The Lynx Project News...
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The restoration and repair of the four factory Lynx concept cars continues after the discovery, in 2007, of two of the four long-lost Lincoln-Mercury prototypes in a Indiana warehouse with the other two being located at a private residence of the same fellow that inherited the warehouse. The owner (the now-elderly widow of the original owner) of the four cars – who has elected to remain out of the limelight. In 2008, this owner sold the four prototypes cars and a truckload of memorabilia to a group of investors from Salt Lake City, Utah. The widow, as one condition of her sale of the vehicles, asked The Lynx Team to create a series of scale vehicles and dioramas to portray the history of these impossibly rare vehicles and how they survived since going into hiding in 1965 – as a tribute to her husband.
The Lynx Project exists to present, in scale model form, one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the American automobile. The new owners of the Lynx prototypes (which have been, until very recently, unknown even to the most knowledgeable of auto historians – have asked a group of noted scale miniaturists to create in miniature many aspects of the newly-discovered saga of the Lynx vehicle. This website is devoted to the unfolding story of the real cars and the scale miniature project that will be presented at the Twenty-Fourth GSL International Scale Vehicle Championship and Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2015.
In the meantime, what follows is just a bit of the brief history of this remarkable 1964 Lincoln-Mercury concept car which are being replicated in exquisite scale miniatures in order to tell the remarkable history of this prototype series.
Description of the Four Prototypes:
Lynx Prototype No.1 X-7
Factory Production VIN: 3H17F5032307
Assembly Detail: 63C A 54 20M 84 4 5
Factory Comet Build Date: 12/20/62
Received at Dearborn Steel Tubing: 12/30/1962
Dearborn Steel Tubing Build Date: 10/17/63
History of this car: Initially, there were only funds to build one prototype so Lincoln-Mercury chief Mills’ staff designed a car that they hoped would be a solid hit in the markeplace. Mills’ designers worked long hours to reconcile the early visionary drawings with the production-oriented realities that had to be achieved with this car. This V8-powered, 4-speed prototype was intended to test the market for a performance-oriented two-door sedan that would capture the attention of both the influential enthusiast press, and the larger buying public. Painted in an iridescent copper-red (another version of this color would later become a standard 1966 corporate color): this Lynx prototype was probably the most production-oriented version of the three “official” prototypes.
Completed in October of 1963, and built (by Dearborn Steel Tubing) on a ‘63 Comet hardtop platform (as were Lynx prototypes 2 and 3; L-4 would be built on the stronger ‘64 Comet convertible platform), the first Lynx prototype was a highly-finished “proof of concept” vehicle that was presented to the American auto show public and campaigned as more than just another gilded concept car. This concept car was no crudely-assembled mule barely capable of moving under its own power. Rather, this nearly production-ready prototype was designed and built to test the market appeal for a well-developed, well thought-out example of the basic Lynx design: The goal was to make a big splash in the auto show “marketplace” – in part, to overcome the too-commonly perceived staid image of the L-M Division that Mills was working hard to dispel. If the car generated positive press and public approval, Mills would use this prototype to market the entire concept car program with Ford brass (principally, Eugene Bordinat) with the goal of securing the additional funds that would be needed to build the competition car and the convertible – the other two Lynx prototypes in the official series he had envisioned.
To Mills’ enormous relief and satisfaction, this prototype was presented with much fanfare at the very prestigious February 1964 Chicago Auto Show (along with the ‘64 Durability Comets and the Super Cyclone) where it was met with enthusiastic applause from thousands of showgoers who saw a practical, stylish, performance-oriented 2+2 vehicle from the normally staid Lincoln-Mercury Division.
After the Chicago show, this prototype was trailered back to the Lincoln-Mercury studio where it was presented to visibly surprised – but still a bit skeptical – Ford brass who lauded the car’s styling and celebrated the public reaction, but secretly wondered about the effect of this stylish coupe upon the pending Mustang that would be introduced just a bit more than two months later. Ultimately, the marketing issue was one of two principal reasons the entire series of Lynx concept cars were not placed in production and were ultimately suppressed.
Leaping on the auto press’ positive notes, Mills displayed Lynx-1 in several additional shows (to ostensibly gauge public reaction), and briefly at the 1964 New York World’s Fair Ford corporate exhibit, where it appeared in the Custom Car Cavalcade along with the Ford Division’s Italien. The car also showed up at the “launch” of the Lincoln-Mercury Caravan of Stars program at Detroit’s Cobo Hall. Later, the car was seen sporadically until the early summer of 1964 (the time the second and third prototypes arrived from Bertone), whereupon it was displayed with the fully array of the prototypes at auto shows and in selected Lincoln-Mercury Caravan of Stars shows. Ultimately, this prototype was parked in Mills’ home garage (alongside Mills’ specially–styled fourth prototype) to escape the “crush the prototypes” order from Ford corporate where the car sat until it was discovered in 2007 and restored.
Lynx Prototype No.2 (“XR”)
Factory Production VIN: 3H17F5036943
Assembly Data:: 63C E 52 9A 84 4 5
Factory Comet Build Date: 01/09/63
Received at Dearborn Steel Tubing: 1/11/63
Bertone Completion Date: Mid Summer 1964
History of this car:
This car was finished (along with Lynx-3) after the marketing success of the first prototype broke loose the funding necessary to build the second and third prototypes.
This car gave the Lincoln-Mercury Division the opportunity to demonstrate that it could successfully design a car for SCCA B-Production racing albeit using a combination of parts from the corporate Total Performance program coupled with some specially-built racing components that appeared, in essentially the same form, on the later Shelby Mustangs. This high-profile car elevated the Lincoln-Mercury Division in the media and public eye: Several magazine articles featured photos of this car in the context of covering a larger event, and there was a Road & Track feature article.
As a demonstration vehicle only, this car showed up at several race venues from mid-1964 to early 1965, then was parked at Mills’ home garage for a few months, after which it was parked in the Mills’ Indiana warehouse where it was discovered in generally good condition in 2007. After a thorough cleaning and a bit of engine work it ran well, and is presently on loan to the Shelby American Museum in Boulder, Colorado.
The initial body-conversion work was done by DST after which the stripped unibody platform was shipped to Italy’s famed Bertone carrozzeria for its new body.
Lynx Prototype No.3 (“GT”) (Line drawing of Lynx-3 from Wick here).
Factory Production VIN: 3H17F5051431
Assembly Data: 63C M 55 6C 84 4 5
Factory Comet Build Date: 03/06/63
Received at Dearborn Steel Tubing: 3/19/63
Bertone Completion Date: Late Summer 1964
History of this car: Lincoln-Mercury Chief Mills wished to create an appealing, moderately powered, two-seat convertible to appeal to the sporty, but not genuine sports-car, crowd. The third Lynx prototype was also an attempt to revive the theme of the original two-seat Thunderbird, the revival of which had been briefly considered at the onset of the Aventurra project (that project led to the Ford X-Cars, and eventually to the Mustang). Like the original Thunderbird, a removable hardtop was fitted, the rear deck hinged at the rear-most extension of the hardtop “footprint” (ala ‘63 Corvette roadster) to reveal a completely fade-away convertible top, the mechanism of which was directly patterned after the hide-a-way system pioneered on the ‘58 Thunderbird – and to provide some small space for baggage when the soft top was retracted. Because of the design of the rear deck, there was no trunk. A 225 horsepower 4-V 289 was coupled with a modified C-4 automatic transmission, and a floor shift.
DST did the preparatory body work after which the stripped unibody platform was shipped to Italy’s famed Bertone carrozzeria for its new body.
Lynx Prototype No.4 (“XR-7”) (Line drawing of Lynx-4 from Wick here).
Factory Product VIN: 4 J 25 F 500024
Factory Assembly Detail: 63C F 76 15J 34 E 1
Factory Comet Build Date: 7/25/63
Received at Dearborn Steel Tubing: 7/29/63
Bertone Completion Date: L ate Summer 1964
History of this car:
As early Lynx project work was underway in 1962, the L-M chief decided that he wanted to build his own version of the concept car series. Wise to the realities of corporate life, Mills understood that the goal of building his initial vision of his prototype car (uncompromised by the predictable presence of production considerations that he imposed on the three “official” cars and powered by an exotic European V-12) wasn’t in the cards, both for political reasons and by reasons of cost. As the mainstream Lynx project unfolded, the fourth prototype came to be the flagship for Mills’ original - and ultimate – vision of his prototype series. Interestingly, six or so years in the future, Mills would again venture into the concept car program when he would commission to build an extravagantly styled version of his first-generation Lynx prototype.
Finished to a higher standard, the car was fitted with an intentionally unconventional engine – a highly-modified version of the standard inline six-cylinder engine found in all Mercury and Ford compacts. While Mills’ car inevitably benefitted from the basic research and production realities learned as the “official” cars were developed, he also understood that there were no corporate monies for his car and that, on both ethical and legal grounds, he would pay for the entirety of his project including the development work on the new-for-‘64 model year 200-cid six that he hoped would result in a more powerful production engine.
Just after the work started at Bertone on the second and third prototypes, Mills sent a newly-purchased ‘64 Comet Caliente hardtop to DST for the fourth - and final – body conversion work before the car was airfreighted to Bertone for body work. Design drawings sent with the car (intentionally configured to distinguish Mills’ car from the “program” prototypes) included drawings and specifications to create a shortened/louvered hood, rocker panel mounted jack holes, a unique swept-back roof line that didn’t resemble any other Lynx prototype but did mimic the roof on the Vivace (it was a semi-hardtop with a very thin, non-structural B pillar on which the flip out quarter windows would pivot), with a thin chrome frame for the rear quarter window modeled after the Hotton-designed Vivace Mustang), a recessed pivoting rear hatch/rear window panel, that would later be mimicked by George Barris when he built a hatchback ‘67 Galaxie for the Ford Division, in the ‘71 Mercury Sportsroof concept car, and the famed ‘71 Mustang Milano; a cosmetic front fender vent (with integral nameplate) that intentionally resembled the Bertone Ferrari from 1962 (Nuccio Bertone built the famed 1962 Ferrari showcar for his personal use); Front fender vents were nearly a trademark of the shop in the Sixties), and a chromed grille surround that featured a “cross hatch” design and integral driving lights. Front and rear bumpers were fitted.
After its show season, Mills drove his Lynx prototype occasionally, pleased with the exotic imagery and unusual powerplant that provided plenty of power for spirted driving. Mills decision to go it alone with his own Lynx allowed him to build a car that more closely matched his initial conception of the prototypes before the inevitable production considerations – necessary for his first three prototypes to succeed in demonstrating the market viability of his idea – meant that the more exotic elements of his original design were set aside. That understanding of corporate philosophy notwithstanding, on at least one occasion, Mills placed “his” Lynx prototype in the rotating Ford corporate display in the last year of the1964-65 World’s Fair in New York (early in 1965) after a highly-successful tour of a few European auto shows.
Here are some other details of the Lynx Project:
The Lynx Project has gathered together some of the very best builders in the model car hobby. Please go here to learn about this group: http://www.thelynxproject.org/Scalemodels/scalemodels.html
The Lynx Team continues to run across tantalizing information as it continues its investigation into the history of this most elusive of Ford Motor Company concept cars. We are cataloguing a wide array of historical photographs, L-M Division internal memos, DST letters to L-M Chief Mills, magazine articles, and the infamous “destroy the prototypes” letter from the corporation’s in house legal department.
We’ve also been surprised by the discovery of a single hobby kit of the car – the famed Industro-Motive Corporation once offered a kit of the model though knowledgeable model car historians don’t recall anything about what must be a very rare kit. Here’s a photo of what we’ve discovered: (use photo of kit that you did years ago).
The Lynx Team has discovered that Andy Hotton and Vince Gardner, of Dearborn Steel Tubing, became acquainted with the Lynx Project sometime in late 1963. Hotton and his company built many of the Ford corporate concept cars in that era including the Ford Galaxy Starlift, the Thunderbird Italien, the Comet Super Cyclone and the Comet Escapade as well as the Fairlane Thunderbolts. And the company did all of the basic Comet unibody re-configurations as well as constructing the first Lynx prototype.
Condition of the Prototypes:
The four prototypes have been retrieved from the Indiana warehouse and the residence, and trailered to Salt Lake City for restoration. They were found in a range of conditions from exquisitely maintained through “barn find” condition. The Lynx Team is still deciding whether to restore one or more of the four cars, or simply carefully clean and detail them while attending to all mechanical needs so they can operated safely. The current thinking is to preserve the original patina of these historic vehicles.
Three members of our Lynx Team traveled to California in mid-November 2005 to see/measure/take photos of the Thunderbird Italien. While the car really needs a complete restoration, the car is complete! That’s Mark S. Gustavson on the far left, followed by Don Chambers, team member Steve Roullier (who took hundreds of digital photos), and Bob Wick (who produced dimensioned drawings of the car). The Italien was part of the initial Ford Custom Car Caravan, and was built (to Ford Division specifications) by Dearborn Steel Tubing which company did the early conversion work on the three Lynx prototypes. Because this car was seen with several of the Lynx prototypes, a scale model of the Italien is being constructed so that the complete history of the Lynx concept cars can be portrayed. (Preserve photo of the unrestored car from the current page).
How knowledge of the Lynx prototypes was discovered:
In 2002, Mark S. Gustavson attended a major vintage auto swap meet and, while there, serendipitously located a crusty and very old 16mm film, dating from early 1964, that was created by the Ford Motor Corporation to introduce and promote the 1964 ½ Mustang. This film also showed a couple of the famed Ford X-Cars, as well as a few intriguing ‘background’ shots of what appears to be the first Lynx prototype. This was a stunning discovery to those who were very knowledgeable about this period of Ford Motor Company history.
This the film needed to be rescued because photochemical deterioration was already well- underway. Lynx team member Ed Lence, who has access to the highest level of film-making and restoration equipment, is “cleaning up” the film so that we can plumb all information that might be on that film. This rescued film will be played when the Lynx Project is presented at GSL-XXV in 2015. Thanks for your generous help, Ed!
In 2003, the Lynx Project headquarters acquired, from a well known vintage automotive dealer, an unbelievably rare Lincoln Mercury Caravan of Stars press release that reveals some key information about the Lynx project. This Press Kit contains 11 pages of typed text and three photo sheets of all first-generation Caravan of Stars custom/concept cars including a few of the Lynx prototypes!
Historic Review and Assistance:
A very interesting fellow – Charlie Henry, who is a professional management consultant -- contacted Mark S. Gustavson and brought the Lynx Team up to date on many details of Dearborn Steel Tubing in the early Sixties. Mr. Henry’s recollections and notes have been very helpful.
Since that time, we’ve discovered more corroborating details from a major article in Collectible Automobile by famed writer Michael Lamm.