The Original Zephyr
03 Sep 2014
The name Zephyr has a long and distinguished history at Ford Motor Company. At various times the Zephyr name was used by Ford’s Mercury Division, the British Ford Group and most recently by Ford’s Lincoln Division. However, there is an original Zephyr and it was a very famous automobile built in the 1930s by Ford’s Lincoln Division. There are few automotive historians that doubt it was one of the nicest styled cars of the 1930s.
Here’s the Zephyr story :
Henry Ford was a brilliant automobile manufacturer but he lacked an eye for styling. In fact, he didn’t even care for it and let everyone know. Henry’s mantra was that of utility and value. That’s why the Model T Ford was produced for so long, from 1908 until 1927, and why they were always painted black. Henry really didn’t think the general motoring public wanted anything else. His son Edsel Ford knew better, though. As president of Ford Motor Company from 1919 until 1943, Edsel Ford gave the austere Model T Ford line some of its first curved surfaces, streamlined lines, and colors. His dad, Henry, was famous for stating that “Customers can have their car in any color as long as it’s black” and it was Edsel that convinced him to that times needed to change to meet market demands.
In 1922, Ford, with much lobbying by Edsel, purchased the bankrupt Lincoln Motor Company. Lincoln was one of the finest automobiles of its generation and Edsel felt it would make an excellent premium line within Ford. Within a few years, Ford had the Lincoln line of automobiles re-designed, re-engineered and selling like hot cakes. The result was that the Ford Motor Company had a nice model line for common folk, the Ford line, and the upper crust folk too, the Lincoln line. As they grew larger, however, they realized that they needed a middle line and that’s when the Lincoln Zephyr came into being. They immediately went into design and production of this new car.
The result? With its elegant contours and smooth aerodynamics, the Zephyr was a masterpiece of styling and quickly made up approximately eighty percent of Lincoln’s total auto sales. One of the reasons was its engine. Powered by a big V-12, the Zephyr was able to reach a “phenomenal” top speed of 90 mph. And even though the body was constructed in the conventional way with a strong, separate frame, the overall weight of the car was surprisingly light and handled nicely. It also had some features that were first in its class. For example, the Zephyr was the first to introduce an all-steel roof to the motoring public, previous roofs were fabric based.
During World War II, Lincoln changed the name of the Zephyr line to the Continental for marketing purposes. After the war ended, Lincoln decided to park the Zephyr name in the history books for good. Although, in 2006 Lincoln used the Zephyr name again just for one year on the car that we know as the Lincoln MKZ.
Related Article: “History of the Lincoln-Zephyr” by FDFord.com