Lincoln Speedster Seen
Rare Car Makes Detroit Appearance
Courtesy of Ford House - January 20, 2012 01:46 PM
Edsel Ford’s 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster took the stage alongside Lincoln’s stunning new vehicles for the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The Speedster offers a glimpse into the early years of Edsel Ford’s design and automotive styling vision, and provides a historical link to his lasting impact on Lincoln.
“My grandfather’s contributions to Ford Motor Company were immense, but one of the most significant was his role in the acquisition of Lincoln 90 years ago,” said Edsel B. Ford II. “He had a true eye for styling and understood the power of a beautifully elegant design, which guided his development of the brand. It’s a tremendous pleasure to see his vision and influence carried forward.”
As president of Ford Motor Company and its luxury brand Lincoln, Edsel Ford initiated and formed the first design department at the company. His collaboration with E.T. “Bob” Gregorie, who became the company’s first chief designer, allowed this approach to art to take shape in automobiles, which became especially visible through the Lincoln brand. Under Edsel’s direction, Lincoln became one of America’s top-tier luxury brands. His desire to reflect art in everyday objects had a distinct impact on the style revolution of the 1930s.
Ford and Gregorie designed and built a number of one-off vehicles. Each helped to bring Ford’s personal design vision to life.
The Speedster’s story is remarkable not just as a forerunner to future designs, including production vehicles like the 1941 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet, which Frank Lloyd Wright called “the most beautiful car in the world,” but for the journey it took over the last 77 years, including the 40-year span when the car disappeared and was presumed destroyed.
The inclusion of the Speedster at NAIAS underscores the legacy of Lincoln while highlighting the new era for the brand.
“The Speedster’s simple design language and beautiful proportions reflect an unadorned, restrained elegance,” said Max Wolff, Lincoln Design Director. “It was ahead of its time with integrated headlamps, a one-piece hood, enclosed radiator with a concealed cap, and no running boards. It foreshadowed future design. The Speedster is very distinctive, very elegant, and actually, very Lincoln.”
In 1932, upon returning from a European trip, Edsel asked Gregorie, who had previously worked at Harley Earl’s GM Art and Colour studio, to design and supervise the construction of a personal roadster similar to those he’d seen on the European continent.
The first design reportedly disappointed Edsel, who wanted something lower and racier. Gregorie created a more dramatic, streamlined design. This “continental” roadster may have started with a stock 1934 Ford (aka Model 40) frame, but its subsequent chassis was radically altered. The Model 40 Special Speedster was unlike anything Ford Motor Company had built up to that time.
After Edsel’s death in 1943, the Speedster crisscrossed the U.S. and in 1958 was purchased by a U.S. Navy sailor in Florida for $603 … then it disappeared.
Forty years later Bill Warner, founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, discovered the Speedster was still in Florida and purchased it. He conducted minor restoration on the car and displayed it at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 1999.
In 2008, Warner sold it to a Texas car collector for $1.76 million. Following the collector’s untimely death in 2010, the Speedster was acquired by Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (Ford House), the nonprofit historic estate of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, located in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich.
Ford House engaged RM Auto Restoration (RM) in Ontario, Canada, to completely rebuild and restore the vehicle, which over the years had alterations made to its grille, engine, paint and interior. During the restoration process RM revealed the stunning, custom-made “one off” as it originally looked in 1940 after its final redesign by Edsel and Gregorie. The restoration resolved many long-held assumptions about the illustrious vehicle’s journey over time.
Lincoln and Ford House unveiled the restored Model 40 Special Speedster in August 2011 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, Calif. It then appeared at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and in the Lincoln display at the Los Angeles Auto Show.