Q: Hi Greg and thanks for your interesting auto columns. My grandfather had a 1952 Lincoln that came with the first ever overhead valve V8 in the Lincoln line. Can you tell me more about this car? My grandfather had the top of the line model and I just can’t remember exactly what it was called and I think it was a new name. Thanks in advance, Larry W., retired and happy in Massachusetts.
A: Larry, your grandfather had quite the car back in 1952 as the entire Lincoln line was all-new in styling and mechanicals. Prior to 1952, Lincoln relied on its popular postwar 1949 to 1951 design with a Flathead V8. The design was similar to the less expensive and less amenity “dressed” Mercury.
The new name you can’t remember for 1952 was the Lincoln Capri, which became the flagship top line model that year instead of the 1949 to 1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan.
As you know, the big mechanical adjustment was the introduction of Lincoln’s first ever overhead valve V8, specifically a 318 cubic inch configuration that delivered 160 horsepower. It replaced the venerable Ford Flathead V8, which grew to 337-inches and 152 horses in the 1951 Lincoln.
The exterior and interior design was all new. Gone was the ‘bathtub” style pattern that served Ford/Lincoln/Mercury well for many years before being replaced by this new aerodynamic design. The new Lincolns featured a lower to the ground streamline style with a new one-piece windshield. The front bumpers were integrated as was the new grille. Also new was a hidden gas filler cap/assembly, which was hidden behind a fold down rear license plate.
The Cosmopolitan was still available in 1952 as the entry level Lincoln in either two-door sport hardtop or four-door sedan style. Capri’s upper-level models included the same two and four designations, and the Capri Convertible, it’s most expensive vehicle that year.
One of the reason’s I remember the 1952 Lincoln so well is that it finished first, second, third and fourth in the famous 1952 Carrera Panamericana Mexican Road race. Matter of fact, Lincoln did the same finish again in 1953, finishing first to fourth again.
The first four Lincoln drivers in 1952 included winner Chuck Stevenson; second Johnny Mantz; third Walt Faulkner; and fourth Bob Korf, the latter an independent and not a factory Lincoln.
The idea to form a factory Lincoln race team was sold to Ford executives by early hot rod legends Bill Stroppe (NASCAR Mercurys through the 1960s) and Clay Smith (he of the wild cigar chomping woodpecker logo of Clay Smith cams).
In 1953, Stevenson again won the race, with Faulkner second, USAC Indy and “big car” legend Jack McGrath third and Mantz fourth. Mantz is perhaps best known as the very first NASCAR Darlington Southern 500 winner in a 1951 in his Plymouth.
Back to the highway Lincolns.
The new 1952 Lincoln design was again surprisingly similar to sibling Mercury, something Mercury owners loved and Lincoln owners disdained. One big difference, however, was that new overhead valve V8. The new V8 was not available in the Mercury line until 1954 as the 1952 and 1953 Mercury line used up what was left of the Ford Flathead V8 inventory.
Hope this all helped, and thanks for your letter and for reading my column every week in your newspaper.