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THE CONTINENTAL HISTORY

FROM HENRY MARTYN LELAND TO FORD MOTOR COMPANY

Henry Martyn Leland was born to Quaker parents in Vermont on February 16th, 1843 and learned precision with Samuel Colt in Connecticut and with Brown and Sharpe, makers of tools and machinery in Rhode Island, for whom he developed a hair clipper that made a barber's work considerably easier for years thereafter. In 1890 he took his family and his talents to Detroit, where fine machining was virtually unknown and where he allied himself with wealthy lumberman Robert C. Faulconer and tool designer Charles H. Norton in the formation of Leland, Faulconer and Norton. The firm reduced by one when in 1894 Norton struck out on his own, later to become a succesful manufacturer of crankshaft grinders. Precision gear making was the Leland and Faulconer specialty initially, though by 1896 the firm was into manufacture of steam engines for Detroit streetcars and gasoline units for marine use. In June 1901, contracted by Olds Motor Works to produce engines for curved dash Oldsmobile, Leland came up with a refined version that developed 23 percent more horsepower but which was rejected by the Olds people because retooling for it would further delay production already delayed by a factory fire earlier in March. But a year later, Henry Martyn Leland was in the automobile business...courtesy of Henry Ford. In August 1902 William Murphy and Lemuel W. Bowen, who were among the financial backers behind Ford's automotive venture, which to their dismay seemed to produce little more than racing cars, called in Leland as a consultant to appraise the automobile plant and equipment so they could sell it and get out. Leland showed them the engine rejected by olds and suggested they stay in. Thus was born the Cadillac Automobile Company, named for Le Sieur Antoine De La Mothe Cadillac, the French explorer who had discovered Detroit in the early Eighteenth Century. The first Cadillac was completed on October 17th, 1902 and was given its maiden test drive by Alanson P. Brush, the twenty-four year old Leland and Faulconer engineer who had contributed substantially to the car's design and who would later build the Brush Runabout.

The deal made with the former Ford backers called for Leland and Faulconer merely to supply engines, transmissions and steering gears for the Cadillac, and that part of the operation moved with Leland-like precision. But at the Cadillac factory on Cass Avenue, chassis and body assembly lagged woefully behind. in October 1905, the Cadillac and Leland and Faulconer operations were merged into a new Cadillac Motor Car Company with Henry Leland, now in his sixties, as general manager and his son Wilfred as assistant under William Murphy. The concept of precision manufacturing of interchangeable parts was a new one for the automobile industry. The Cadillac achievement in demonstrating it, won the company the Dewar Trophy in 1908, the first time ever for an American car. The first four cylinder Cadillac, with 28/30 HP vertical in-line engine mounted up front under a hood, planetary transmission (revised to selective in 1907) and shaft drive, had arrived for the 1905 model year. Followed for 1909 by the Model Thirty, a refinement of the four which would advertise "1/1000th of an inch is the standard of measurement." Shortly after the announcement of the Model Thirty, there was another announcement that Cadillac had been bought by General Motors for over $5.5 million. This was undoubtedly the most substantial, and probably the wisest, purchase William C. Durant made for his new empire, and Durant was smart enough to keep the Leland's on board and in complete charge. In 1910, whenDurant's free-spending had plunged GM into financial disaster, it was the persuasion of the Leland's and the strength of Cadillac which saved the corporation from possible dissolution.In 1912 the Cadillac became "The Car That Has No Crank" with the introduction of the Delco selfstarter and electric lights developed by Charles F. Kettering. During World War I, more than 2000 Cadillac V8's were sent overseas as staff cars. And it was during World War I, too that the Leland's left Cadillac. According to William C. Durant they were fired, principally because their personal egos now foreshadowed their interest in General Motors. According to the Lelands they resigned because Durant refused to build the Liberty aero engine for the war effort. Following their leavetaking Cadillac did proceed into Liberty manufacture as did the Leland's who organized the Lincoln Motor Company for that purpose.

Henry Martyn Leland named the company after the President for whom he had first voted in 1864. Already Henry Martyn Leland was seventy-four years old, but his stature in the industry and his passionate patriotism resulted in his new Lincoln Motor Company being given a government contract to build some 6000 Liberty engines and a $10.000.000,- advance to do it. But the armistice came quickly, too quickly for the Lelands to have established a solid footing with their new company. Faced with a huge factory, a workforce of about 6000 men and mounting debts, they made a quite logical decision. The man who had given America the Cadillac Motorcar would now provide the country with the Lincoln. Capital stock for the venture, $6.5 million of it, was subscribed within three hours of being placed on sale. This was a terrific beginning. Unfortunately it would prove to be one of only two high points the Lelands would enjoy during their short tenure with the car. The other was the trade press response to the engineering of the Lincoln itself. Like any other Leland product, the Lincoln was precision built. It's 60° V8 engine with its characteristic fork and blade connecting rods was rugged and compact, developed 81 BHP and ensured a 70 MPH performance. Full pressure lubrication and a massive torque tobe drive highlighted the chassis. But two factors convened to make the Lincoln less appealing. First, its coachwork had been assigned to Leland's son in law whose previous specialty seems to have been ladies millinery. The Lincoln look was strictly old hat, dowdy even, with styling reminiscent of the prewar era past. Not a breath of the flapper flamboyance that would mark the Twenties. Second because of late supplier deliveries and Leland's penchant for engineering perfection the car was delayed, arriving in the marketplace in September 1920 rather than January, which missed an entire selling season and hit the postwar recession. The Lelands were convinced they could set matters right and contacted Brunn in Buffalo about coachwork. But still the Lincoln board directors could only see the figures, 3407 cars produced by February 4th 1922 versus a projected 6000 for the first year alone, and on that day over the vigorous objections of the Lelands, they put the company into receivership and up for sale.

Henry Ford bought Lincoln in 1922 from Henry Martyn Leland for $8,000,000.-. Though the car hadn't appealed to many customers, Ford took a fancy to the Lincoln for several intertwined reasons. His Model T was America's best selling cheap car by leagues; offering a luxury automobile at over ten times the price (the Lincoln was introduced as a $5,000.- range car) probably tweaked his interest and certainly that of his son Edsel whose refined sense of aesthetic was certainly not satisfied with his father's "Tin Lizzie". Moreover, in 1902, Henry Leland had made his Cadillac out of the frazzled remains of a company Henry Ford himself had started and which he left in disgust after, among other vexations, listening to Leland's uncomplimentary comments about his car. Buying out Leland now must have been a splendid satisfaction. It may have been further vengeance or the genuine admiration Ford had for Henry Leland. But initially the plan was for Lelands to remain with the company. This was a marriage made in hell however and the Lelands left after four months, seeing Henry Ford thereafter only in court during the lawsuit they instituted regarding reimbursement to original creditors and stockholders. Meanwhile Edsel Ford became president of the Lincoln Motor Company. By December 1922, just ten months after the Ford purchase of the company, 5512 Lincolns had been sold. Over two thousand more cars than the Lelands had delivered in seventeen months. The Leland fears to the contrary, the product had not been compromised. Indeed it had been improved, with aluminum pistons and better cylinder head cooling immediately and an increase in wheelbase to 136 inches (from 130) for 1923. Sales that year rose to 7,875. Under Ford Aegis the Lincoln remained a robust car, favored by the Detroit Police Flying Squad amongst other progressive law enforcement agencies. The cars for the police sometimes were provided with four wheel brakes which production versions wouldn't have until 1927. Perhaps more importantly, under Edsel Ford's direction, the Lincoln became a beautiful car with series production of designs from the masters of America's coachbuilding craft. By 1929 the Model L Lincoln was up to 90 HP and 90 MPH and leading it down the road was a graceful greyhound mascot selected by Edsel and produced by Gorham. In 1931 the Model K replaced the Model L with a refined V8 offering 120 HP, 145 inch wheelbase and duo servo brakes. In 1932 the Lincoln grabbing the headlines was the new V12 Model KB with 447.9 CID, 150 HP and 95+ MPH performance. Interestingly, the more expensive and custom built KB (with price tags ranging from $4,300.- to $7,200.-) fared rather well against the V8 Model K (at $2,900.- to $3,350.-) that year. With 1,641 Model KB's and 1,765 Model K's built. In 1933 the V8 was replaced by a smaller 382 CID, 125 HP V12 designated Model KA. But that depth of depression year brought sales of only 587 Model KB's and 1,420 Model KA's. Building two different engines for a plummeting luxury car market didn't make a great deal of sense and in 1934 both were dropped and replaced with a 414 CID 150 HP unit with aluminum cylinder heads. All Lincoln's into the early postwar (World War II) years would be V12 powered, though precious few of them would be the Model K series as sales of these big Lincolns continued to dwindle while the Thirties wore on.

Just 120 of the big Model K's were built in 1939-1940, the most famous of which was President Roosevelt's "Sunshine Special". Franklin Delano Roosevelt (of Dutch descent) carrying forth a Presidential preference for Lincoln's which had begun with Calvin Coolidge and which would endure to the present day. But prestige was not what made Lincoln financially respectable in the later Thirties, the Zephyr did. When it arrived in 1936 Lincoln sales soared from the under 4,000 cars in 1935 to over 20,000. Originally intended to use a modified version of the Ford V8, the Zephyr instead at Edsel Ford's direction became a 75° 267 CID 110 HP V12 with aluminum alloy heads, cast steel pistons and a reputation for sluggishness and unreliability it has had ever to live with though not always fairly (the engine was used in England in the Allard, atalanta and Brough Superior). The chassis with its transversesprings andmechanical four wheel brakes represented a specification only to be whispered about but the synchromesh gearbox was fine and the unitized construction was worthy of a shout as was the very fresh styling courtesy of John Tjaarda and Briggs and refined for production by Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie of Lincoln. In 1938 the Zephyr arrived with a gearshift lever spring mounted from the dashboard and in 1940 The now well known column mounted shift lever was introduced on the Zephyr.

Edsel traveled a lot to Europe, referred to by wealthy Americans as "The Continent". On one of his trips, Edsel purchased a British sports car from "The Continent" and took it home with him to America. He showed the car to Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie. Edsel asked Eugene why Lincoln couldn't make a personal type sporty car, so Eugene started sketching and designing one for Edsel. Edsel knew that if this project was called anything other than "personal", his father would halt it. Initially, Eugene tried to work with a Ford chassis but couldn't get the sweeping fender line he wanted to create. Ed Martin, another Ford Motor Company designer, suggested they should use a new Lincoln Zephyr chassis and the Zephyr Convertible as a model to begin with. Hard work done by hand began and the entire car was shortened horizontally by four inches, the windshield was cut and squared off and the car was lowered. In late 1938 the car was finished and Edsel took it on a winter cruise to Palm Beach, Florida. Edsel's friends were extremely enthusiastic about the end result and within no time, Edsel had 200 firm orders for the car. As soon as the car returned to the Lincoln plant in 1939, plans and work were started on the car which was now known as "The Continental" (as it was referred to in Palm Beach). The spare tire on the back was for a European look. The name "Continental kit" became fashionable in the 1950's and was named after the "Continental" car. By the end of 1942 a total of 1,990 Continentals were built before World War II put an end to all automotive production. Postwar the Continental would return but without Edsel Ford who died on May 26th 1943.

LINCOLN FROM YEAR TO YEAR

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1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
1922 1932 1942 1952 1962 1972 1982 1992 2002
1923 1933 1943 1953 1963 1973 1983 1993 2003
1924 1934 1944 1954 1964 1974 1984 1994 2004
1925 1935 1945 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005
1926 1936 1946 1956 1966 1976 1986 1996 2006
1927 1937 1947 1957 1967 1977 1987 1997 2007
1928 1938 1948 1958 1968 1978 1988 1998 2008
1929 1939 1949 1959 1969 1979 1989 1999 2009