lineup, including Mercury as a mid-price entry, and Lincoln split into two series with the Cosmopolitan being the top-line model. Many had lamented the Continental’s passing as they considered it the most beautiful and timeless classic Lincoln and it stands today recognized as a Milestone Car, awarded by the Milestone Classic Car Society.
For Winnipeg’s Bob Beach, Lincolns had always been his vehicle of choice. He’s owned Lincolns since the early 1990s. In 2012, he was talking with his daughter about always wanting to get a classic vehicle and she agreed he should look for one.
“I wanted to find something that was out of the ordinary and began looking online,” Beach says.
A classic car dealer in St. Louis, Mo., had recently listed a 1946 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet. Beach studied the multitude of photos and the vehicles description and, liking what he saw, he called for more information. He found the car had received a full restoration within the last 10 years and that it was a multiple trophy winner. Beach was looking for a unique summer cruiser that could best be described as something no one or few would have. The Lincoln certainly fit the bill.
The 1946 Continental is a substantial vehicle and only one of 201 built. Weighing in at 4,135 pounds, with an overall length of 18 feet and riding on a 125-inch wheelbase, it was one of the most striking and stylish vehicles on the road. Powering the Cabriolet is a 305-cubic-inch, flathead V-12 engine, although similar in design to the 90-degree Ford V-8 in construction, the Lincoln V-12 pistons ride at 75-degrees between cylinder banks. With a 7.2:1 compression ratio and two-barrel Chandler-Grove carburetor it produces 130 horsepower at 3,600 r.p.m. and ample torque to propel the car down the freeway.
Optional equipment includes a three-speed manual transmission with overdrive, AM radio, heater and whitewall tires with hub caps and bright trim rings. Standard equipment included a clock, built in signal lamps, hydraulic assisted windows and convertible top.
The previous owner had the Continental for more than 35 years and when it came time for the restoration, the car was completely dismantled and the powertrain, still pristine in appearance and function, was kept in original condition. The body received a complete repaint and colour change from the pace car yellow to a deep maroon. Interior upholstery was redone in maroon and beige leather with a new convertible boot cover and seatbelts. The original beige top is still on the car and in fantastic condition.
“I never drive the car in the rain and the only time the top is up is when the car is in storage for the winter,” Beach says.
Since purchasing the Continental, Beach has refinished the rear tire carrier and brake lamp, and has installed new 235/75/15-inch wide whitewall American Classic radial tires. A beautiful, timeless classic, this 1946 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet is believed to be one of only 13 left and the only one in Canada. For Beach, showing the car at the many local show-and-shine events is a pleasure.
“I really like showing the car and it’s a pleasure talking to people and explaining it to them.”