BRADFORD WERNLE

Lincoln stand gets a touch of old-school luxury from an Edsel

Automotive News | January 9, 2012 - 12:01 am EST

One of the stories of the Detroit auto show will be Lincoln's high-stakes effort to reinvent itself as a luxury brand that appeals to a new breed of "culturally progressive" customers. In Lincoln's view, these customers love the finer things in life and are tuned in to art, culture and design.

Lincoln's flashy new auto show stand, designed to resemble an art gallery, will feature a historic car commissioned by a man who certainly would qualify as a "culturally progressive" customer.

Edsel Ford was fascinated by European sports cars and ordered up the Model 40 Special Speedster.

That would be Edsel Ford I, patron of the arts and one of the auto industry's great Renaissance men. On the upper level of its stand, Lincoln will show the 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster that Edsel asked E.T. Gregorie, Ford's chief stylist at the time, to design.

Edsel Ford

Edsel conceived the car upon his return from a 1932 trip to Europe, where he was inspired by the sports cars he saw. This came at about the same time he commissioned Mexican artist Diego Rivera to paint his now famous murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The aluminum-bodied machine was built on a modified 1934 Ford chassis and was powered by a Ford Flathead 8 teamed with a three-speed manual gearbox. The car was restored in 2009, and Edsel Ford II unveiled it at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

At the ceremony, he said: "My grandfather was an early believer that everyday objects -- including automobiles -- could be seen as works of art. While he wasn't a designer in the traditional sense, his eye for styling and influence was apparent as he initiated and built the design department at Ford Motor Co."

Bradford Wernle covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive NewsBradford Wernle covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive News

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