In the early 1930s, Edsel Ford recognized a need to fill an ever-widening gap between the top Ford Deluxe models and the ultra-exclusive, coachbuilt Lincoln K series. The era of custom coachbuilding was waning, as buyers sought a more affordable luxury car, and Ford witnessed the success of the likes of LaSalle and others. Introduced in 1935 as a 1936 model, the all-new Lincoln-Zephyr was positioned as the style-leader at Ford Motor Company: A streamlined, luxuriously appointed production car that, was priced less than the traditional K-series, yet still offered the prestige of a twelve-cylinder engine. The Zephyr would prove to be the right move for Lincoln, with brisk sales through the car’s replacement in 1946.
Using advanced techniques designed by engineer John Tjaarda, the Zephyr bodies were built by Briggs Mfg. This clever form of manufacturing was a precursor to the modern unibody and allowed for a light yet strong platform. A silky smooth, 70 degree V12 was derived from Ford’s venerable Flathead V8, and boasted 110hp from 267 cubic inches.
Edsel Ford teamed up with the accomplished stylist Eugene T. “Bob” Gregorie to design the gorgeous streamlined body, characterized by its pronounced prow, waterfall-like grilles and pencil-thin chrome detailing that delicately highlighted the curvaceous lines. A masterpiece of industrial design, the Zephyr is often credited as the first commercially successful American streamlined car, particularly when compared to the relative failure of the Chrysler Airflow. Particularly in 3-window coupe form, the Lincoln Zephyr is seen by many as one of the most beautiful mass-produced American automobiles of all time.
This stunning 1939 Zephyr coupe is an elegant and beautifully presented example of Ford’s Art Deco masterpiece. Fully restored to a very high standard, this rare and desirable 3-window coupe is one of just 2,500 of its kind built in 1939 and it has outstanding provenance as it was once part of the famed William F. Harrah collection. On September 30th, 1984, it was purchased from the Harrah Collection auction by Edward Todd of Santa Ynez, California. The Todd family would continue to care for the car for the next 24 years until it joined the collection of a St. Louis, Missouri-based enthusiast. In 2009-2010, the new owner treated the Zephyr to an extensive refurbishment which included the concours-quality, bare-metal respray in the original color and a complete rebuild of the V12 engine.
Today, this Zephyr Coupe presents in stunning condition and close inspection reveals this to be one of the finest ’39 Zephyrs available; impeccably detailed to a very high standard throughout. The body is beautifully straight with excellent fit of the panels and concours quality paintwork. Exterior brightwork has been restored to a similarly high standard. The deep blue complements the graceful lines of the Zephyr’s bodywork, punctuated with wide whitewall tires on correct body color steel wheels and elegantly simple Lincoln-Zephyr script hub caps.
The interior has been restored to a similarly high level and presents with period correct two-tone broadcloth upholstery on the seats and panels. Darker tan carpets are piped in light cloth to match the door panels and tie the color scheme together nicely. The art-deco appeal of the Zephyr continues inside with what is perhaps one of the coolest instrument panel designs of the era. Clean and simple, the dash consists of a central round instrument cluster that flows into a pillar extending straight to the floor. As a 1939 model, this car features the unique, one-year-only shift lever that sprouts from the side of the center console to retain the ultra-clean and sleek appearance of the interior. The quality of the soft trim restoration is of course first-rate, and the presentation is every bit as good as that of the body.
Recently rebuilt and strong running, the V12 sits in a virtually spotless engine bay, beautifully prepared and detailed with correct hoses and hardware. The chassis and undercarriage are also very well prepared, with high quality and correct semi-gloss black finishes on the major components. The exceptionally clean underbody shows this car has seen only light use since the restoration work was completed, and it remains ready to be enjoyed today.
Of the six body styles offered in the Zephyr lineup, it is the three-window coupe that is favored by collectors for its elegance and purity of form. Even so, very few are restored to this level and are presented in such factory-correct condition. This outstanding Zephyr Coupe is one of the finest available today, documented as a former member of the Harrah collection and a prime candidate for AACA events, classic touring, or any number of concours worldwide.
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