MotorCities National Heritage Area logo

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection
Posted: 10.04.2017

file 20171004003201 1937 Lincolns
The 1937 Lincolns were great looking and stylish automobiles that helped pave the way for early luxury automobiles. The Lincoln Zephyr for 1937 was one of the most streamlined in design, and was thoroughly enjoyed and admired by the motoring public.

The Zephyr was introduced the year prior as an all-new design, and engineers made only minor changes to the 1937 model such as new ornaments placed on the headlamps and slight changes to the front grille. The Zephyr Town Limousine 737 represented the high end of the model year and came in with the most expensive price tag as well. Only 139 models were manufactured for the consumer market.

file 20171004003230 1937 Lincolns
Ford had a great calendar year production in 1937 with 29,293 models sold to the public and the vast majority of these models were the popular Zephyrs. At the time, Henry Ford’s only child and heir apparent to the Ford empire, Edsel, was acting president and is remembered as a great person and a successful automotive pioneer.

The 1937 Lincoln models were elegant and very beautiful cars. Most automotive historians view the 1937-1941 Lincoln models as some of the best-streamlined designs of all time. Lincoln advertising called it “The new kind of car years ahead of the times.” The Lincoln Zephyr sported a V-type 12-cylinder engine manufactured by precision methods that were innovated in the famous Lincoln plant. The body and frame were inseparable and offered many great safety features for the driver as well the passengers. One of the principal designers of the Zephyr, Eugene T. “Bob” Gregorie, who worked under Edsel Ford, directed Ford Motor Company designs from 1935 through World War II. The most popular Zephyr was the 4-door Sedan models which sold for $1,265.

file 20171004003247 1937 Lincolns
Ford-Lincoln also delved in the large, luxury “limousine” type models in 1937 with sedans that could accommodate five and seven passengers. The five-passenger model featured two windows, and the seven-passenger model had three windows. In all, there were 19 different manufactured and semi-manufactured models offered in 1937 plus an unlimited array of custom designs offered to the buying public.

Not pictured were the Willoughby's Panel Brougham, model 373, which offered a beautiful classic design of which only four models were ever built. Brunn, LeBaron, Willoughby and Judkins designed the custom Lincoln bodies. The Lincoln automobiles for 1937 also offered that V-shaped windshield design that represented a unique styling update for the time.

file 20171004003304 1937 Lincolns
In 1937, the Detroit Police Department received a fleet of Lincoln four-door sedan models to be used as police cruisers because of their great speed and handling. These cruisers were equipped with two-way radio and bulletproof windshields with gun-ports on the passenger side.

The new 1937 Lincoln models offered styling that blended the headlights into the front fender design, which gave the models even more of a great looking, rounded appearance. Lincoln also offered great interiors for their customers in 1937. The body interiors were completely new from the instrument panel to the rear deck, as Ford marketing labeled the new components as “Modernistic Design.”

All the new Lincoln models for 1937 were dignified representations of Lincoln’s appearance and shape. Its style was more advanced, conservatively adapting new ideas in aerodynamic design. Most important of the mechanical improvements were the use of hydraulic valve lifters in the engine. The hydraulic valve lifters could automatically adjust themselves and did not require any type of resetting which resulted in a quieter ride for the driver and passengers.

In conclusion, Michael Lamm & Dave Holls’ book A Century of Automobile Style 100 years of American Car Design stated “The Lincoln Zephyr meant a huge investment for both Ford and Briggs and represented a tremendous gamble for Edsel personally, yet it remained the only chance Lincoln had of surviving the Depression.”

file 20171004003413 1937 Lincolns