The 1936 Lincoln Zephyr
Lincoln earned its place on the map of industry greats with its release of the Zephyr in 1936. It was named and designed after the streamlined Burlington Zephyr express train. It was powered by aerodynamic diesel, which brought an end to steam-engine trains. It was Lincoln’s answer to Chrysler’s Airflow.
The origins of the Zephyr came from radical rear-engine designs by John Tjaarda, using airplane-type stress analysis to demonstrate the benefits of unit construction. Tjaarda worked with Briggs Manufacturing Company, one of the big names in pressed-steel body builders in those days. They took their work to Lincoln, who saw the designs as ambitious. In the end, the streamlined design was toned down to make it appealing to conservative buyers. Under the hood, it used a V-12 engine styled from the Ford flathead V8, and used the same transverse leaf spring as the Model T.
Despite the changes it had gone through in production, however, it went on to be a big commercial success and was a big hit for Lincoln. Around 15,000 Zephyrs were made in 1936, and made up almost 80 percent of Lincoln’s sales. There were variations sold that had a sedan body with a two-door configuration but built on a chassis that could have handled four-doors. The Zephyr would enjoy a lengthy run and was reintroduced in 2005.