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New member/new owner of `41 Zephyr (lots of pics)


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Well...I just became a member not too long ago after purchasing my 1st classic car back in August. I've been in the automotive aftermarket for over 30 years, and have built over a hundred "new" project vehicles for SEMA and CES over the years, but this is my 1st classic!

It is a 1941 Lincoln Zephyr 4-door 6-passenger sedan. It has 32,000 original miles. The car sat in storage for over 30 years before my friend bought it. He re-did the uphostery, headliner and carpet as those had rotted away, and did a good job of matching the fabric, pleats and buttons. But...everything else on this car is original! Original paint, glass, rubber, and most importantly, the original flat-head V-12!!!

Now my friend had the car for almost 10 years, and had been bugging him about buying this car every year (we're in the same line of work). He's got 3 other GTO's which are his "baby's" and got most of his attention. The Zephyr sat in a garage for almost the duration of those 10 years, as he only put 100+ miles on it in that time. Finally, he relinquished last year and sold it to me, and now it's mine!

Before I go any further, I'm betting you fellow members would like to see some pictures, so here ya go...
















Now as you can see from the pictures, the car is in pretty good condition. But...I want to make it safe and reliable, because I plan on enjoying this car and driving it to events and small getaways with the wife up the coast (we live in southern California).

Luckily, one of my new clients (Cruisin' Style Magazine) will have me attending, photographing and doing editorial coverage of car shows out here on the west coast, and would like to be able to drive the Zephyr to these events.

My game plan is to re-build or upgrade the brakes (maintaining the era) with some new Bendix hydraulic drums from MT Car Parts, and I need to address the overheating problem with these flat-head V-12's so that it's reliable.

After reading a lot of the threads here and on other classic car websites (including the Lincoln Zephyr Owners Club), the consensus is to try and keep it as un-restored as possible while maintaining safety and reliability. What do you guys think? Let me know your thoughts.


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Flush the cooling system well and have your waterpumps rebuilt by Skip. Potential cooling problems solved. Replace the rubber parts in the brake system, that is seals and hoses, rebuild the master cylinder, replace any questionable steel lines, flush lines and fill with DOT4 fluid, turn or replace drums and replace shoes, adjust properly. Check and clean all electrical connections including grounds. You will not have any major problems. Drive it as much as you can!

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Guest imported_V12Bill

Please use DOT 5 brake fluid as the DOT 4 fluid has the ability to absorb moisture from the air as DOT 3 fluid does. Otherwise I agree with everything else that you said. To be sure you have rubber parts that are compatable with the DOT 5, look for ADM in very small print on the cylinder cups and other rubber parts. Some people have had a problem with the rubber parts swelling because they were never intended to be used with DOT 5.

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Do you have the other '41 license plate like the one on the front bumper?? If so, you can run that, with the appropriate DMV approval, like my son does on his '41 resto-rod, great looking sedan, don't recall ever seeing that color before, but the car is amazingly well preserved for sure, congratulations, you can get frames for the odd size plates from Le Baron Bonney-


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Great looking car! Thanks for posting the photos. In these days of street-rodded Lincolns, it's refreshing to see an original car. My recommendation would be to keep it as original as possible.

You might want to try to get asbestos brake linings when you do the brakes. The new semi-metallic brake lining material doesn't seem to provide adequate friction to stop the car safely. A local friend of mine and I have both installed Midland hydro-vac power brake boosters on our '41 and '48 Continentals in order to get the cars stopped.

When I was growing up in Schenectady, New York, our "high-roller" neighbors bought a new silver 1941 Lincoln Zephyr sedan. I don't know what was wrong with that car, but they ALWAYS had a hard time getting it started. They were not mechanically inclined and that car spent a LOT of time in the shop. They didn't keep that Lincoln very long and soon replaced it with a Cadillac. That experience colored my perception of the V-12 engine to the point that when I acquired my first Lincoln (a 1947 Contintental coupe) in 1964, the first thing I did was yank the V-12 and replace it with a 1957 Lincoln V-8. To make matters worse, I sold the running engine (including the Continental air cleaner) and overdrive transmission to Jack Nethercutt for $150.00! (I still have footprints on my butt for that one). I didn't get a good feeling for the V-12 until I got a 1939 Zephyr Convertible in 2004!

We live and learn, I guess.

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Thanks for all of the suggestions and comments! It is greatly appreciated. Before I respond to some of your suggestions and remarks, I'm going to tell about the day my wife and I picked up the car back in August.

We live in Whittier California, and the car was in Moorpark. That's about 90 miles away. Jim McGowan, whom we bought the car from, said that it smoked a little, but had never really driven the Zephyr more than a few miles at a time during the 10 years that he owned it, and suggested that I have the car flat-bedded to my house.

Here's a picture of my wife Jill on the left, Jim McGowan in the center, and me on the right with the keys. Oh yeah, I only paid $15,000 for the car!


But NOooo...I had to be cool and think that I could drive the car home with my son, and have the wife follow in the SUV. Oh yeah...it was 100+ degrees that day too!

Jim told me that the brakes had just had new shoes put on (but later found out he neglected to have the drums turned), and still recommended we tow it home.

Well...about 20 miles later after getting the Zephyr up to around 55mph, the brakes kept hitting high spots on the drums and starting locking up. This put extra strain on the engine, and sure enough, the car stated belching out black smoke and quickly overheated. I pulled off the freeway and into a gas station to cool down, but the brakes were totally locked up, so ended up calling a flatbed anyways...


I had it brought to a local shop (really the only place open on a Saturday in Simi Valley), where they said they adjusted the brakes, and was able to pick the car up the following Monday and try and drive it home again (thinking the brake problem was solved).

Again, another 100+ degree day, and only got another 20 miles before the brakes starting locking up again and the engine overheating. This time, my son and I just pulled off the freeway and sat for an hour to let everything cool down.

Basically, two more times like that and we finally got her home. I was almost to scared to drive it for a week, thinking I really screwed this car up. But...to my surprise, she starts back up with no problems, and in little jaunts to the store and to a local car show every Thursday night, the car ran great! We got our 1st trophy for best un-restored car of the show!

During the hot weather though, if I tried taking her more than 20 miles from the house, the brakes would begin to seize and the engine to overheat, so decided to just park the car until I could afford to have it worked on by knowledgeable mechanics.

I have since found a shop just a few miles from my house who is really good with working on and restoring classics like our Zephyr's, and have worked out a "special" hourly rate in return for editorial consideration when I write my articles about owning, driving, restoring collectibles so they are safe and reliable. I've also talked to Merv Adkins about needing some hard to find parts needed (like a 6-volt horn relay which I'm missing) when I finally get some work done on the car.

As Mike Cullen suggested, I will have the cooling system flushed and check the water pumps, and have rebuilt if necessary (but Mike...who is Skip and how do I contact him if need be?). Do these cars have a thermostat?

Also, Mike suggests I use DOT4 brake fluid, and then V12Bill says I should use DOT5 and make sure the rubber is compatible. Which is it guys? Both Phil Knapp and ShortTopRoyRowe suggest going to an abestos or "soft" brake lining or shoes. Should I just rely on my mechanic to do this right? (Unfortunately, I am not good at wrenching on my own cars...I tend to break things a lot---LOL!!)

Plus...I have a few more questions:

I've noticed some threads on this forum regarding the painted woodgrain finish on the dash of our Zephyrs. Look closely at these two pictures of my dash...



So my 1st question is, do I leave the very petina'd look of my dash alone, or repaint to match the new upholstery, headliner and carpet like this picture...(I think this is a picture of your dash okzephyr)


Which brings me to my next question--In working on the engine, is it ok to add "hot rod" goodies to our cars as long as they are from the same era? See the engines below:



Phil: I've read some of your posts here, and as much as I like a good "hot rod" myself, couldn't let the guys who worked for Jim do what they were going to do to the Zephyr if I hadn't bought it. This is what they were planning...


I'm glad this will not happen to my baby now!

Rolf Burdette: I do have the other `41 plate and had thought about getting DMV's approval to run, but just paid $90 to have the LINC41 again, just not as a "veteran" plate because I'm not a veteran. I'm still thinking about it. How do I contact this Le Baron Bonney about the frames?

okzephyr: I PM'd you with my e-mail address, but I think I already have a lot of pictures of your car in my "Zephyr" folder (I did a lot of researching on this before I bought the car), but would still encourage you to send me more pictures. I also have a question for you. If both of our cars are of the same year, why does your outside door handles just have a button, while mine are handles? My Zephyr was built in late October of `41--does that have any bearing on the different door handles?

Well, again thanks for all of the comments and compliments. As mentioned, this will not be a trailer-queen, as my wife and I plan to really enjoy this car by driving it to as many events and little vacation jaunts up the coast as possible. My major concern is making it safe and reliable without compromising the the un-restored look as possible.

I know I'll have a few more questions for you guys as I keep on working on this car, and look forward to the interaction and getting some knowledgable answers from guys like you. Thanks again.

Steve Belanger

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Concerning the brake seizure. One thing to check is the free play in the operating push rod to the master cylinder. If the master cylinder is applied even slightly, pressure will build up in the lines and apply the brakes. It seems heat will even accelerate this. I think some folks trying to get a "higher" brake pedal will adjust the free play out of the operating rod. Old brake hoses can also collapse internally restricting the pressure release from the wheel cylinders. If it hasn't been done you may want to replace the old brake hoses. You have a real beauty, good luck.

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based on my experience i would start with the mechanicals first--replace all rubber in brakes, wheel cylinders, master cylinder, hoses, then clean out cooling system, check out water pumps, change hoses and then clean up engine compartment. skip haney is great for water pump rebuild and jake fleming in dallas is great for distributor clean up. i would do all this before i started on things like dash refinish and other details. i notice you are missing some parts of heater. also be careful of the heat exchanger on exhaust since if it is leaking it can pipe carbon monoxide right into front seat. all this is just my opinion. skip haneys contact info is skip haney, punta gorda, florida email: skip@fordsrus.com


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Guest imported_V12Bill

Push butten doors started in 1941. I'm not sure if they were an option or if it was a mid year change.

It's been awhile since I rebuilt a master cylinder. You can buy them at NAPA or a lot of other parts stores. It is the same as a Ford. It is possible that as the brake fluid warms up it is compressing the wheel cylinders and in effect appling the brakes. I think there is some sort of relief valve in the MC to avoid this. If you have DOT 3 or DOT 4 fluid in the car it may have picked up moisture and cloged the valve.If you change over to DOT 5 be sure to flush out the lines with alcohol to clean out the old fluid .

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Hey, before you jump willy-nilly in to "improving" your great car, get a build sheet from Dearborn, this will tell you exactly how your car was delivered to the dealer, and perhaps the first owner. CA has the "year of Manufacture" option at the DMV, you are supposed to run those hoky tags like are on my sons car, but you can remove them for car shows etc, Le Baron Bonney is a well known upholstery and other items provider for collector cars, and are easy to google, sorry I don't have their address handy, Skips e-mail is "fordsrus,com" I think, otherwise he has a site called Skip's water pumps, which you can also google, $100 a piece gives you a totally rebuilt water pump with an improved impeller, which has consistently been documented as keeping the 12''s cooler, your brake problem as has been dealt with, is likely aged rubber hoses and cups etc, bendix brakes are virtually bullet proof from below freezing to well in to the 100 degree range, as far as safety, I am the old curmudgeon here, if you want to chop your nice original car up installing safety belts, air bags etc, ok, but remember a great many of us old dinosaurs drove them just the way they were for hundreds of thousands of miles, and survived the occasional fender-bender unscathed, and if the average rice-burner bangs in to you on the freeway, it will just bounce off, and leave your Z unscathed, but if you want to be as safe as you can be, leave the Z in the garage, and take the Navigator-

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It's a lot more scary driving a collector car these days than it was 30-40 years ago. This 1947 Continental was my daily driver in the 70's. My wife and I drove it over 6000 miles from California to Vermont and back with no trouble in 1970. In 1972, I had this accident 2 blocks from home which totalled a 1965 Chevy station wagon. Repairs to the Lincoln cost $1500 (in 1972!) and nobody was injured. We also drove it from Austin, Texas to the Central National LCOC meet at League City, Texas in 1997. Although we still have this car, I don't think I would ever try to drive it as a daily driver again.

More photos of this car are in my Webshots Photo album at:



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