- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2000

Just because you weren't alive in the early 16th century doesn't mean you can't appreciate the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa."
Likewise, Rick Parker shouldn't be excluded from enjoying Lincoln automobiles from the classic era of the 1930s just because he wasn't there to appreciate them when they were new.
Many antique-automobile aficionados are interested only in cars from their own teen-age years or, occasionally, cars from their parents' era.
Those people are shortchanging themselves, as would the art lover who would dismiss the marvelous "Mona Lisa" just because it's almost 500 years old.
Mr. Parker has long been interested in antique Lincolns, which is why in 1995 he was attending a Lincoln owners club gathering in Dearborn, Mich.
There he saw on display Leland Lincolns, Ford Lincolns, Continental and Zephyr Lincolns, all the Roman-numeral Lincolns and the heart-stopping K-model Lincolns built from 1931 through 1939.
Mr. Parker was hooked. He concedes it. After seeing the K-models on display, he spent the rest of his time searching for more information about the big, beautiful cars. Having done his homework, he then spent the better part of five years searching for the one to buy.
"I looked at some Lincolns I had no business looking at," he said. They were too exquisite and too pricey. After perusing the various models, Mr. Parker decided his car would have to have a top that went down, and the overall condition could not be of show quality.
"I want to drive my car," he explains.
Following up on a tip from a Canadian friend, in August 1999, Mr. Parker telephoned a Lincoln owner in Atascadero, Calif.
Yes, he had a K-model Lincoln, and, yes, it was for sale.
Mr. Parker flew to California and saw the 1937 K-model Lincoln with the LeBaron convertible roadster body.
Only 15 such models were built in 1937, and this is the only one ordered with the optional dual side-mounted spare tires.
The 5,490-pound Lincoln is 17 feet, 10* inches bumper to bumper. To move that mass is a silkysmooth, 414-cubic-inch V-12 engine with an extremely wide rev range that produces 150 horsepower. It was the first year for hydraulic valve lifters.
"This car was whispering to me," Mr. Parker recalls. It was exactly the type of Lincoln he wanted in exactly the condition he wanted. Unfortunately, he was long on desire and short on cash.
He returned home. Then he thought: "home." Equity from his house helped pay for the Lincoln. He called the California owner and told him of his plan. The two men met at the early October auto gathering held each year in Hershey, Pa., where a cash deposit traded hands.
When the home-equity transaction was completed later that month, the remainder was sent west as the car was trucked east.
"On Nov. 5, it arrived in Rockville," Mr. Parker said. That was a Friday, and he remembers taking a long lunch break from his job with a major computer manufacturer.
The truck delivering it was too large for the residential Rockville street on which Mr. Parker lives. A nearby church parking lot served well as the place where the elegant old Lincoln first rolled onto a Maryland road surface.
The 7.50x17-inch tires are serviceable, but not much more so Mr. Parker soon will have new rubber on the ground. Each wheel is secured by eight lug nuts.
In 1937, the K-model Lincolns were offered in two wheelbase lengths. The long one, 145 inches, was for limousines and sedans, while the relatively short 136-inch version was for "sporty" coupes and roadsters like Mr. Parker's car. When the car was new, the base price was $4,950.
For that princely sum, the buyer got a stylish car with a rumble seat and a trunk, albeit a small one; a golf-bag compartment with a separate door; a new-for-1937 synchromesh transmission and doors extending down to the running boards for styling simplicity.
Mr. Parker believes he is the eighth owner of the roadster. He says it was shipped on May 5, 1937, from the factory to Long Beach, Calif.
The car now wears a handsome coat of ascot maroon, and its outrageous length is emphasized by triple pinstripes.
From the driver's seat, the racing greyhound hood ornament appears to be in the next county. Closer at hand is the 100 mph speedometer. Mr. Parker points out the uniqueness of this particular instrument. The face of the gauge is labeled speedometer/ tachometer. Only one needle moves as speed increases, regardless of which gear is used, so at 10 mph, the tachometer registers 500 rpm; at 20 mph, 1,000 rpm; and at 50 mph, 2,500 rpm.
The enormous V-12 with a two-barrel carburetor runs cool, thanks to four sets of thermostatically controlled doors on each side of the long engine hood and eight gallons of coolant circulating through the radiator and engine.
"It takes a case of oil when changing oil," Mr. Parker remarks. The crankcase capacity is 12 quarts, but the gasoline tank holds 26 gallons. It has to, because Mr. Parker estimates his fuel economy at about six or seven miles per gallon. People who could afford $5,000 cars in the 1930s didn't worry about the price of gasoline.
Lowering the top is more than a snap; in fact, it's dozens of snaps. The seven snaps securing the rear window are released and re-snapped into place on the ceiling. Then the eight snaps on each side are released, followed by the five inside. Mr. Parker places the chrome thumbscrews in the lined glove compartment for safekeeping.
The mirror is offset to the left to accommodate the center clamp for the top. "If they put it any lower, you'd never see anything out the back of the car," Mr. Parker explains. With the top raised, the car stands an impressive 5 feet, 7 inches tall.
Mr. Parker leaves the side mounts uncovered because he can't decide which of two pairs of covers to install, the metal covers that match the body or the canvas covers that match the top.
The one thing Mr. Parker has had to do on his Lincoln has been to pack the leaking water pump.
He plans to verify the reliability of his K-Model Lincoln before August, when he'll get behind the three-spoke steering wheel and drive to St. Louis for a gathering called Lincolns in the Millennium.

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