A Premature Party?

October 10, 2016

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This story originally appeared in the Hemmings Daily Blog. Words by Dan Strohl

One would think a well-established company such as Lincoln would have a firm grasp on its history and be able to consistently celebrate its anniversaries, but it appears determined to mark its centennial in 2017 and has convinced the organizers of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to follow suit.

To be fair, Henry Leland and his son Wilfred did establish Lincoln Motor Company in August 1917, four months after quitting Cadillac. The Lincoln Motor Company that they established that year, however, was incorporated for the sole purpose of building Jesse Vincent and Elbert Hall-designed Liberty V-12 engines for the effort to win World War I after Leland convinced the U.S. government to advance him $10 million for a contract to build as many as 17,000 engines. Not until after they partially completed that contract in March 1919 did the Lelands – after briefly considering going into business as an automobile engine supplier – start putting together plans to build automobiles once again. Whatever his ultimate intentions in founding Lincoln Motor Company in 1917 – some accused him of war profiteering and of manipulating the need for engines to secure himself a nice new factory – Leland and his son didn’t announce their intentions to build an automobile until late 1919 and didn’t actually begin production until September 1920, designating the first Lincolns as 1921 model year cars.

As authors Ottilie M. Leland and Minnie Dubbs Millbrook pointed out in their biography of Henry Leland (pictured right), the Lelands even reincorporated Lincoln Motor Company under the same name in January 1920, this time as a Delaware corporation, before embarking on their automotive venture. Yet among the featured classes at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is one dedicated to Lincoln’s centennial. A spokesperson for the concours said that the basis for the class came not from within the concours organization. Rather, the class was chosen by Lincoln itself. Any rationale for the class from Lincoln would directly contradict the company’s previous anniversary celebrations, the most noteworthy of which came in 1996 when Lincoln released Diamond Anniversary Editions of the Town Car, Continental, and Mark VIII. “The Lincoln Motor Car Company was established in 1921, aspiring to create preeminent vehicles,” the 1996 Lincoln brochures read. “Lincoln. What a luxury car should be. For 75 years.” Lincoln’s public relations office did not respond to a request for comment on who suggested the class or why the company chose to celebrate its centennial next year rather than in 2020 or 2021.

The Lincoln Motor Company is currently listed as a sponsor for the concours. Lincoln enthusiasts, on the other hand, have chosen to celebrate three Lincoln-related centennials over the next few years. Next year, all four major Lincoln clubs (the Lincoln Owners Club, the Lincoln and Continental Owners Club, the Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club, and the Road Race Lincoln Register) will hold their national meets as part of the annual Lincoln homecoming in August at the Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum at the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan.

They will then celebrate the centennial of the first Lincoln automobile in 1920 as well as the centennial of Lincoln’s acquisition by Ford in 1922. Other featured classes at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance include Isotta Fraschini cars, Castagna Coachwork cars, and American Dream Cars of the 1960s. For more information on the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, visit PebbleBeachConcours.net.

Editor’s note; Henry Leland was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1973

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