Lincoln, also known under the name Lincoln Motor Company, is an American automaker, presently owned by Ford Motor Company, and for many years it has been called a luxury brand. Since its first years of production, it has always competed against another exclusive brand, Cadillac, which led to a Lincoln vs. Cadillac tiff for 100 years.
Henry Leland founded the automotive company in 1917, and named it after Abraham Lincoln, an impressive figure of the time. Shortly after creating it, Leland sold the company to Ford Motor Company that purchased it in 1922. After World War II, Ford associated Lincoln with the Mercury label, and for a long time, the division was called Lincoln-Mercury. In 2012, they decided to rebrand it and return to the original name, Lincoln Motor Company. At present, Lincoln is the only luxury line of cars Ford Motors creates. However, Lincoln isn’t an exclusively luxurious line; it also creates sedans, crossovers, and SUVs. Through time the automaker also manufactured limousines mostly used by USA presidents.
How it all started?
Henry Leland and his son Wilfred started the company in 1917. Few people know about Leland because he also founded the Cadillac brand that he sold to General Motors in 1909. He was part of the executive board of General Motors until 1917, when he argued with William Durant, the GM President, and left the company for starting a new project. And this is how the competition between Cadillac and Lincoln began, both brands created by the same stunning mind.
When he started his new company, Leland named the brand after President Abraham Lincoln. He received $10 million to build Liberty V12 aircraft engines, and he used the money to fund his new business. Lincoln collaborated with multiple automotive companies to get parts for the Liberty engines. Packard, Buick, and Cadillac provided the cylinders, and Marmon the other pieces of equipment.
The first vehicle Lincoln launched was the Lincoln Model L, created to compete with the already-established luxury brand Cadillac. The first model of Lincoln had a V8 engine that included Liberty V12 technology.
It took the company only 3 years to struggle with resources. Since its creation, Lincoln was alternating between building automobiles and crafting military equipment, and it found it challenging to find a balance between the two opposite operations. In 1920, Lincoln customers were waiting even a year to get a vehicle. Because the brand failed to sell products due to slow production, in 1922, it was facing bankruptcy. Then, Ford motor company offered Leland $8 million to sell the company.
Before acquiring the Lincoln company, Henry Ford has already manufactured a line of luxury cars, but he wanted a stand-alone range. The previous exclusive models the brand launched were the Model B, Model F, and Model K. Henry Ford had a personal reason to buy the Lincoln Motor company. In 1902 he had to leave a company he created called Henry Ford Company. Henry Leland was the leader of the investment group that bought the company known under Cadillac’s name. At first, the Leland family was retained to manage the Lincoln division, but in 1922, Ford removed them from the board. Edsel Ford took their place. Starting in 1923, Lincoln has begun to produce new models of vehicles to diversify the brand’s portfolio. In the first acquiring year, they constructed over 8,000 cars, and the company registered a 50% growth in comparison with the previous year.
When customers headed to a Lincoln dealership in Dallas TX, they could choose from vehicles in different body styles. Since buying Lincoln, Ford has tried to introduce various styles and types of cars to match all requirements. Even if Lincoln gained success with the Model L, they decided to remove it from production and replace it with a more modern variant. When the automaker introduced the Model K, it immediately became a competitor for the 355 Chrysler imperial from Cadillac.
In 1932, Lincoln brought on the market their first V12 motor. The V12 motor was previously used in an American-made vehicle, but Lincoln was the first automotive company to manufacture all cars with the V12 engine. With this advancement, they retired from the production of the V8 model.
Lincoln Zephyr was another popular model and competed against LaSalle and Chrysler Airstream. With the models they introduced in the 1920s, they managed to reach a new sales point.
Lincoln Continental is unmatched on the market
During the same time, the American automaker decided to create lighter cars. The company delegated E.T. Gregorie, Ford’s Chief Stylist, with the job of creating a vehicle that has a one-off body. The Lincoln-Zephyr Convertible Coupe was used for inspiration. Lincoln cut 4 inches from the car’s initial shape, placed a spare tire on the trunk lid, and removed the running boards. To promote the new car, Edsel Ford used is during his vacation in Florida, where it attracted attention and customers. The buyers referred to the model as Continental or European, which is how the brand came with the name.
In 1956, Ford extended the Continental Division that soon became a flagship marque for the brand. The first model, the company, launched as part of the division was the Continental Mark II, a 2-door coupe that had a model different from all the other designs American cars had. Lincoln had whitewall tires, a spare tire on the trunk lid, and a strip of chrome trim on the wheels. First, the brand intended to sell the continental line separately from the other cars, but they agreed it’s best to market them as Lincoln automotive. They were advertised as luxury cars because, in 1956, a car owner paid $10.000 to drive a Mark II (the equivalent of $90.000 in present-money). At that point, it was the priciest American vehicle produced, even more, expensive than the Silver Cloud Rolls-Royce.
But because the model required hand-work, it triggered high losses for the company. It lost approximately $1.000 for each car they produced. In 1957, they withdrew the Mark II from the market, and it allowed the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham to fetch the title of the most expensive automobile from an American automaker.
Here are the birth and rebirth of a true American automaker, with ups and downs.