What Is It?

The car in last week’s photo was the 1936 Lincoln-Zephyr – or at least, the back half of it. The car was a smaller Lincoln introduced that year whose popularity eventually helped save Ford’s luxury division during the Depression.


The sleek sedan carried many of the streamlining details of the Chrysler Airflow from two years earlier and was more aerodynamic. Where the Airflow foundered, though, the Lincoln attracted buyers to showrooms.

In later years, the hyphen was dropped, and Zephyr became just another Lincoln model.

Our clue last week was: “By its very name, this car belongs here at the end of the year.” Many of you picked up on the hint that Zephyr begins with the last letter of the alphabet in the last few days of the year. (OK, technically, it was Lincoln-Zephyr, and hence the letter L, but our defense is that most people don’t know about the hyphenation that the model started out with.)

By the way, we asked only for the make and model – Lincoln Zephyr – not the year, so we didn’t disqualify entries on that basis.

Chosen randomly from the correct entries was the name of loyal reader Lowell Fritsche, who told us: “The 1936 Zephyr was a pretty neat old car. I remember the Zephyr particularly because my mother was born and raised near a town called Quick, Neb., which consisted of a Methodist church and a little store.

“When people would come to church, there was a distant relative who was a little short farmer. He had one of the first ’36 Lincoln Zephyrs out there. He’d come driving that car into the churchyard and you could just barely see him in there.

“Out there in that Nebraska country, a car was just something to haul a cow in if you had to, but not to him. He kept that Zephyr shiny and pretty.

“The 1936s and ’37s had about the same taillights, so it could have been either one but I will say the ’36.”

Fritsche wins a gift from The Augusta Chronicle. Other readers identifying the vehicle were:

AUGUSTA: Walker Mobley Jr. wrote: “This week’s photo looks like a 1936 or 1937 Lincoln Zephyr four-door sedan. I don’t think there was too much visible difference between the two years in regard to body styling.

“These cars came with a flathead V-12 engine, 267 cubic inches, advertised at 110 horsepower, with a three-speed floor-shift transmission.

“Rumor has it that hot rodders used to look for these transmission gears for use in Ford gearboxes. As I said, rumor. Please keep these puzzles coming.”

John Hayes wrote: “You picked a difficult car to identify, but I think I’ll go with a 1938 Lincoln Zephyr.”

George Drake said it looked to him like a 1940-48 Zephyr.

Jerry Sandlin thought it might be about a 1939 Zephyr.

EVANS: Jerry Paul wrote: “My guess for this week’s auto is a 1937 (or 1936) Lincoln Zephyr.”

Bill Harding wrote: “The original V-12 Lincoln-Zephyr was produced for model years 1936-40. Created to do battle with three of General Motors products (Buick, La Salle and Oldsmobile) for which Ford had no direct competitor, the Lincoln-Zephyr became somewhat of a red-headed stepchild when Mercury debuted in the 1939 model year.

“Even though the radical streamlined Chrysler Airflow preceded the Zeph by
two model years, the Airflow is considered to have been a failure for Chrysler, while the Zeph was a major success for Lincoln.”

Wayne Wilke wrote: “The car is a Lincoln Zephyr. I think it is a 1936 or 1937 model year. At first glance, I thought that it was a Chrysler (Airflow) also from the mid-30s, but on closer inspection and with your helpful hint, Zephyr it is. The Zephyr was a big car with a V-12 engine and aerodynamic and leading-edge styling.”

Also from Evans, Jim Williamson.

HARLEM: Frank Jenkins Jr. recognized the Zephyr because, as he put it, “I was alive back then.”

KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner wrote: “It had a rather small, 75-degree V-12 flathead. Like the early flathead Ford V-8s, it was prone to have hot spots in the engine because of the exhaust arrangements. I believe the crankshaft on the V-12s had reliability issues, also.

LOUISVILLE, GA.: Robert L. Holbert wrote: “This a real shot in the dark. I believe it is a 1941 Lincoln Zephyr.”

MARTINEZ: Jim Muraski wrote: “This week’s car is a Lincoln Zephyr four-door sedan. The Zephyr V-12 was produced from 1936 to 1940. I believe this particular one to be the first-year 1936 model.”

Joe Bert said he figured it was the mid-1930s Chrysler Airflow, then pointed out that “another alternative was the Lincoln Zephyr, which also was a nice stylized car, so it could be either one. He went on to say: “Thanks for picking American classics and muscle cars for the contest.”

Lloyd B. Schnuck nailed it down as the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr four-door. “The Lincoln Zephyr was the marque for the lower-priced line of luxury cars in the Lincoln line from 1936-40. Different taillights and grilles (in) 1938-40. The car was concieved by Edsel Ford (much more artistic than pragmatic father, Henry) and designed by Eugene Turenne Gregorie. Nicely designed with flowing lines and more aerodynamic than the Chrysler Airflow..”

Cheryl Cook said:I think the car is a Lincoln Zephyr, 1938-39 maybe? I can’t believe I missed the GTO last week! I definitely remember my brother having one that he loved!”

NORTH AUGUSTA: Peggy Jones identified it as the 1936 Zephyr.

PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson guessed the Zephyr without actually seeing the photograph, which is a fine skill. A glitch kept the photo from being visible online last Friday, so faithful reader Anderson, aided by a friend in the Augusta area who described the car to him, took our hint – about the car’s name putting it at the end – into account and came up with the right car. Like another reader, Anderson first thought it was the Oldsmobile Omega – Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – but worked out the solution.

THOMSON: Ken Richards wrote: “This week’s contest went all the way back to when I was growing up (born in 1930). At first, I thought it was a 1934 Chrysler Imperial Airflow, but then I didn’t see the Chrysler emblem on the fender skirt. So I think it is a 1938 or ’39 Lincoln Zephyr. Just love them old cars!”

WARRENVILLE: James Covar said that the 1936 Zephyr had a 110-horsepower, 267-cubic-inch V-12 engine and that more than 13,000 of the cars were built that year.

NO CITY LISTED: Ben Brandenburg said it was about a 1940 Zephyr.

Jody Crabtree wrote: “It appears to be a ’36 Lincoln Zephyr. I believe that to be the first year for that model and the first year for the Lincoln V-12. That year was much nicer looking than the Mercury Zephyrs of the 1970s and ’80s. Most prewar cars were better-looking than anything today.”

OTHER GUESSES: The Zephyr’s resemblance to the Chrysler Airflow caused a number of readers to guess the Chrysler, and we wanted to include everyone’s guesses and comments but simply couldn’t. Because many cars of that era look similar to today’s eyes, it’s fun to read what our readers say about the old cars, even when they miss the mark a little.

We didn’t have room to print all the comments made by those readers, but here are their names and guesses:

Tom Wall, 1936 Ford sedan; Sammy Whitfield, Oldsmobile; Don Finch, 1938 Chrysler Royale; Larry Heath, 1934 Chrysler Airflow; PJ Rodgers, 1935 Chrysler Imperial Model C-2 Airflow; Paul Perdue, Chrysler Airflow; Jack Williams, 1934 Chrysler Airflow; Robby Crawford, Chrysler Airflow; Ted Wasserlein, 1934-37 Chrysler or Desoto Airflow; Michael Bryant, Oldsmobile Omega; Al DeLaigle and Eric Calvert, 1935 Nash; Edmond “Lurch” Kida, Buick Century (also based on the hint about the year, we think); and Anita A. Gregg, 1942 P12 Plymouth.


Thanks to all our readers who took part in What Is It? in 2013. We look forward to your guesses in the new year.

From the early 20th century, let’s skip ahead to the early 21st century. Do you recognize the make and model of this 2014 automobile? Send your guess to glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com or leave a message at (706) 823-3419.

Please tell us your name, telephone number and the city. If you call, please spell your name so we’ll get it right.

You have until midnight Tuesday to respond. A winner will be chosen randomly. Submissions will be edited for length, style and content. Thank you.

– Glynn Moore, staff writer