Collectible Classic: 1952-1955 Lincoln Capri

For 1953, output jumped to 205 hp thanks in part to a higher compression ratio, a four-barrel carburetor, and larger intake valves, allowing Lincoln to claim the title as the first manufacturer to offer more than 200 hp in a volume-production sedan. The brawny engine and stout chassis led Lincoln to enter several 1953 coupes in the stock class of the 1952 Carrera Panamericana. With an uncommon level of factory support, the team delivered, sweeping the class with the top four places. To achieve his 91.2-mph average over 1938 miles in Mexico, winning driver Chuck Stevenson used the Ferrari team's road markings, which indicated the types of curves or straightaways that lay on the other side of blind crests. Four Capris would repeat the performance in 1953, and Lincoln grabbed first and second in the 1954 race.

The Capri's driving demeanor was a home run for Lincoln. One period review extolled it as "the nearest sensation to flying" and the "Pullman of the highway." But styling was still far from distinct. Ponton bodies and froglike headlights had saturated the industry, and a Lincoln could easily be mistaken for a Mercury or a Ford. Customers wistfully recalled the classic lines of the 1948 Continental.

Larry Harris, the owner of the 1954 Capri you see on these pages, has the solution to the Lincoln's anonymity. His two-door hardtop is allegedly one of just 560 that were built with a special Continental kit that recaptures some of the icon's aura with an 11.5-inch extension to the rear fenders and a spare tire mounted between the trunk and the rear bumper. Harris's car also sports an unusual green roof over its premier yellow body. A factory option in 1952, the yellow-and-green scheme was executed here by the dealer, who painted over the original black roof to meet the demand that remained in 1954. This Capri is made even more rare by the factory-installed automatic luber that squeezes grease into the chassis lubrication points with the push of a dash-mounted button.

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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