- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

The American luxury automobile market that flourished during the 1920s dried up like the Dust Bowl in the economic drought of the 1930s.
Most of the prestige automobiles withered and died during the Great Depression. The few that survived did so because a less expensive model kept the dollars flowing during the hard times.
What kept Lincoln afloat through the depression was the Zephyr.
Upon the Zephyr's 1936 introduction it began outselling the big K-model Lincolns several times over. Being priced at less than one-third the cost of a senior Lincoln certainly didn't hurt sales nor did the V-12 engine behind the streamlined grille.
Fred Blum, a District employee of the American Automobile Association, took his family, including his preschool-age son David, to the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. At the fair, which opened April 30, 1939, and closed Oct. 27, 1940, was a Ford Motor Co. exhibit called the Rotunda.
Spectators would ascend a tower encircled by a roadway. At the top spectators would enter a new Ford, Mercury or Lincoln and ride the rail-guided car down and around the tower.
That one exhibit at the fair was indelibly etched in young son David's memory. "I remember my father wanted to get a ride in a new Mercury," Mr. Blum recalls. Ford introduced the Mercury line of cars in 1939.
Instead of riding down in a Mercury the family hitched a ride in a Lincoln Zephyr, a ride Mr. Blum remembers to this day.
To further enhance the image of Lincoln Zephyrs on the impressionable youth, a neighbor owned a Zephyr during World War II, which was admired whenever gas rationing permitted an excursion.
While attending an antique car show in Strasburg, Pa., in the early 1990s a remarkably well-kept, mostly original 1939 Lincoln Zephyr four-door sedan caught his eye.
Now it's October 2000, and Mr. Blum is really getting hungry to own a prewar Zephyr. While at a car show in Hershey, Pa., he hears of a nice 1937 Zephyr that is for sale.
His hopeful bubble bursts when he learns that the owner has changed his mind.
At a Harrisburg, Pa., Lincoln Zephyr swap meet in January 2001 Mr. Blum spotted the 1939 Zephyr he first saw almost a decade before.
It might be available, the owner says. He is under pressure from his wife not to bring another car home until he gets rid of one and he is currently eyeing one.
An anxious Mr. Blum tells the owner that he is a willing buyer, but the owner doesn't want to sell unless he has another car. He says that he will let him know.
Mr. Blum returns home to Virginia empty-handed and the owner took his Zephyr home to Assonet, Mass.
The next day the owner telephoned Mr. Blum to tell him the Zephyr must go. Mr. Blum replied, "Sold."
Although the Zephyr appeared to be in excellent condition the meticulous owner wanted a few months in which to make sure the car was first class and shipshape.
In April 2001, Mr. Blum sent a rollback truck to Massachusetts to retrieve his eagle gray, 3,620-pound Zephyr.
When the Lincoln finally arrived it was exactly what Mr. Blum expected.
It has a six-volt battery under the hood and records indicate the original 267-cubic-inch, 110-horsepower, V-12 engine was replaced with an identical 1940 engine. Regardless, both engines had a two-barrel down-draft carburetor between the two banks of six cylinders each. An oil bath air cleaner sits atop the carburetor, which drinks from a 19-gallon gasoline tank.
In lieu of an oil dipstick the Lincoln Zephyr relies on a float to keep tabs on the five-quart oil level.
The V-12 operating temperature is kept under control thanks to 30 quarts of coolant circulating through unseen passages.
When new, 62 years ago, the four-door Zephyr model carried a base price of $1,399 and was by far the most popular Lincoln model, selling 16,663 units. The other five Zephyr models and 21 K-model Lincolns sold a combined total of 4,470.
One particular extra-cost option Mr. Blum is happy to have is the two-speed Columbia rear-axle overdrive, which reduces engine speed 28 percent when in the highest cruising ratio.
On a recent highway trip to Gloucester, Va., he reports, "The overdrive ran good and delivered 17 mpg. It's comfortable doing 60 mph."
Refueling the Zephyr is, Mr. Blum said, "horrible." In an effort to maintain clean lines on the left side of the car, designers moved the gas cap from the outboard side of the rear fender to the inboard side making any refueling attempt awkward.
Another concession to styling is the spare-tire storage. Because of the dictates of streamlining fashion, the 7.00x16-inch tire is mounted on a bracket that swings out and down for access to the trunk.
Mr. Blum believes that the double sided white sidewall tire is original to the car.
The interior of the car is filled with Lincoln amenities such as ejector-type lighters, one in the dashboard and a second serving the right-side, rear-seat passenger. The car rides on a 125-inch wheelbase.
Additionally, a pair of angular footrests are there for the comfort of rear-seat passengers. At either end of the dashboard is a glove compartment, "His and hers," Mr. Blum notes.
Lincoln designers went to great lengths to make the car as streamlined as possible, including adding rear fender skirts to make the visual flow uninterrupted.
"It's amazing how many parts are still available," the astonished owner said. He recently found a replacement for a broken soy-bean-derived handle for a back-seat ashtray.
The odometer is just now approaching 61,000 miles, which its proud new owner believes to be accurate. Until now the Zephyr which has been repainted has always been in Massachusetts.
"It is not restored," Mr. Blum says, "just maintained."
Upon acquiring the Zephyr he did something all owners of antique automobiles should do but few actually do. He assembled an emergency kit including:
Coil.
Points.
Fan belt.
Condenser.
Fuel pump.
Distributor.
Spark plugs.
Carburetor kit.
Service manuals.
Flexible fuel line.
"I already had the duct tape," he said.
A West Coast national Lincoln Zephyr gathering is planned for September of 2002. That's a continent away, but Mr. Blum is tempted.
Another car wouldn't be the same, he explains. "I guess I've always had a passion for Lincoln Zephyrs."

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