Introduced in 1921, the Model L was Lincoln Motor Company’s first production automobile, developed by the great engineer Henry Leland following his departure from Cadillac. The Model L boasted a compact yet powerful 60-degree V8 with fork-and-blade connecting rods and full-pressure lubrication, set in a robust chassis widely praised for its excellent handling and ride quality. Despite the strengths, early models suffered from somewhat dull styling, and sales struggled to get off the ground. In 1922, Henry Ford swept in and purchased Lincoln Motor Company, installing his son Edsel at the helm. Unlike his pragmatic father, Edsel’s keen sense of style and fashion made him the ideal fit to run Ford’s new flagship marque. Lincoln cars could now be tailored to the individual buyer’s needs, with a bevy of custom coachwork options from LeBaron, Deitrich, Judkins, Willoughby, and others. Finally, the Model L had the style to match its superbly engineered underpinnings.
One coachbuilder that developed a particularly close relationship with Lincoln was Brunn & Co. of Buffalo, New York. To get a sense of Brunn’s reputation for quality and sophistication, look no further than this exquisite 1925 Model L “Beetle Back” Roadster. Chassis number 27771 is one of three survivors from only six examples of this sporty rumble-seat roadster produced by Brunn, and it boasts a fascinating history and an outstanding, concours-quality, award-winning restoration.
According to written documentation in the accompanying history file, this particular Lincoln was first purchased by newlyweds Edgar and Lila Mason of Auburn, Indiana. The Masons adored their Lincoln, and Mrs. Mason developed a particular fondness for the car, nicknaming it “Sis” and treating it like a part of the family. Unfortunately, the Great Depression cost the Masons nearly everything they had, though they retained possession of “Sis.” Edgar died shortly after in 1931, and Lila became inconsolable. She held on to the Lincoln as if it was her only connection to Edgar, and she even had her home modified to park the Lincoln in her living room! “Sis” proved to be the only car she ever owned, accruing 90,000 miles over 50 years of continuous ownership.
Lila kept a running list of people who inquired about buying the Lincoln through the years – which had grown to 125 names by the time she passed in 1975! But she didn’t note their phone numbers or addresses, so when she died, her heirs sold the car to the first caller - Mr. Jim Riffenburgh of California. Mr. Riffenburgh was an avid marque enthusiast and Lincoln club member, and he intended to restore “Sis” to her former glory. However, he ended up selling her to an acquaintance, the muralist and car collector Tony Heinsbergen. In turn, he left the car to his long-time friend and fellow Lincoln enthusiast Tom Powels, who performed a great deal of research to authenticate it as one of the six original Beetle Back roadsters.
The most recent owner acquired the Beetle Back Lincoln from Mr. Powels’ estate in 2008. It received a world-class restoration while in their hands, returning it to original specifications as researched by the Powels family. Photos of the restoration show the car was remarkably complete and well-preserved when the project began, and it was painstakingly returned to factory-original specification. Since its restoration, this marvelously elegant Lincoln has racked up numerous awards, including a 2nd In Class at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, an AACA President’s Cup in 2014, and a First Place Primary Division from the Lincoln & Continental Owner’s Club in 2015. The restoration has mellowed very slightly with careful use, and it has been expertly maintained in recent years, presenting in superb condition inside and out.
Offered in its original livery of two-tone gray with black fenders and wheels, this Lincoln has tremendous presence. The single rear-mounted spare wheel gives a clean, uncluttered profile that accentuates the curving front fenders and subtle boattail treatment of the rear body. It is beautifully proportioned and uncharacteristically sporty for an early Lincoln, and the powerful engine and robust chassis make it ideally suited for spirited touring events with the CCCA or similar groups. Accompanied by period literature, written history, and photographic documentation of the restoration, this extraordinary Model L Beetle Back Roadster carries a remarkable provenance, made possible by a series of dedicated marque aficionados.
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