Some people believe the 1956 Lincoln Premier four-door sedan was the best-looking Lincoln sedan ever built. One of those is El Sobrante resident Bill Edwards, and another one is me.
Edwards knows a lot about Lincolns, as he was a career Lincoln mechanic for the Richmond and Oakland Lincoln dealerships.
Edwards said "1956 was the year Lincoln decided to take on Cadillac." Lincoln almost doubled its sales with the 1956 models. It was available in two series: the Capri, the less-expensive model, and the Premier, which had all the bells and whistles available in the mid-1950s.
Standard equipment with the Premier included Linc-o-matic automatic transmission, a power front bench seat, and power windows, steering, brakes and antenna. It also had an automatic headlight dimmer. Two unusual features are an interior rear-view mirror that can be raised or lowered and the Multi Luber. "Every day," Edwards said, "when you started the car, you pushed the button (on the dash) to automatically lubricate the whole car."
The 1956 Lincoln was powered with a 386 c.i., 285 HP V8-engine and used a 12-volt electrical system for the first time. The Premier had driving lights, front and rear heaters, and a town and country AM radio with a rear-seat speaker.
Edwards said a new 1956 Lincoln Premier cost about $3,800 ($32,566 in today's dollars). Edwards' car has air conditioning, but less than 1 percent of the 1956 Lincolns did. Air conditioning, the Premier's only option, cost about $1,000 ($8,570). The air conditioning unit is in the trunk with outside air vents on the rear fenders. The cool air goes through the rear package shelf in clear plastic tubes to overhead air ducts that function similarly to airline vents.
In that time period, great size equaled great status. The 1956 Lincoln sedan sat on a 126-inch wheelbase, was more than 18½-feet long and weighed 4,822 pounds. As a comparison, a 2014 Lincoln MKS sedan sits on a 112.9-inch wheelbase, is about 17 feet long and weighs 4,151 pounds.
Edwards is the third owner. The first owner was a woman who had a chauffeur. It was then owned by a man in Lafayette. Edwards and the second owner knew each other since both were members of the Lincoln Club. In 1986, the owner, aware of Edwards' interest in this Lincoln, invited him to look the car over, drive it and even take it home. (In the selling business, that is known as "the take the puppy home, and see if the kids like it" technique.)
"A week later, we set up a meeting to talk about the price," Edwards said. I told my wife no matter what price he wants, I'm going to offer half. I was fully expecting an asking price of $8,000. When we got there, he said, 'All right. We're not going to haggle on price. I want $2,000.' I looked at my wife and said write him a check this minute."
In 1996, Ford Motor Co. wanted to use Edwards' 1956 Lincoln in a car show in Dearborn, Mich., because they had learned it was original and flawless. It was quite an honor, and Edwards would be Ford's guest for two weeks, but there was a catch. Ford wouldn't pay to have the car transported. Edwards and his wife wanted to go, having never been east of Denver. There seemed to be only one solution.
Their plan called for Edwards' wife to fly to Michigan and ride home with Edwards. Edwards invited a friend to drive with him to Dearborn and then fly home.
"I told him we're going to drive it 50 mph and maybe go 500 miles a day. But by the time we got to Fairfield, we threw that 50 MPH plan out the window, and we cruised at 85 to 90 mph. We made it to Dearborn in 2½ days."
Gas mileage is not a real bragging point. "If I behave myself," Edwards said, "I might get 14 mpg highway, but I usually get around 10."
The car, which has 103,000 miles on it, has required only routine maintenance. The dark metallic green paint is in excellent shape as are the comfortable leather and cloth bench seats.
Edwards estimates the Lincoln's current market value at about $25,000. "It's probably worth more than a restored car in the same condition just because it is original."
I asked if that old-style air conditioning worked well. Apparently, many Lincoln mechanics could give personal testimonials as to its effectiveness. Edwards laughed as he confessed, "Unknown to the dealership management, on hot summer days some of us mechanics would sit in new Lincolns with the air on to eat our lunch." Not only did they have a cool and comfortable lunch, they got to enjoy the new car smell.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.