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Lincoln, a truly Presidential limousine

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/18/2006 | Auto and Trucks

This luxury car which is named after the American President Abraham Lincoln was produced by Henry M Leland, a mechanical engineer who was the first one to create a compact single cylinder engine.

In 1908, Leland sold his company to General Motors and was appointed as an executive there. But it was not long before Leland quit the company and founded a new company that dealt with production of aircraft engines. The company then shifted focus to the production of luxury automobiles, and named his first car as Lincoln. The car with its superior engineering and powerful engine became an immediate challenger to the established luxury car makers like the Cadillac and Packard.

The company faced great financial distress after the First World War, and was sold to Ford Motors in 1922. Ford recruited some of the best automobile designers and gave Lincolns a complete makeover, both in terms of styling and amenities.

The first Lincoln to roll out of the Ford garage was the Lincoln Town car.  A first of its kind it had an open chauffeur compartment and a closed passenger cabin. It was also given a leaping greyhound hood ornament, which became a Lincoln trademark. The car soon became a prized possession of many rich and famous people including Thomas Edison and Herbert Hoover.

But it was Lincoln Zephyr that made heads turn. This car that was launched in 1936 came in three models -- coupe, sedan and convertible. The car was fashionably styled and was powered by a 110-hp V-12 engine. This beautiful car became an inspiration for designing luxury liners of the time.

Next came Lincoln Continental in 1938. The car was a unique blend of style and class, and came to be used by Presidents, corporate heads, the rich and the famous. The first presidential limo was the Sunshine Special that was especially designed for President Roosevelt. The Bubble Top, a Lincoln Cosmopolitan, was used by President Truman for a long time. President Kennedy used a 1961 Lincoln and President Nixon a 1969 Lincoln. The latter Lincolns were armor plated to provide greater security to the American Presidents.

The post second world war era saw a completely new line of cars. The bulkier and heavier designs gave way to sleeker and technologically advanced cars that were much lighter and easier to handle. The Lincoln Premier had power steering, power windows and tubeless tires. All these features and centrally opening doors were the defining point of the new Lincoln Continental. Just like the old continental this car too proved to be a major hit among the people.

The 1980s and the 1990s was the time when luxury SUVs were being produced. Lincoln responded with its big and stylish Navigator. This was followed by Aviator in 2002, but it did not take off.  However, Lincoln has not given up. It is now restyling its legendary Lincoln Zephyr as a SUV.

Given Lincolns engineering depth one can be sure that the car will dominate the 21st century too.