- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2007

The base price of a new 1955 Lincoln Custom two-door hardtop was $3,666. One of the 1,362 such Lincolns built ended up on the used car lot of Ronner’s Oldsmobile dealership in Somerset, Pa., just two years later.

In nearby Stoystown, Harold Stutzman operated an auto repair garage and Pennsylvania inspection station, when one of his customers alerted him to the nice-looking Lincoln. He went just to take a look, and when he saw that the car had been driven only about 14,000 miles, he shelled out $1,700 and drove the nearly new Lincoln home.

The classy Lincoln was too nice for daily use, so for the next seven years it was only driven on vacations and for Sunday afternoon excursions.

“Then in 1964,” son Tom Stutzman said, “my parents signed the title of the Lincoln over to me as a graduation gift.” For the next two years, Mr. Stutzman drove the Lincoln while attending Allegheny Technical School in Pittsburgh.

He loaded his worldly possessions in the 31-cubic-foot trunk and drove the car in 1966, when he relocated to the Maryland suburbs of Washington. “I used the Lincoln for the next two years to commute to work and back to Stoystown, Pennsylvania, on the weekends,” Mr. Stutzman recalled.

By 1968, the Lincoln’s odometer had recorded 99,500 miles. Mr. Stutzman purchased a new car and stored the 17-foot-11-inch Lincoln in his parent’s dry but unheated garage in Pennsylvania, where it remained for 29 years.

“In 1997, I lost the use of the garage due to the sale of my parent’s house,” Mr. Stutzman said.

He decided to have the car cosmetically restored, placing it on a trailer and having it towed to Miller and Roy Restorations in Bedford, Pa. The combination front bumper-grille with double impact bars and back bumper were replated with chrome. Mr. Stutzman bit the financial bullet and had the appropriate ornamentation — two side emblems, an emblem on the front of the engine hood, the hood ornament and the cover for the lock on the trunk lid — gold plated, just as it was when the car was new.

Much of the interior is original, but regardless of whether the part is old or new, it all blends together. Virtually everything from the headliner down to the carpet is blue, including the two-tone blue painted dashboard. The fabric for the seats is also a two-tone blue. The large steering wheel, however, is black, highlighted by a 360-degree chrome horn ring.

Two heaters — one under the dashboard and one under the front seat, presumably there to rush heated air to back-seat passengers — are part of the standard equipment of the car, Mr. Stutzman pointed out.

In the dashboard in front of the driver is the 130 mph speedometer, but “that doesn’t mean it could do 130,” Mr. Stutzman said.

Once restorations were complete on the interior, the outside of the Lincoln was repainted Ermine white over Brunswick blue, just as it was originally.

“I then had Nostalgia Works of Sharpsburg do a complete rebuild of the engine,” Mr. Stutzman said. An earlier engine overhaul had not been executed properly, but the shop’s Dave Krolak quickly diagnosed and corrected the problem.

The Lincoln’s original 341-cubic-inch, 225-horsepower V-8 was fed by a four-barrel carburetor tucked under an oil bath air cleaner. When Mr. Stutzman got his Lincoln back after the engine was bored out, he guessed that the engine was now probably close to 350 cubic inches. “The three-speed Turbo Drive transmission was by and large OK,” he said.

Fluid capacities on the big Lincoln include 5 quarts of oil without a filter, 25.2 quarts of coolant and a supersized gas tank that can hold 20 gallons. Mr. Stutzman reports achieving about 18 mpg on highway trips.

Under the heavy Lincoln is an X-frame that keeps the center of gravity low on the 4,185-pound car. The weight combined with the 123-inch wheelbase gives occupants of the car a very pleasant ride.

Originally, the car rolled on 8-by-15-inch bias ply tires. “I’ve gone to radials,” Mr. Stutzman said, adding that they handle better and ride better than the original tires.

Accessories on the car when it left the factory include power steering and power brakes along with an AM radio with a vacuum-operated power antenna. The windshield wipers are also vacuum powered.

Mr. Stutzman still enjoys hearing the sound of the powerful V-8 as it comes out the dual exhausts under the rear bumper.

His Lincoln is now approaching 103,000 miles, he said, but he is always ready to take it out cruising.

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