Lincoln-Zephyr was a marque for the lower priced line of luxury cars in the Lincoln line 1936-40. Lincoln-Zephyr and Mercury, introduced 1939, bridged the wide gap between Ford's V-8 De Luxe line and the exclusive Lincoln K-series cars. This served a purpose similar to Cadillac's smaller LaSalle "companion car". The car was conceived by Edsel Ford.
Introduced on November 2, 1935 as a 1936 model, the Lincoln-Zephyr was extremely modern with a low raked windscreen, integrated fenders, and streamlined aerodynamic design. It is noted for being one of the first successful streamlined cars after the Chrysler Airflows market failure. In fact, the Lincoln-Zephyr actually had a lower coefficient of drag than the Airflow, due in part to the prow-like front-end on the Zephyr. The Lincoln-Zephyr was extremely successful in reigniting sales at Lincoln dealerships in the late 1930s, and from 1941 modelyear all Lincolns were Zephyr based and the Lincoln-Zephyr marque was discontinued. Annual production for any year model was not large but accounted for a large portion of the Lincoln brand's sales. In its first year, 15,000 were sold, accounting for 80% of Lincoln's total sales.
Production of all American cars halted in 1942 as the country entered World War II, with Lincoln producing the last Lincoln Zephyr on February 10. After the war, most makers restarted production of their pre-war lines, and Lincoln was no exception. The Zephyr name, however, was no longer used after 1942, with the cars simply called Lincolns.
The idea of a smaller and more-modern luxury car to fill the gap in Lincoln's traditional lineup was revisited in the 1950 Lincoln Lido (The Lido was the same size as other 2-door Lincolns though), 1977 Lincoln Versailles, 1982 Continental, and 2000 Lincoln LS. The Zephyr name itself was resurrected for the car's spiritual successor in 2006, though this modern Zephyr was quickly renamed MKZ for 2007.
- Lincoln-Zephyr V-12 (1936–1940)
For 1936 available as 2-door Sedan or 4-door Sedan. A locking glove box was standard. Radio was optional. For 1937 the 2-door Sedan was renamed Coupe-Sedan, a Coupe (3-Window) was added along with a formal Town-Limousine. For 1938 a Convertible Coupe and a Convertible Sedan was added. For 1940 the Coupe-Sedan was replaced by the Club Coupe, the Convertible Sedan was discontinued. Trunk space was increased in 1940.
- Lincoln-Zephyr Continental (1940)
This was the first time the name Continental appeared on a car from Lincoln, as a model under Lincoln-Zephyr rather than a separate model. They were partially hand built since dies for machine-pressing were not constructed until 1941. Production started on December 13, 1939 with the Continental Cabriolet, from June 1940 also available as Continental Club Coupe. 350 Cabriolets and 54 Club Coupes were built.
When the last Lincoln V-12 (Model K) had been delivered on January 24, 1940 the Lincoln Motor Company was soon to be transformed into Lincoln Division, effective on May 1, 1940, and for 1941 modelyear the Lincoln-Zephyr was no longer a separate marque. All 1941 models were Lincolns and the Zephyr based Lincoln Custom replaced both the large Lincoln K-series cars and the Lincoln-Zephyr Town-Limousine. It also had full instrumentation.
The following models sold under Lincoln marque, but they have their heritage in the Lincoln-Zephyr:
- Lincoln Zephyr V-12 (1941–1942)
Both years available as Sedan, Coupe, Club Coupe and Convertible Coupe.
- Lincoln Custom (1941–1942)
Sedan and Limousine, some with blinded quarter roof option.
- Lincoln Continental (1941–1948)
Cabriolet and Coupe.
- Lincoln (1946–1948)
After the war the cars were no longer named Zephyr nor did they have any other modelname, they were simply known by their bodystyles: Sedan, Club Coupe or Convertible Coupe. For identification purposes they are typically referred to as the H-Series.
Designed by John Tjaarda (1897–1962), who was fascinated with airplanes, with a Cd of 0.45, the body was monocoque construction and very rigid, but surprisingly light for its size. The first model had a weight of 3,350 lb (1,520 kg).
The Zephyr was powered by a small 75° V12 engine developed from Ford's Flathead V8 and unrelated to the larger K-series. The valve-in-block flathead engine was quite compact, allowing a low hood. But like the V8 Fords of the era, the Zephyr V12 often suffered from hot spots due to exhaust passages through the cylinder block. In addition, the earliest Zephyrs suffered from poor oil pressure, resulting in upgrades to the oil pump.
The 1936 to 1939 models were 267 in³ (4.4 L) with hydraulic lifters added in 1938. 1940 and 1941 cars used an enlarged 292 in³ (4.8 L) engine, while 1942 and early 1946 models used a 306 in³ (5.0 L), but lower compression ratio because of the iron heads. Late 1946 to 1948 Lincolns based on the Zephyr used a 292 in³ (4.8 L).
The original engine had 110 hp (82 kW) and gave the car a top speed of 90 miles per hour (140 km/h) . Suspension was by Henry Ford's beloved transverse springs front and rear, with dead axle front and torque tube rear, already seen as outdated when the car was introduced. Brakes were cable-activated for 1936 to 1938; 1939 and onwards were hydraulic. The Zephyr was the first Ford product to have an all-steel roof, except the late 1931 Model AA truck.
Tootsietoy made a die cast "Doodlebug" toy car based on the Lincoln-Zephyr.
A Yellow 1938 Convertible appeared in the Tintin Book The Seven Crystal Balls.