Collectible Classic: 1952-1955 Lincoln Capri

Lincoln is lost. Originally designed to be sold under one of Ford's less pricey, less luxurious marques, Lincoln's new cars have abandoned their heritage, their purpose, and their distinction. The iconic luxury brand has been diminished, having gone from contending with Cadillac to merely playing in the same league as Buick.

Nope, this is not 2011 we're talking about. This was 1948, and despite the similarities to today's Lincoln, the instability was even greater. Edsel Ford had died in 1943, leaving the brand without leadership, and Henry Ford relinquished his presidency shortly thereafter, clouding the entire company in uncertainty. Wartime distractions combined with a new executive team meant that Lincoln made do with reheated 1942 leftovers until it could finally debut a new line in 1948. That the '49 models moved the marque decidedly downmarket was the result of frenetic management; late in the development cycle, new Ford president Henry Ford II deemed the designs too bulky, so the Fords became Mercurys and the Mercurys became Lincolns. However, in postwar America-with fewer outwardly wealthy individuals but an exploding upper-middle class-the cars sold reasonably well.

Still, Ford executives wouldn't settle for losing sales-and credibility-to General Motors. The Lincoln's L-head V-8 was dogged by a reputation for poor reliability, and the "bathtub" look was universally panned. Enter the Lincoln Capri, the brand's full reset that launched for 1952, available as a sedan, a pillarless hardtop coupe, and a convertible. Earle MacPherson, the father of today's strut-type suspension, was tapped to improve the Lincoln's control-arm front suspension. With ball joints at the end of each control arm, the Capri combined the kingpin and spindle into a single piece, reducing steering effort, improving the tracking of the front wheels, and quelling brake dive. A new overhead-valve V-8 made a reasonable 160 hp and, more important, was far more refined than the unbalanced flathead.

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gep10
Thank you for this story. A 1954 Lincoln Capri was my first car; I drove it all through high school. I used to take this car up into the mountains I lived in and push it hard on the winding roads. It was a surprisingly competent handling vehicle as Bill Stroppe and his Mexican Road Race team drivers proved by dominating their class. The car was well balnced in terms of power vs. handling; a very early (large) sports sedan. Compared to my buddies 55 - 57 Chevys I would pick the Lincoln every time for all around driving enjoyment. This car played a key role in getting me hooked on chassis dynamics and starting out my career as a Chassis Development engineer at GM.

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