The 318-cubic-inch V-8 is torquey and surprisingly smooth as we start and stop over and over for our photographer. Although power is sensible by today's standards, the engine is laid back and largely spiritless. The Hydra-Matic transmission (supplied by GM) is eager to operate in the highest possible gear, clunkily but steadfastly shifting its way to fourth; once there, you're unlikely to see a downshift without flooring the gas pedal. With modern, more aggressive gearing, though, the fifty-seven-year-old V-8 could easily serve in an early 2000s truck.
Equipped with power windows, power brakes, and a power front bench seat, this Capri was the pinnacle of Lincoln's '54 fixed-roof lineup. The couchlike, three-person bench lazily yet effortlessly slides up, down, forward, or back. The rear windows rotate, rather than slide, down into the body. The most luxurious option, though, is the power steering that drops parking efforts from about forty pounds to five and cuts lock-to-lock from five to three-and-three-quarter turns. The Capri tracks straight and changes direction predictably, although steering feel and resistance, delivered through a wide, wire-thin steering wheel, are masked by the power assist. In all, it rides and handles with a composure that belies its age, size, and appearance, but it's difficult to imagine driving 90 mph on Mexico's back roads.
As proficient as the Capri was, Lincoln continued to hemorrhage sales-mostly to Cadillac-in the second half of the 1950s. The Continental name returned in 1956 with dramatic styling and an oppressively high price, while the Capri became the entry-level Lincoln. The Continental hadn't yet returned to full form, but it did point Lincoln in the right direction with a renewed emphasis on luxury and style. Building on the performance and capability of the Capri, Lincoln was on its way to a dramatic revival with the 1961 Continental. We'll see if history can repeat itself.
5.2L OHV V-8,
5.6L OHV V-8,
225 hp, 342 lb-ft
3- or 4-speed automatic
Control arms, coil springs
Live axle, leaf springs
About 95,000 (7000 convertibles and roughly 44,000 copies of both the two-door hardtop and the four-door sedan)
$3869 (1954 coupe)
$5000-$15,000 for sedans, $10,000-$35,000 for coupes, and $20,000-$50,000 for convertibles
The Capri has a place in both racing and production history, moving Lincoln forward in terms of performance, drivability, and comfort. It's not a beauty queen, but the styling is indicative of the era, and its status as an underappreciated driver among the many '50s classics means that prices remain reasonable.