The First Zephyr

Just recently, specifically from 2005 to 2006, Lincoln was using the Zephyr name on their mid-size luxury car.

Older car enthusiasts will note that the model name Zephyr has a long and distinguished history within Ford Motor Company.

This all occurred during the early part of the last century.

The history of the Zephyr actually can be traced to the original Henry Ford’s only son, Edsel.


It was Edsel that first realized that his dad’s famous phrase, “Customers can have [their car] in any color as long as it’s black” was becoming a bit antiquated and arranged for other colors of paint to be applied to new Ford vehicles. And it was Edsel that realized that they needed an upscale car in the Ford lineup in addition to just a lot of new colors on existing models.

In 1922, Ford, with much lobbying by Edsel, purchased the bankrupt Lincoln Motor Company. Lincoln was one of the finest automobiles of its generation and Edsel felt it would make an excellent premium line for Ford. This decision was to prove to be an excellent one. Within a few years, Ford Motor Company had the Lincoln line of automobiles fully re-engineered and re-released and they were a hit. It wasn’t until 1936 that Ford produced a lower-priced model to complement its more prestigious Lincoln line. The name Zephyr was chosen and aesthetically the “Lincoln Zephyr” contained design characteristics that were far ahead of its time.


The Zephyr was a masterpiece of styling and quickly became approximately eighty percent of Lincoln’s total auto sales. One of the reasons was its engine. Powered by a big V-12, the Zephyr was able to reach a “phenomenal” top speed of 90 mph. And even though the body was constructed in the conventional way with a strong, separate frame, the overall weight of the car was surprisingly light and handled nicely. One new feature that was added to the Zephyr was an all-steel roof (previous roofs were fabric based).

As the folks at Lebanon Ford tell us, had it not been for the release of the new mid-range Mercury line of automobiles with a similar style, the Zephyr likely would have been a top seller in the auto industry in the thirties and everyone would know the Zephyr name. During World War II, Lincoln changed the name of the Zephyr to the Continental and after the war ended, Lincoln decided to leave the Zephyr name to the history books. It wasn’t until 2005 that Lincoln revisited using the Zephyr name but changed it to the MKZ in 2006 to fit into its stable of other “MK” cars, such as the MKC, MKX, MKS and MKT.

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