Blank Canvas Project: 1939 Lincoln Zephyr Sedan

It is common for a father and son to share many character traits, but nothing could be further from the truth in the case of Henry and Edsel Ford. While Henry could be charming and generous when the mood took him, he was also capable of being ruthless, rude, and aggressive. Edsel was a keen and intelligent businessman, and few people regarded him as anything but a gentleman both socially and in business. Henry had little time for vehicle refinement and development or engines with more than four cylinders. Historians believe that he would have been happy to continue building his beloved Model T until the day he died. Edsel’s tastes were more refined and cultured, and he could see the benefits in the power and smoothness that rested in engines with eight or twelve cylinders. This is why Henry never ventured into the Lincoln factory from the day he took ownership. At the same time, Edsel immersed himself within the company’s design and engineering departments to develop cars like the Lincoln Zephyr. Our feature car is a 1939 Zephyr, and it holds promise as the foundation for a project build. It is a genuine blank canvas, and the buyer could pursue one of several paths to return it to active duty. If you find the prospect tempting, you will find the Zephyr located in Wayland, Michigan, and listed for sale here on Barn Finds Classifieds. You could park this classic in your workshop for a mere $4,800.

As a foundation for a project build, this Zephyr holds some promise. Its body sports some minor dings and dents, but none of these appear bad enough to justify panel replacement. There is plenty of exterior surface corrosion, but there is no evidence of penetrating rust. The buyer might choose to sand the body by hand to remove this and the tired black paint, although I suspect that soda-blasting might be a quicker and more effective solution. The frame has also accumulated surface corrosion, but it is structurally sound. The buyer will need to compile a shopping list as part of the revival process, including many trim pieces and a complete glass set. However, reproduction parts are surprisingly easy to find, and genuine parts pop up regularly on online auction sites.

The worst of this classic’s rust problems are confined to the floor, courtesy of some wet carpet. These will need some work, but I had no issues locating a supplier who can offer a complete set of floorpans for around $300. With those installed, that would be the end of the problems. The car would originally have featured a beautiful 267ci flathead V12 that produced 110hp. Its power was fed to the rear wheels via a three-speed manual transmission. I speak in the past tense because both the engine and transmission are gone. However, the vehicle does roll and steer. If the buyer intends to perform a faithful restoration, they may face a search to locate replacements for those items, although that is why the car represents a blank canvas. There is plenty of space in the engine bay, allowing the builder to slot almost anything in place of the V12. A V8 would slip in there with room to spare, which opens the possibility of a custom or restomod build. As someone once said, the world is your oyster.

In its prime, this Zephyr’s interior would have featured Art Deco touches, along with all of the style and refinement that were part of any vehicle that received the Edsel Ford touch. There would have been some tasteful chrome on the dash and mohair upholstery on the seats, door trims, and headliner. Its best days are now behind it, but enough parts remain that the buyer could piece together something pretty special. The seats and one door trim are present, and these could serve as templates if the buyer employs an upholsterer to create custom trim. The steering column has been cut, so the buyer might have a search on their hands. Alternatively, there are aftermarket options that offer the versatility of a tilt wheel. Once again, this is a blank canvas waiting for someone to make their mark.

If a buyer is dedicated and patient, I can’t see any reason why this 1939 Lincoln Zephyr couldn’t be returned to its former glory. Locating some of the missing mechanical components may not be easy, but it certainly isn’t impossible. However, I believe that this classic’s fate will be to serve as the foundation of a custom or restomod build. It would be ideally suited to either application and would be a distinctive and eye-catching vehicle once completed. Which path would you follow, and are you tempted to pursue this one further? If you long for a slightly unusual classic, it should be worth the effort.


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  1. Chris Webster

    Still a flat head on buggy springs underneath.

    Like 3
  2. Richard Haner

    since you have to do the floors anyway, section out the 2 rear doors and put it on something like and s10 chassis would be my thinking…

  3. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Back in the 50’s about a 1/4 mile behind my dads farm a neighbor had a 39 Lincoln Zephyr 4 door sedan that had been parked for quite some time. It sat there long after the owners moved away then in the early 70’s a son in law of theirs took the car to restore it. That’s the last I ever saw it. But it was complete at the time.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  4. robert vlasic

    although I feel this would be a monumental challenge I do have a steering column if anyone is interested.

  5. Bill Hall

    This is not a project to Make $$ on. It would be something to build for your own enjoyment and whatever else but it won’t make money. A modern 5.0 Ford Motor would great and go from there on the rest of drivetrain.

    Like 1
  6. charlie Member

    The V 12 that came with it was a problem engine, and, many, especially the Continental body’s, were replaced with V8’s, Caddy sometimes, so since it will never be “original”, put a good modern Ford engine in and while you are at it, a new suspension, well, then a new frame and suspension, and, well, then, new everything else except the body panels, and fool the s… out of the people you pass at 85 mph. But you have to have $, or, a shop, or be Jay Leno to do this.

  7. Bill McCoskey

    What once was only fit to be used for spare parts, is now a candidate for either restoration or more likely, a restorod.

    • DON

      It looks to me like it was already harvested for spare parts , whether sitting in a junkyard for years, or used as a parts car for another Zephyr

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