Jump to content

Lincoln Flathead V12 General Inquiry

Recommended Posts

From a non Lincoln collector (but lover)

Can someone enlighten me with information about the last generation Lincoln V12 circa 1937 to 1948?

I have heard they are woefully underpowered, sure, but do they have strong points? What was the motor used in Lincolns right before this V12? And why did Lincoln, ersatz Ford and Edsel, go with this V12 design?

Power is relative. I'm not sure I would buy any 37 to 48 vehicle so I could go as fast as they did in the 60's.

I would think the V12 was s-m-o-o-t-h in operation but I have not really heard that they are, or are not.

Why didn't they make them bigger in displacement to compete with the Cadillac V8 which had around 330 cubic inches, with four less cylinders?

Does the motor tend to overheat because of the long stroke? Can you run improved thinner oils in it? What kind of gas mileage do you guys get with/without overdrive?



Link to post
Share on other sites

From my own (limited) experience:

The HV-12 series Lincoln '36-'48 to which you allude was not targeted as the ultimate luxury car, the K series available before the war was also a V12, but it was 414 cu in, and an engineering jewel, it was nothing like the HV or the V8 that was used post-war after the 12.

The HV12 was designed for the Zephyr, a mid priced car. From my limited knowledge, the motor was a V8-60 extended by 1/2, so as to power the new Zephyr with something more "upscale" than a Ford V8, without breaking the bank. A Ford was around $600, Zephyr $1450, and the K $4500 and up, depending on the coachwork. (many were still custom bodied)

Underpowered? not at all! by the standards of the day. My 36 is not a "hot rod" but accelerates well, will top out at 90+ and can cruise all day at 50-60, (I have no O/D) In my opinion, this engine was not continued because of it's tiny bore / long stroke and low compression. after the war the fuels and technology had improved enough so that even hidebound Ford saw the writing on the wall and looked toward a V8 OHV design.

Smooth, yes, (speaking of mine only) it runs incredibly smooth, you can barely hear it running at it's 400 rpm or so idle. It's amazing because the valvetrain is not adjustable. There are no vibrations or stutters at all.

The engine is extremely narrow, larger displacement is not practical.

Cooling can be a problem, much as with any flathead that has the exhaust ports running through the block and waterjacket, the long narrow engine can make coolant flow to the rear of the block a little anemic. With a clean waterjacket, clean radiator, rebuilt waterpumps and the correct thermostats installed, I do not overheat at all, even in South Florida, in traffic or at parade speeds. I've found that the scaled block and partially clogged radiator that seems to be in most 70 year old cars will give you cooling problems. Start clean and keep the coolant changed every couple of years with a good flush, replace you waterpumps with rebuilt and upgraded units and you won't have problems

Gas mileage? who knows? they originally advertized 14mpg, I'd guess that 10-11 is more like it, at least with today's driving habits

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest imported_V12Bill

Jake, The H series V 12 engine is somewhat underpowered to pull around a 4,000# plus car, but not woefully so. The rear ratio was 4.22 and 4.44 to 1 or so to get the car moving "off the line". The Lincoln Zephyr did not exist until the fall of 1935 so there was no previous engine. It's existence was to be a companion car to the Model K Lincoln which started in price range of $5,000 and went up steeply from there. Since the K had a 450+ cid V12 engine, the companion car had to have a V 12 also and was a hit as no other V 12 on the market could be had for under $1,500. Lincoln was not competeing with Cadillacs V 8 but with their V 12 which sold for more money. Or even their V 16 which was in the K price range.

Engine design used a lot of Ford ideas parts and machining to keep the price down. The V 12 is very similar to the Ford V 8 with 4 extra cylinders tacked on. Fords had overheating problems and so did the Lincolns which both ran the exhaust through the water jackets instead of out the top of the block like Cadillac did. Keeping the cooling system clean and avoiding long hills, overloading and parades will prevent overheating.

With overdrive I get 15 to 16 mpg on turnpike trips with overdrive. Around town (not in overdrive) I get 9 to 12 mpg depending on going to local shows or sitting in the driveway being tune up adjusted. The engine does run smooth as will any well tuned engine and the biggest problem is the ignition system. It is different than the norm and can be complicated to those with limited experience.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jake, I take issue with your "lack of power" statement, I bought my 1st Zephyr a 1940 club coupe in 1954, see pic, and it had a sweet rebuilt 12 that was very fast, I put on more carburetion, super tuned it, and street raced the heck out of it. I was 20 years old, the upshot is that my old "boat anchor" Zephyr could out accelerate Olds 88's, the fastest car on the streets of Los Angeles in those days, a guy I knew then built a 332 CI 12, that I saw with my own eyes turn 104 MPH at Pomona drag strip in a 1941 Zephyr 3 window coupe, most of the speed secrets for flathead V-8's can be utilised on the 12, and properly set up, were definitely no slouch, many dirt trackers and sports cars used V-12's too, just trying to set the record straight


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good job all. This V12 has a reputation as a dog, at least. I don't personally know. The combination of a numerically high rear axle ratio and overdrive, is the best compromise for decent around town performance and long legged high cruising. (for any make more or less)

See, I didn't know that it was derived from the Ford V8. I couldn't figure out the low CI displacement BUT it makes a lot more sense in light of the deep depression conditions and Lincoln's response to it by needing to increase sales.

Packard did it, Cadillac too with the LaSalle. Even the medium priced field did it to survive.

But when the Depression was essentially over or in the rear view mirror, I find it interesting that Lincoln did not do a better job of increasing power out of the V12. The K was long gone in 1941 when the Continental came along as the flagship car. Edsel must have known the Zephyr's V12 was outmatched by Cadillac/Buick/Packard and Chrysler's big Eights.

I know they made an attmept to increase CID in 1946, with bad results. What happens if a V12 is bored in this day and age, as part of a rebuild? Do they turn out bad?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Like a Ford Flathead, power output can be improved with a few add ons. First, fix the cooling with new water pumps and clean out block as necessary. Beyond that you can spend money and not upset the restoration purists too badly by upgrading the restrictive exhaust, installing reproduction 3 - 2 barrel manifolds and carburetors, high energy ignition with a coil replacement adapter, reproduction aluminum cylinder heads with higher compression, etc. Remember the Ford 60 V-8 is still used in midget race cars.


Link to post
Share on other sites

You have to remember, that WWII had a little effect on the design work as well as on the production lines. The depression being over in 41 is probably technically correct, but, Europe had been at war since 39, the Pacific was in turmoil with Japan in Manchuria etc. We were pretty much tooling up for war production, lend lease had our industries coming out of the depression, but a lot of it was not to produce cars for the US motoring public. The production of V12 and V16 engines was corporate one-upmanship targeting the uber-rich. The advances made in design and materials as well as better fuels made the big showboats unnecessary, from a performance perspective. After the war, the objective was to get cars coming off the line and out to the dealers as quickly as possible. The 46 and 47 models in most cases were virtually the same as the 41 models, in Lincoln's case they stuck with the HV series even through 48. The overall Lincoln line was being revamped including a better designed V8. Another point, even though Edsel was officially the boss, old Henry still had supreme veto power over everything, and frequently used it. Henry's philosophy was an acceptable car for everyman, Edsel was looking toward the higher end, performance comfort and style. By 1948 they were both gone and it was up to Hank the Deuce to pick up the pieces.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh Abe, we do go around and around, V-8 60's still have a following because they are so nostalgic, pretty, and "cute", but the truth be known is an Offy 4 can blow the '60 away, as many of us Ford guys lamented at the midget tracks long ago, occasionally a really good V-8 60 driver could take up the slack and eke out a win, but not too often Historically the Zephyr was still a contender when the 1942 cars came out, they had increased the CID to 305, and were still a good match for the La Salles and De Sotos and Packard 8's that were their main competition, but speed was not the main consideration then, gas mileage was, as WW2 loomed, and supplies were tighter, and prices soared to near 30 cents a gallon. After the war the early 1946 Lincolns, no longer Zephyrs, used up the remaining 1942 blocks, then reverted to the 292 engine like the '40/'41's, but with larger crank journals, different design crankshaft, and a number of other small upgrades. After the war in '46, you could sell any thing with 4 wheels that was new to a car starved public, and things did not level out until the 1950's, the 1949 8EL 337 CI flathead V-8 was Lincolns entry in 1949, and as Tom Mc Cahill wrote about them in Motor Trend Magazine, "they are fast and thirsty", after that an essentially Y block OHV V-8 came out in 1952, and in '53 won the Mexican Road race, enough already, but there is a heck of a lot of history in those years, and Ford was always right in the forefront, what me prejudiced??? No way Ray, just calling them the way they were

Link to post
Share on other sites

The first time I drove my recently acquired 1941 Continental to the local cruise-in, a guy strolled past and remarked 'That's the WORST engine that Ford ever built'. I replied 'Maybe so, but it's still running after 66 years. Where will your Chevy be in 66 years?' No further comment.

The Lincoln V-12 found its way into several other unusual uses.

Some trucking companies installed them in their trucks in the '40s because of their low end torque capabilities. (See a recent issue of TWOTZ).

A great uncle of mine had two Lincoln V-12 engines powering his commercial fishing boat on the Chesapeake bay (this was many years ago).

My wife once worked at a hospital that had a Lincoln V-12 engine powering their emergency power supply. (Also a few years ago).

There are folks that have installed Lincoln V-12 engines in their Ford 8N tractors. Looks REALLY neat too, painted red of course. Check it out at: http://www.ytmag.com/cgi-bin/viewit.cgi?bd=nboard&th=606076

And some of course, were undoubtedly used for boat anchors.

Link to post
Share on other sites

i think the v12 has road feel similar to some of these

modern 4 bangers. they have lots of power, but like to rev....like an old ford tempo with 3 speed atx, on the highway that little engine would just scream..'cept we have overdrive..

i dont like to pass on 2 line roads ..makes me sorta

miss a turbo 400...i think that our 12 would like an

automatic..keeping the r's up 3-4 grand.

i think i read in the old clymer connie book, the one with buzz declerk story race engine....it said mk 1 has better accereration than mk 2.. come on..444;1 gears! i think the

factory wanted this sucker to rev..

I cant help but always try a little restraint, dont want

a 68 year old to blow up....but, so far so good..


Link to post
Share on other sites


That's the great thing about this hobby, we have about 75 years to pick from. I have (currently) a 49 Buick Roadmaster, a 63 Pontiac Bonneville and a 68 Buick Riviera.

Each car has it's quirks and foibles, but I want to burn around people after a day getting passed in an old Continental, I would just hop into the Riviera.

Thanks for your comments. Did all or most Continentals come with overdrive?

I have not heard comments about boring these out sucessfully to get more torque? Anybody try it in a rebuild?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...