Scuderia Mugshots Part 6: ’51 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

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1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan
5.3 litre / 331 CI V8, 4 speed column shift automatic
(bizarrely, a GM hydramatic unit; Ford didn’t have a strong enough automatic transmission for the mighty 160hp of this, the last and largest Ford Flathead motor)
160hp
Bought 2009, Monterey Park, Los Angeles

It has taken me at least six months to move from one storage location to the new one. Part of the issue here is my poor organization and lack of focus, but part of the issue is around towing. Let me elaborate:

For many years, I have had an AAA membership which includes towing as one of the benefits. Of course, they envisage you stranded at the roadside, not requiring a tow on a giant ancient Lincoln which hasn’t been registered since 1965 and hasn’t even moved for three years. When I called, they said I could request a flatbed truck. I did. When it showed up, the guy told me that even though all four wheels would be off the road, AAA required that I have a one day move permit for the car. Cussedly, I went into the AAA office, expecting further obstructions, and I was not disappointed: the car was not in the DMV system, I would need to go into the DMV office, pay to register it in the system, and then get my permit.

So my first attempt at getting the Lincoln moved was crippled on the horns of beaurocracy. Notice all the DMV want is the $50 registration fee, which I don’t mind paying, but my pain is around the opaque, highly inconvenient process they make you go through to first work out this small tax is their goal, and then to actually pay them.

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The 1951 Lincoln was one of the first cars to have electric windows

A Second Attempt:
You’re probably thinking “what’s the big deal? Just rent a trailer and tow it yourself”. Indeed, that was my initial thought, before the aforementioned AAA debacle. I even went so far as buying a truck specifically for the job, however that is a whole separate misadventure of epic proportions to be detailed elsewhere. U-haul would rather you rented their truck to tow their trailer anyway, so why not do that ? The issue is U-haul envisage you moving house and towing your car, and therefore assume you will be able to drive the car up onto the trailer or dolly. What is needed to move non-functioning car is a trailer with a winch, but no one will rent a trailer with a winch on it, because winches snap and cripple those operating them, with the resulting horrible legal risk for anyone renting the equipment. The Fabricator has skill and experience around this, so I did in fact buy a winch when we moved the Mercury, but when even he, a man who I have seen climb telegraph poles, weld and use power equipment wearing flip flops, chose to cower behind his pick up while operating the winch,I decided it was a skill I didn’t need to develop any further.

So I hired people. What an industry! One online quote request and people are spamming me over email and text message weeks later. The guy I spoke to was responsive, then not, then referred me to a friend. I had no idea if a giant 18 wheeler car hauler was going to be showing up. Infact, it was two very short very stocky men with a 4 wheel trailer and a Ford F250.

The auspices were good; the smell of cat pee, so off-putting on my first attempt, was conspicuously absent. Miraculously, three of the four tires would hold air, so I hit Pick and Pull for the fourth, choosing a space saver spare from a Volvo S80, which had exactly the right tall, slim profile. $17. It was just a shame the wheel nuts are clustered close together in the middle of the wheel, unlike the Lincoln’s more wide spaced stud pattern. I noticed, but not before the two Mayan types had loosened the nuts holding the old wheel on the car, one holding the spanner to the nut, the other standing on the end delivering the most leverage, using his weight to do the job.
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I thought the driveshaft was disconnected; having told me to stand back, they dragged it forwards, the rear wheels locked. It struggled noisily up the ramp, and then there was a short delay, while they used the truck motor to recharge the battery which was operating the winch. This problem solved, it struggled on another whole foot or so, before the welding holding the winch onto the trailer broke.

Then they realized they had left the car in Park. With the transmission in Neutral, they were able to get it into place with hand operated “come-along” winches.

On the way to the new location, although I had followed them, and lost them in the traffic, I somehow arrived before them. Our agreement had been payment after loading, and for a moment, I panicked – “they’ve made off with my car !” – but then I realized the car isn’t worth anything – and indeed it transpired that whatever they may have had over me in brawn, they lacked in navigational skills.

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Thus it was that although I asked them to jockey it into position alongside the Mercury, mysteriously their English wasn’t as good as it had been before I had paid them, and they ditched the Lincoln blocking the three remaining spaces in my spot. It’s no problem, I have these wheel dolly devices I can use to shift it and the Mercury around.

I feel a sense of relief the move is completed, since I am now free to fettle the Pontiac, and get moving on the transformation of the Camaro.

Needs:
– In a sense, nothing. It’s in my “attic” storage now, just waiting until the day comes when finances and time allow re-animation into a tire-smoking biodiesel-powered tow vehicle.
– In another sense, everything; the motor is seized and given it only had 160hp, and parts are hard to find, I have no intention of rebuilding it.
– Interior

Futures:
I will buy a early nineties Dodge Ram pick up with the Cummins 12 valve diesel. These motors are well known for their longevity and hot-rodding potential, 700lb/ft of torque is realistic, even from a unit with 250k on it. We’ll use the entire mechanicals and electrics, lifting the Lincoln body onto the truck chassis and driveline, retaining the faded art deco glamour of the Lincoln’s dash and banishing any horrible Mopar nineties plastic. The chassis of the truck will need shortening a little. I am scouring Copart vehicle salvage auctions to find the right truck – a two wheel drive with automatic transmission, perhaps something with a bit of light body damage. Ideally it would be something I could drive now, allowing me to also teach myself about bio-diesel, and hot-rodding the Cummins motors.

Once truck chassis and Lincoln body have been united, I will get the interior professionally done, in the original navy and brown. My criteria here is it has to be nice enough for women to feel comfortable riding in it. The body, originally baby blue, stays battleship grey, and it will remain on those steel wheels. Completed, this will be the ugliest, most unexpected tow vehicle you ever saw. I think it will be even more effective at clearing the fast lane of ditherers than the Camaro. The decision to use the Lincoln as a tow car was inspired by pioneer Socal hotrodder Bill Stroppe, who used ’50 and ’51 Lincolns on the Carrera Panamericana road race, both as competition and tow cars.

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