According to a 1964 Lincoln-Mercury public relations release, a caravan of special new Lincoln-Mercury show cars, along with a display of historic vehicles, was touring the nation’s shopping centers prior to going on display at the New York World’s Fair that year. The “Caravan of Stars,” commemorating Mercury’s Silver Anniversary, was the first new group of advanced-styling cars to be exhibited in a road show by any automaker in several years.
The styling show cars included the Mercury Super Marauder, the Comet Super Cyclone and our feature car, the Lincoln Continental Town Brougham. The historical vehicles included a 1939 Mercury, the presidential “bubble-top” 1950 Lincoln, a 1964 Comet dressed up like those that were competing in the East African Safari road rallies – the first American entry to accept the challenge of what was then being touted as the world’s toughest competitive automotive event – and the 1964 Comet Caliente that had just set hundreds of endurance records by running 100,000 miles at an average speed of more than 105 mph. None of the styling cars were being planned for production, just to test public reaction.
Ford stylists originally created the Town Brougham in 1961 to be presented to the White House for use as Jacqueline Kennedy’s personal car. It was quickly turned down by the White House and sat dormant until Ford decided to make the three concept cars for 1964. It was built upon a 131-inch wheelbase, 8 inches longer than the production car (only 5 inches longer than 1964 models), and its overall length is 221.3 inches. An open chauffeur’s compartment and a limousine-type division window gave the car a retro flavor of the custom-built town cars of the Classic era (1920s to early 1940s). The Brougham idea originated with a formal, two-passenger, razor-edged paneled single-horse carriage that was first ordered by Henry Peter, England’s first Baron of Brougham and Vaux and prominent Liverpool-based lawyer and Whig politician.
The body of the Lincoln Town Brougham was similar to 1964 production models, with the addition of small turning lights in the front fenders and courtesy lights on the post between the front and rear compartments. It was updated, again, with the flatter front end with wraparound sidelights found on 1965 models, along with the updated rear end. Outside mirrors were added at a later date. Interior features included liberal application of walnut moldings, upholstery embroidered with the Continental emblem, and custom fixtures such as built-in magazine racks, rear seat radio and intercom. Because it’s a show car, there are no side windows, no glove box, no washer reservoir and the radio in the rear doesn’t work.
Some people consider this to be the finest postwar design to be on a Lincoln chassis. The car is stunning when seen in person, though books and magazines state the car isn’t road worthy. Handlers were warned that the car was cobbled together and shouldn’t be driven; or, it should only be driven at low speeds and with utmost care. Joe Bortz, Chicago concept car collector and current owner, refutes the statements, saying that it drives great. Mileage on the car is at just 8,000.
Bortz learned of the car after getting a lead from Lowell Kousins, who was aware that the Bortz Auto Collection was still looking for concept cars. Bortz wasn’t searching for this car, specifically, because he didn’t know it existed. As soon as he heard from Kousins, he got on the phone to negotiate its purchase.
It’s only been cosmetically restored on the outside with new paint, new chrome and some engine detailing. He doesn’t know, nor has he heard, of any rumors as to how the Lincoln escaped the possession of the Ford Motor Company, but he would certainly look forward to hearing from any AACA members who might have some information.
The Bortz Auto Collection is still looking for any leads on concept, design study, and dream cars. If you have any information, Joe can be reached at 847-668-2004.
West Peterson is editor of Antique Automobile, the official publication of the Antique Automobile Club of America.