- - Thursday, June 14, 2012

John Sweet was content with his 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II, as was Al McWade with his 1948 Lincoln convertible.

For more than a decade the two men, both members of the national Lincoln Zephyr Owners Club, had admired the other’s car. Finally, earlier this year, they decided that each would be happier with the other’s Lincoln.

Mr. McWade wanted a car with modern amenities, including air conditioning, power steering and power brakes while Mr. Sweet was looking for a pre-World War II car. Because the 1948 Lincoln was simply a rehash of the 1942 Lincoln, it filled the bill.

The swap took place in July 2005 when Mr. McWade drove from his home in Boston, Mass., towing his 1948 Lincoln, to Mr. Sweet’s home in Sterling, Va.

What happened that day was on of those rare occurrences where both parties in the transaction went away happy.

Mr. Sweet was left with an 18-foot, 2-inch-long luxury car that could be turned around within a 45-foot circle. ‘It doesn’t have the tightest turning radius,’ he acknowledges. Somehow it lost some of its nimbleness in the past 57 years.

‘When it was new,’ Mr. Sweet says, ‘It was a humdinger of a car.’

The regular Lincoln was priced at $3,143, while the upscale Lincoln Continental, with a ‘Continental‘ spare tire, cost $4,716.

In the intervening decades the regular Lincolns have been sacrificed to restore the Continentals, which, ironically, makes the surviving Lincolns creatures of rarity.

The pace-car-yellow Lincoln, with a dashboard the same color as the exterior, has a maroon leather and carpeted interior. Even the two sun visors over the one-piece windshield are covered in maroon leather.

The center of the dashboard is awash in chrome that emulates the design of the two-piece grille. ‘I can see the 1940s style of the jukebox in the face of the radio,’ he comments.

About the only accessories on the Lincoln in 1948 were the AM radio, a heater and a spotlight.

The desirable Borg-Warner overdrive unit was an optional extra that nearly every buyer ordered.

Hubcaps on the 1948 Lincoln were chrome with a raised LINCOLN script in gold.

Because the regular Lincoln had a sloping trunk lid in place of the vertical stand-up spare tire on the Continental, the midpoint of the trunk lid had a third brake light beneath the tag light that illuminated the license plate.

Inside the 5-foot-deep trunk is a horizontally mounted 7.00x15-inch spare tire.

Hidden away down on the floor are the foot controls of the Adjust-O-Matic radio. Depressing the pedal halfway muted the volume. Pressing the pedal to the metal advanced the dial to the next preselected radio station.

The 292-cubic-inch V-12 engine developed 125 horsepower with the help of a two-barrel downdraft carburetor under an oil-bath air cleaner. Two water pumps and a six-blade fan helped combat overheating, which was a problem on the V-12 Lincolns. Hidden from view, on either side of the engine compartment, Ford engineers stamped louvers in the sheet metal for better airflow. The distributor firing order for the big engine was 1-4-9-8-5-2-11-10-3-6-7-12.

According to Mr. Sweet, he’ll be lucky to get the needle to reach 90 mph on the 100-mph speedometer while seated behind the 360-degree horn ring on the 125-inch-wheelbase car.

He strives to keep 19.5 gallons of gasoline in the tank, 5 quarts of oil in the crankcase and 24.5 quarts of coolant in the radiator.

With those tasks accomplished, Mr. Sweet exclaims, ‘It’s a sweet-running car that I can drive anywhere.’

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