Rare 1948 Lincoln Continental Has V12 Engine And Rusty Exterior

WATERBURY, CT – It has the heft and profile of a hippopotamus and a gait to match when in motion, despite having a V12 engine. “It’s not a hot rod. It goes, but it’s smooth, nice and easy. Stopping it is harder than going,” said Jarrett Smith of Waterbury last fall of his unrestored 1948 Lincoln Continental coupe.

The mottled exterior of Smith’s model is primarily gray, which makes the hippo description, applied affectionately because its bulky appearance and lumbering manner, apropos. 

“I love the car. You just don’t see a lot of ’em out there. How many of these do you see on the road? And it’s just different and I’m different. I like different,” he said.

“I just feel like a king when I drive this car. It’s like a luxury car. Back in the day, it cost as a much as a house when you bought this car brand new.” J.D. Power lists the original base MSRP of the 1948 Lincoln Continental coupe at $4,662.

Smith has owned the six-passenger Lincoln for a year or so. He was aware of its existence for a few years but the previous owner was reluctant to sell. The older gentleman was aware of Smith’s interest, though. “He’d been promising and finally the day came across, he said, “Hey, you want to car?’ I said, ‘I sure do.’” 

See the 1948 Lincoln Continental in action in this YouTube video…

Lincoln, a luxury division of Ford, introduced the Continental in 1939. The first generation was built for the 1940-1942 and 1946-1948 model years. Production halted during World War II. It came in coupe and convertible versions. 

Only 847 coupes were built for the 1948 model year, making Smith’s car a rarity. “There was just something about it. It’s just a classy car. Had my name written all over it,” he said.

Rather than restore the Lincoln, Smith decided to keep it as-is with rust blotches on the body, and its patina certainly makes it more noticeable.

“I feel like if I go ahead and put all the money into it to paint it and all the time, which I wouldn’t mind, I feel like it’ll just stay in the garage. I’ll never want to pull it out because I won’t want to get  a scratch on it,” he said.

“Right now, I leave it on the road. When I want to go for a ride, I jump in it. I take it to work. I don’t care about where I park it. If I do all that work, it’s just going to be a garage queen and I like to use it.”

It is Smith’s understanding that the Lincoln was once owned by an Oklahoma oilman, a former general who served in the Korean War. As bad as its paint is, its trim looks much better. The odometer reveals an astonishingly low number that raises questions.

“This car came out of Oklahoma, so any rust you see is just surface rust, and it must have been in a garage. They took really good care of this car. It sat for a while because I think the mileage is true at 8,000 miles ’cause it still turns, unless it flipped once or twice, I don’t know,” Smith said.

While the Lincoln has a three-speed manual transmission with shifter on the steering column, it does have some luxury features. “Believe it or not, it has power windows from 1948 that work. Functional. And that blew my mind right there. It has a nice radio. Looks like an old school jukebox. Has the old clock. I love that,” Smith said.

The Lincoln is visually stunning with fender skirts obscuring the rear wheels, a trunk-mounted spare tire, a Bakelite steering wheel, and a plush cabin that is accessed via push-button doors. “They took out about 10 patents just to build this car that they use today – one of them being the power windows,” Smith said.

It was actually the Packard brand that introduced power windows to cars in the fall of 1940 on its Packard 180 model. Lincoln added the feature in 1941. 

The Lincoln is Smith’s first and only classic car. He has owned old motorcycles, notably a Harley-Davidson Shovelhead and a 1971 BSA. He currently has two motorcycles –  a 2006 Harley-Davidson Street Glide and a 1999 Big Dog Pit Bull. 

Lincoln ended production of the Continental with the 1948 model year, and the Continental name went into hibernation for eight years. The second generation Continental Mark II appeared for the 1956 model year. 

Smith has had one misfortunate incident with the Lincoln. After filling the gas tank one day, he got “maybe two houses away” when the bead on a tire popped off the rim. “I tell ya, when you get a flat tire on this car, it is not like getting a flat tire on a normal car,” he said.

It was likely akin to wrestling a hippo.

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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