The prestigious Model K served as Lincoln Motor Car Company’s flagship model throughout the 1930s. When introduced in 1931, the K hit the showrooms featuring a new 145-inch wheelbase chassis and a 348.8 cubic inch V8 engine. While the V8 provided more than adequate performance for most clients, Lincoln felt the pressure from Cadillac and Packard to offer an engine of greater than eight cylinders. Ford Motor Company responded to the Cadillac V12 and Packard Twin-Six with its own V12 engine for the Model KB in 1932. With that, the K-series then split into two separate ranges, with the KA carrying over the V8 engine and the KB featuring the new 448 cubic inch V12. The early years of the Great Depression meant slow sales, but the V12 had a halo effect on the rest of the range, and it remained a vital part of the Lincoln lineup throughout the 1930s, keeping the company at the sharp end of the luxury car market even during these difficult economic times.
By 1937, the junior model Zephyr had joined the range as a bridge between top-line Fords and the prestigious Model K. The Zephyr was also powered by a V12 engine, albeit of smaller displacement. Despite decreasing demand, Lincoln continued to offer the Model K for high-end buyers, who now had a choice of 17 different custom body styles. The basic styling was simple but elegant, with art-deco inspired teardrop headlamps that were faired-in to the streamlined fenders and V-shaped windscreens were fitted on all standard bodies. On the mechanical side, the 414 cubic inch flathead V-12 engine was updated with hydraulic lifters, and a revised camshaft then placed further forward in the chassis to allow for more passenger room. Buyers could select from the 136” wheelbase chassis (with six catalog bodies) or the impressive 145” chassis with a dizzying array of seventeen different bodies available.
From his position at the helm of Lincoln, Edsel Ford entrusted a select number of coachbuilders to supply catalog bodies for the beautiful new flagship. Edsel had a keen eye for style, and he partnered with four independent coachbuilders - Judkins, Brunn, Willoughby, and LeBaron - whom he had determined could offer the type of craftsmanship and sophisticated style that suited the exclusive Model K. In an effort to reduce overlap between the body companies, each firm worked within their respective specialty. For example, Judkins focused on closed sports sedans and coupes. Brunn offered their distinct Touring Cabriolet and Convertible Sedan (among others) while Willoughby of Utica, New York offered a diverse portfolio including the razor-edge Panel Brougham, streamlined Sports Sedan, and the exquisitely proportioned Seven-Passenger Touring Car. Willoughby cars found particular favor with wealthy buyers, who appreciated their superior craftsmanship. Even with the prestige of a V12 and marvelous streamline styling, Lincoln sold just 977 units of the Model K that year, as buyers favored the less expensive Zephyr.
This lovely 1937 Lincoln K is one of just seven cars fitted with Willoughby’s Seven-Passenger Touring coachwork, of which only three are known to survive. This automobile comes to us from the estate of a prominent collector of Classic Era automobiles, and it presents in tidy, attractive condition, benefitting from recently sorted mechanicals. He purchased this car out of Connecticut in 2017 from a long-term owner, who had the car in his possession for over sixty years. Upon acquiring the Lincoln, it was shipped directly to the workshop of expert restorer Fran Roxas in Chicago for a complete rebuild of the 414 cubic-inch V12 engine. A breathtaking car in style and scale, this Lincoln K is ideally suited for touring. The body wears a pleasing patina in contrast with the fully detailed engine. It is believed the car was repainted in approximately 2001, however, some imperfections and touch-ups are visible in areas. The overall appearance is that of a well-loved driver’s car that is full of character. The car rides on original-style steel artillery wheels with chrome hubcaps and wide whitewall tires. Willoughby’s gorgeous coachwork is left relatively unadorned, with just a Greyhound mascot and dual side-mount spare wheels (with body-color covers) checked off the accessory list. The sweeping lines of the coachwork are mirrored in the shape of the convertible top and the unique cut-down side windows. With a 145-inch wheelbase, it is a large car, yet beautifully proportioned and elegant in profile.
The condition of the interior aligns well with the cosmetics, featuring black leather upholstery on the all seats, including the hide-away opera seats. Interior panels and door cards are also trimmed in the same material, maintained in similarly good condition, with an inviting, appealing character to it. Fittings, switches, and controls all appear in mostly original condition. The dash does show some cracking and flaking in the finish; however, the original instruments seem to be in good order. The tan canvas top is in excellent condition, and it includes fitted canvas boot and a set of matching side curtains.
The period-correct 414 cubic-inch V12 is entirely rebuilt and detailed to a very high standard by Mr. Roxas. The alloy cylinder heads are polished to a mirror finish, and ancillaries such as the air cleaner wear gorgeous gloss-black paint. Correct plumbing and fittings feature throughout the engine bay. Aside from looking outstanding, the engine runs beautifully and feels very much “on the button” and ready for enjoyment. The remainder of the chassis and undercarriage appears very original and mostly unrestored. Some surface corrosion can be found; however, it appears sound and in keeping with a drivable, usable tour car.
With only three examples known to exist, this dramatic Willoughby-bodied Lincoln is sure to be a welcome addition to virtually any Classic Era collection. With its fresh, professionally rebuilt engine and understated charm, this approved Full Classic is well-suited to use in CCCA CARavan tours, or numerous other events where the smooth and effortless power of the Lincoln K can be fully appreciated.