The Lincoln Custom was a custom limousine and long-wheelbase touring sedan from Ford's Lincoln luxury division, manufactured only in 1941 and 1942 and the lower level sereies Lincoln produced in 1955. Initially it was a replacement for the large Model K Lincolns (produced from 1934–1939) and earlier luxury cars of the 1920s and 1930s. Later it was simply the lower level series.
The Lincoln Custom was based on the Lincoln Zephyr, a smaller, unit-bodied, mid-range priced vehicle introduced in 1937 with a smaller 292 cu. inch V-12 (based on the Ford V-8). This car competed with the smaller Packard 110, Packard 120 and Cadillac Series 60 and La Salle; smaller cars introduced in the mid-30's to a shrinking luxury car market. The large Lincoln Model K sold 3024 units in 1934, the first year of its production and only 133 units in the last year, 1939. 1940 saw only the Zephyr and the higher priced Continental carrying the Lincoln name.
The wheelbase of the Lincoln Custom was 138 inches (3.5 m) compared to the Zephyr's 125 inches (3.2 m). Both vehicles used the same V-12 engine that was enlarged for 1942 to 305 cubic inches (5,000 cc) with 130 horsepower (97 kW). The engine was the weakest point of the 1942 models, being very prone to overheating and premature wear. The 305 cubic inch version was reduced to a 292 cubic inches (4,790 cc), 120 horsepower (89 kW) version after World War II in an attempt to promote longevity. The V-12 was the only engine used in Lincolns until the new 1949 models came out with a flathead V-8 based on a Ford truck engine.
The 168H (1941) and 268H (1942) Lincoln Customs featured two models: the Model 31 eight passenger sedan and the model 32 eight passenger limousine. Differences included a division window and different front seat upholstery for the limousine. Both utilized a three speed transmission with Borg-Warner overdrive. A small number were modified by the few custom coach builders left in the United States before the war. The 1942 models introduced power windows to the luxury car field; electric and hydro-electric powered limousine dividers having previously been offered.
For 1942, the Zephyr-based waterfall grill was changed to a broad full-width grill that extended above and below the hood and was also used in the 1946-1948 models (Lincoln sedan and Lincoln Continental). These changes were undoubtedly due to the major Cadillac and Packard grill design changes during these immediate pre-war years, whose production and sales far outpaced Lincoln.
After World War II, production of these vehicles was not resumed. The former Zephyr became the only Lincoln sedan and was available in both standard and DeLuxe versions. The famous Lincoln Continental remained as a limited production, very expensive (and not very reliable) semi-custom offering from the luxury division of Ford Motor Company. For 1949, a major revamp of the entire Lincoln line was made, eliminating the slant-back Zephyr and custom Contintental and introducing relatively modern V-8 power.
In 1955 the Lincoln Custom name returned (for one year only) as the lower level series.
A special 1942 limousine was provided to the White House for the President's use: The Sunshine Special. This car weighed more than 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg) and was refitted with a 1946 grill clip after the war for modernization. Cadillac and Lincoln vied for visibility and prestige by supplying limousines and other special vehicles to the White House (generally by means of a $1.00 per year or other low-cost lease arrangement). Packard and Chrysler were rarely able to penetrate this exclusive market.