- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

Ford Motor Co. built 19,619 Lincoln Premiere two-door hardtop coupes during the 1956 model year. Each one of the 18.5-foot-long Lincolns had a base price of $4,601.

One of the cars, white over butterscotch, was first sold in North Carolina.

By 1972 that Lincoln had travelled north to Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley where the campus of the Eastern Mennonite College is located. A student had purchased the unroadworthy car with the aim of fixing its mechanical woes during the school year.

College officials, however, thought otherwise. They frowned upon a student turning one of the campus parking lots into a long-term repair shop. They ordered him to promptly repair the car or get rid of it — NOW.

With no inkling of the turmoil the car was creating, John Grove, of nearby Luray, happened to drive by the school and noticed the disabled Lincoln. His father had provided an identical car for him to drive when he was a teenage.

A week later Mr. Grove saw a newspaper ad offering for sale a 1956 Lincoln. He knew it had to be the one he had seen on campus so he responded to the ad. He must have been the only one because he soon was the owner of a 1956 Lincoln that had travelled 77,747 miles and had no brakes. He trucked the car to his Luray home.

“It was handsome,” Mr. Grove says, “but the chrome was bad.”

He found the 126-inch-wheelbase Lincoln to be just like the one he had driven in his high school days. “The seats and carpet were ragged,” he reports. Only the headliner and door panels were salvageable.

Mr. Grove immediately fixed the brakes and set about gradually restoring the Lincoln, initially tackling the inexpensive tasks. By 1973 he began to run into the expensive parts and work ground to a halt for a decade. In 1983 Mr. Grove had the bottom half of the car repainted, leaving the white top untouched. The front seat was also reupholstered and the carpet replaced.

That’s when he learned about the upcoming first Road Race Lincoln Eastern Regional Meet. It was scheduled in 1985 in Rhinebeck, N.Y. Mr. Grove had a lot of work to do on his 4,357-pound Lincoln before the event.

He had the 368-cubic-inch V-8 engine humming like new, producing 285 horsepower. Both Mr. Grove and his Lincoln attended that first gathering and he reports that his Lincoln is the only car to attend each succeeding meet, the furthest meet being in Kingstown, Ontario. He has every intention of attending the 20th annual meet later this year in Goose Bay Harbor, Maine.

Driving to these far-flung events is hampered, he says, by having only a left-side mirror to help negotiate modern day traffic.

The original trim on all four fenders, hood and trunk was gold plated. “That is long gone,” Mr. Grove says.

Instead of replating the trim with gold, he paints it gold every other year. “The gold paint lasts as long as the gold did,” he says.

Since that first Lincoln meet in 1985, Mr. Grove has worked to improve at least one part of his car each year.

For a driver seated behind the four-spoke steering wheel, the view through the huge wraparound windshield is marvelous — if you can get past the 130 mph speedometer.

Commonplace now, but luxuries half a century ago, are the power steering, power windows, power brakes, power seats, four courtesy lights and backup lights. The AM radio broadcasts through an under-dashboard speaker as well as a rear-seat speaker.

Mr. Grove likes to quote pioneer auto reviewer Tom McCahill who wrote in Popular Mechanics in his report on the 1956 Lincoln: “It has enough torque to yank the Empire State Building up by the roots.”

“This car has always had great style,” Mr. Grove says as the odometer on his Lincoln approaches 105,000 miles.

After all these years of work, his Lincoln now is reliable. “I just put gas in the tank and go,” he says.

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