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Lincoln Cosmopolitan 1949, 1950, 1951

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From 1949 through 1951 Lincoln offered two distinct lines of cars, the Lincoln on a 121-inch wheelbase and the Lincoln Cosmopolitan on a 125-inch wheelbase. Both shared a new 336.7-c.i.d., 90-degree L-head V-8, the largest Ford-built flathead V-8 since the Lincoln 385 was retired in 1932. The Lincoln Cosmopolitan had a completely separate body. The Lincoln carried the Mercury body with the Cosmopolitan front end modified slightly.

These two lines of Lincolns came about in a rather oblique way. Up until early 1947 there were to be four distinct lines of Ford postwar cars: a compact Ford, a full-sized Ford, a Mercury on two different wheelbases, and a Lincoln on three different wheelbases. In mid-1946, when the Ford Division decided to build an entirely new 1949 Ford, it dropped plans to build a compact, and there was considerable reshuffling. The 188-inch-wheelbase Ford became the 1949 Mercury. The two Mercurys on 120-inch and 123-inch wheelbases became one Lincoln on a 121-inch wheelbase. The Lincoln on a 125-inch wheelbase became the Lincoln Cosmopolitan, and plans for larger Lincolns and a Lincoln Continental were dropped.

The two distinct lines of Lincolns were dropped in 1952 when the marque went to a single car on a 123-inch wheelbase. This was simply a bad marketing decision, as Ford very much needed a car midway between the Mercury and Lincoln Cosmopolitan in order to compete with GM at the high end. The need for such a car was recognized in 1952 with the recommendation of a new make to be called Monterey and the re-introduction of the Lincoln Continental. Unfortunately, Ford’s upper management was mired down in a complex set of political circumstances at the time which eventually led to the Edsel, priced between the Ford and the Mercury. Had Ford continued to build two Lincolns in the fifties rather than experiment with new names and subnames, the Lincoln-Mercury Division might have been a formidable competitor. As things turned out, the Mercury-bodied Lincoln was discontinued after 1951, and the car is now nearly forgotten.

In this driveReport we will discuss only the Lincoln, not the Lincoln Cosmopolitan. Lincolns for 1949 were offered in three body styles: a coupe, a sport sedan and a convertible coupe. The cars are instantly recognized from the front end by their deeply sunken headlamps. It was designer Bob Gregorie’s original intent to have hideaway headlamps, a la 1942 DeSoto, but cost and time constraints put the eyelids on the shelf after the tooling was already made, and deep chromed bezels were substituted. The sides of the front fenders carried a clean sweep of stainless steel as opposed to the Cosmopolitan’s bulbous stainless airfoil. From the rear the car looks very much like a Mercury with a three-piece rear window, but with Lincoln’s own gunsight tail-lamp treatment. Inside, the ’49 Lincoln carried a bizarre instrument panel with “church organ” controls. The upholstery was a cut above the Mercury’s, a cut below the Lincoln Cosmopolitan’s.

The 336.7-c.i.d., 900-pound flathead V-8 developing 152 horsepower 3,600 rpm was a vast improvement over the old V-12. It had a 3.5-inch bore, 4.38-inch stroke, 7:1 compression ratio and maximum torque of 265 ft./lb. @ 200 rpm. But in contrast to the new Cadillac ohv V-8, soon to appear, weighing some 200 pounds less, it was antediluvian. Originally this engine was developed for Ford trucks, and was introduced in January 1948 in the Ford F-7 and F-8 lines. As late as 1946 the 1949 Lincoln was slated to carry an improved V-12. However, total reorganization of the company and the ’49 Ford project preempted further development of the V-12 and management opted to modify the truck V-8 slightly for the new Lincoln.

Instead of a cast crankshaft like the Ford and Mercury V-8s, it had a drop forged crankshaft and zero lash hydraulic valve lifters. The former single downdraft carburetor was exchanged for a large dual-concentric downdraft carburetor with an air-cooled fuel chamber. There was now a separate exhaust system for each bank of cylinders located outside of the engine V to permit better exhaust cooling, and a more orthodox arrangement of accessories on top of the engine compared to the V-12, especially the distributor and fuel pump. Further cooling improvement was afforded through a completely redesigned cooling system and a new low profile radiator. About the only thing that wasn’t improved was vibration damping. On early 1949 models engineers employed a viscous-type fluid in the damper. This did not work out at all.

The transmission was a conventional three-speed gearbox with or without Borg-Warner overdrive coupled to Hotchkiss drive and hypoid gears. Lin-coln-Mercury engineers had been working overtime on an automatic transmission, but it never proved very reliable so it was not offered. Finally, from mid-1949 on Lincoln offered an optional GM HydraMatic gearbox.

The frame was Ford’s new K type with front coil springs in wishbone pressed steel arms and parallel leaf springs in the rear. There was nothing new about this type of suspension except among Ford products, which had been bouncing along on transverse buggy springs since 1903. The rear axle was also new, a semi-floating type replacing the old 3/4-floating rear axle. All of these suspension changes were shared with the Cosmopolitans. The Lincoln weighed about 400 pounds less than the Cosmopolitan, which went a long way to improve handling.

In writing for Mechanix Illustrated, dean of auto testers Tom McCahill cited the ’49 Lincoln as the first American stock car since the ’37 Cord and Buick to crack the century mark. He clocked a Lincoln with overdrive at 102.5 and a Cosmopolitan with overdrive at 102.

The 1949 Lincoln and Lincoln Cosmopolitan made their public appearance April 22, 1948, a week before the Mercury and two months before the revolutionary ’49 Ford. While the Lincolns preceded the introduction of the ohv V-8 ’49 Cadillac by three months, they did not win over many GM customers. Total 1949 Lincoln production was 38,384. The factory has never given any breakdown by body styles. The figure compares to 35,123 Lincoln Cosmopolitans and 301,319 Mercurys for the 1949 model year.

Of the three model years, the 1950 is generally considered the best looking. When the Lincoln-Mercury Division was formed in 1945, William F. (Bill) Schmidt was made its first styling director. He did nothing to change Gregorie’s original 1949 design, as this was already locked in. The first cars styled under his direction were the 1950 models, which were facelifts. The first thing that went was the eggcrate grille because dealers didn’t like it. Schmidt and his crew, which included Tom Hibbard, replaced it with a very clean horizontal chromed grille. But they could do nothing about the sunken headlamps; thus the sad Lincoln look remained throughout the three-year model run. The round parking lamps contained within the ’49 grille were replaced with rectangular lamps at the very outer ends. The pull-out 1949 door handles, which were nothing but problems, were replaced with smart push-button door handles. The heater and vent systems were completely redesigned, going from one of the worst setups in the industry to one of the best.

Another dealer complaint was the complex five-piece instrument panel with its church organ keys. This was replaced with a clean one-piece unit with all of the instruments housed in a single cluster under clear plastic. The panel flowed gracefully into the doors. In overall concept it was very similar to the 1950 Mercury panel which is generally regarded as one of the best looking and most functional instrument panels of the period. There were minor improvements in suspension and steering, carburetion, automatic choke and spark control. The engine did not change until late in the 1950 model year.

The Lincoln convertible was dropped because ’49 Mercury convertible sales had been so successful. A new model called the Lido was added. This was a coupe with a vinyl top and convertiblelike interior. Companions to the Lincoln Lido were the Mercury Monterey coupe and Lincoln Cosmopolitan Capri two-door sedan. All three of these models were introduced mid-year 1950 as Lincoln-Mercury’s answer to the new GM hardtops. Ford was caught off guard when GM introduced Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile hardtops in mid 1949 and a Chevrolet hardtop for 1950. Ford was so busy implementing its recovery program that it was not able to introduce a Ford hardtop until mid 1951. Lincoln and Mercury hardtops did not appear until 1952.

The most apparent 1951 change was the adaptation of the Mercury’s fishtail rear end, which did nothing to improve the styling, and the wider one-piece window which did much to improve rear visibility. Headlamps were set farther apart with a narrower bezel. The grille was reworked again. The ’49 bumpers gave way to a cleaner design which in the front began to integrate the bumper and grille, a styling theme which would be carried much farther in 1952. Interior changes were minor.

The biggest change was in the engine. This actually occurred late in the 1950 model year. As mentioned earlier, the vibration damper filled with a silicone fluid did not work out very well. This was blamed for a lot of complaints about engine vibration. Another problem was oil consumption. Lincoln had four piston rings in 1949 and early 1950, but this did not stop oil consumption. Going on the theory that the fourth ring dragged, they tried three rings later in 1950. This cured the problem and gave a slight horsepower boost. They further discovered that the vibration complaints stemmed not so much from the vibration damper as from a poorly balanced engine. Later 1950 models and all 1951s have improved engine balancing and improved vibration damping. The cylinder blocks were made with more alloy to increase cylinder bore durability. Minor engine improvements included the addition of distribution tubes in the water passages for better cooling to the exhaust valves.

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The three model lineup was continued: coupe, Lido coupe and sport sedan. Production was 4,482 coupes and Lido coupes and 12,279 sedans or 16,761 Lincolns, along with 15,813 Lincoln Cosmopolitans. Lincoln sales should not be disregarded despite their small numbers. The cars were being sold by established Lincoln-Mercury dealers, and it was much easier for them to sell a Mercury. Consider the prices. A 1950 Lincoln sport sedan like our driveReport car had a base price of $2,576 compared to $2,032 for a Mercury sport sedan. The car was actually priced midway between the Olds 98 deluxe sedan at $2,393 and the Buick Roadmaster sedan at $2,633, both of which had overhead-valve engines. Dynaflow was standard on the Buick Roadmaster. HydraMatic was optional on both the Olds and Lincoln. Ford was entirely correct in offering this junior Lincoln in order to compete as effectively as possible with GM and Chrysler, all of which had overhead-valve engines. But the car should have been priced closer to the Mercury, or there should have been a lower-priced version, say at around $2,250.