By Brian Earnest
It was going to take something special to make Chuck Gilpatrick want to part with his prized 1947 Lincoln coupe.
That something turned out to another Lincoln of the same vintage — only better.
Gilpatrick had to wave goodbye to the coupe four years ago to make room in his garage for his big green baby, a ’47 convertible that seems to be every bit as stunning today as when it was born 65 years go.
The way Gilpatrick talks about the car, it’s clear that he never takes the old Lincoln for granted. There aren’t many of them around, and he’s mighty glad to have one.
“I had always been looking for a convertible, but could never afford one,” said Gilpatrick, a resident of Waukesha, Wis. “I had a coupe sedan for five years and this car came up for sale in the Lincoln magazine. It was owned by a fella in Green Bay [Wis.]. He passed away and his widow put it up for sale and I spied it in the club magazine and the price was, I thought, affordable. I went up and looked at it the next day and that was the beginning of the whole saga.
“I was very, very fortunate to be able to get the car. I just kept my eyes open looking around, but everything I saw was either total wrecks or restored and $60,000 or $70,000 and I didn’t have that kind of money. The lady’s son said I was the first one up there with the cash and that’s how I got it. He said he had three people waiting for the car.”
Gilpatrick’s car is a lovely pale green with a tan interior and matching tan top. It was one of just 384 base Lincoln convertibles made for the 1947 model year, and according to the homework Gilpatrick has done on the cars, “there are only 10 known to exist.”
He’s not sure why, but Gilpatrick had never seen the convertible at any shows or Lincoln gatherings previously, even though the car was only about 2 hours away from his home. The previous owner had bought the car in Columbus, Ohio, in the early 1990s and had it restored a few years later. The car was originally sold new at a dealership in Detroit, but Gilpatrick hasn’t been able to learn much else about the Lincoln’s history.
“I don’t know if the previous owner had gone to many Lincoln meets or anything,” Gilpatrick said. “I had never seen the car before. In fact, I had never seen a convertible before. I knew they existed and I’d seen a lot of Continentals, but not a convertible like this one.”
Like most American cars, the first post-war Lincolns were basically re-heated 1942 models with a few minor changes. For 1946, Lincoln dropped the Zephyr moniker that had been around since 1935 and simply called its base model the 76H Lincoln Series. This included a convertible, two-door coupe and four-door “suicide door” sedan.
The base Lincolns were still largely overshadowed by their luxurious Continental siblings. The Continentals were still among the most beautiful and most desired American cars on the road at the time — stylish pieces of rolling artwork that were available only as coupes or convertibles. The two Lincoln lines shared some basic styling features and the cars looked similar from the front, but the Continental was pure luxury and performance, where the base Lincoln was more of an “everyman’s car.” With a base price of $2,533, you could almost have two base Lincoln convertibles for the price of one Continental droptop.
The post-war Lincolns had beefier grilles and much bigger bumpers than their pre-war ancestors. For 1947, the push-button door openers were replaced with more traditional handles and Lincoln badging was added to both sides of the hood.
Both the Lincolns and Continentals rolled on 125-inch-wheelbase chassis and shared the V-12 engine that had become the brand’s calling card. The 12 cylinders displaced 305 inches and produced 130 hp. A three-speed manual was standard. An overdrive gear was on the options list along with a leather interior — which Gilpatrick’s car has. A heater, radio and whitewall tires were also available.
A total of 19,891 base Lincolns were built for ’47, but only 384 of those were ragtops, according to Gilpatrick’s research. Ironically, although only 1,596 Continentals were built for the same year, those cars seem just as plentiful as the base Lincolns today. Production numbers for both Lincoln lines dropped for the 1948 model year, and for 1949 the company unveiled an all-new lineup of streamlined cars, including the debut Cosmopolitan.
Gilpatrick had never been particularly interested in Lincolns until about 10 years ago. He wasn’t looking to buy one until, like a lot of other vintage Lincoln owners, he discovered that they were a lot of car for the money in the collector car hobby. “I was actually a Ford V-8 fan,” he laughed. “I really wanted a Ford V-8 convertible, and of course that is another thing I couldn’t afford. When I came across the Lincoln, I thought, ‘Gosh, that’s a great-looking car,’ and the rest is history. I joined the Lincoln Club and started going to meets and it’s been a labor of love.”
He was probably going to buy the convertible regardless, but Gilpatrick was happy to find the car in excellent shape. It had been restored previously, drove fine and didn’t need a lot of work.
“I drove it around the neighborhood and it drove really very nice,” he said. “It shifted good, ran good and drove nice. It was mechanically in very good shape. When we got it home I discovered it had the wrong air cleaner on it and the wrong generator … and the carburetor was not right, so I changed all that stuff to make it as stock as I could.”
“It had a nylon top, which was not stock for the car, so I had a new hartz cloth top put on with the correct window in the back. It has overdrive, but they almost all did. That’s pretty much it. It’s got a vacuum antenna that goes up and down. Other than that, it was pretty much stock, I guess.”
Gilpatrick had to do some re-engineering with the oil line and filter. He had the car’s canister-type filter, but it wasn’t being used. “It was really weird. He had taken off the oil filter and just ran oil lines directly from one part of the block to the other end of the block,” he said. “He gave [the filter] to me and I had to have it de-chromed and painted black and get oil lines in it. It was a major job to put it all back in.”
He doesn’t figure the car will need a new paint job anytime soon, but if it does it will be another coat of green. That was the original color and that’s the way the car will stay. “I sent away to Ford for the build sheet for it and that’s the way it came from the factory,” Gilpatrick noted. “Everybody sees that color and says, ‘Oh, that is such a beautiful green, I’ve never seen a green like that!’ And they all carry on!… I also discovered that it came with Goodyear tires. Almost all of them had Firestone tires, but the original owner stipulated he wanted Goodyears, so that’s what it has. I’ve kept on with that.”
Gilpatrick also couldn’t resist adding some headers and dual exhausts with cherry bomb mufflers. He kept the old exhaust in case he ever changes his mind, but that’s not likely. “It sounds good,” he chuckles. “It kind of reminds me of two six-cylinder Chevys driving together.”
The odometer on the Lincoln shows about 72,000 miles. Gilpatrick tries to get the car out every few days when the weather is decent and has no reservations about driving the car to out-of-town car shows or rolling along in highway traffic.
“I go out as often as I can,” he said. “ I just really enjoy driving it in the back country roads at 40-50 mph — and stopping for ice cream.
“I don’t really think it has any bad road manners at all, to tell you the truth. The brakes are adequate and I love the overdrive. You can get on the freeway and cruise 65 with no problem. It doesn’t have power steering, but it steers very well … I love the way it drives.”
Gilpatrick had to give up his coupe when he discovered another car that was too good to pass up. He doesn’t expect that to happen again.
“No, I’m going to hang onto this car,” he said. “I’m very happy with what I have.”
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Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975
This revised 4th Edition is the most thorough post-WWII automobile reference ever assembled. This huge reference book includes complete model information for every American-made car manufactured from 1946-1975.