A lot of people don't realize it, but Lincoln was not always a division of Ford Motor Company. In fact, until Feb. 4, 1922, Lincoln was an independent luxury car manufacturer. On this day in 1922, Ford bought the struggling Lincoln Motor Company for a price of $8 million, which became its first step toward building and designing more beautiful automobiles.
The Lincoln Motor Company was founded in 1917 by the same person who established the Cadillac brand, Henry Leland. He named the company after his presidential hero, Abraham Lincoln, but in spite of its honorable title, the company faced financial troubles soon after its creation. This is when the son of Henry Ford, Edsel Ford, convinced his father that purchasing Lincoln and developing it into Ford's luxury brand would be a good business move.
Ford Motor Company was established in 1903, but by 1922 it was beginning to lose momentum in the face of its primary competitor, General Motors. Until 1922, Ford was largely a one trick pony, as it focused all of its efforts on producing and perfecting its widely popular Model T. Even though the Model T was the most successfully selling car in the world, by 1922, Ford had not updated it significantly. Meanwhile, General Motors was producing a variety of vehicles styled to suit different needs, and was taking over an increasing market share.
"You Can Have Any Color, as Long as It's Black"
Henry Ford was so utilitarian in his approach toward building vehicles that he was famous for saying about his Model T that "you can have any color, as long as it’s black." His son, Edsel, who convinced Henry to offer vehicles in other colors, was the one who helped loosen his father from this stodgy, utilitarian mindset. In fact, this move may have saved Ford from losing its relevancy and competitiveness in the constantly evolving auto industry.
Edsel, who later became president of Ford in 1919, believed that vehicles should be beautiful as well as utilitarian, so he took a leadership role in the restyling of Ford vehicles in order to make them more aesthetically pleasing. Ford would later produce many beautiful and comfortable automobiles under the Lincoln name.
"The Most Beautiful Car Ever Made"
Ford's first foray into the world of more stylish and luxurious vehicles was the Model A, which was informally dubbed "the baby Lincoln." Later, in the 1930s, Ford Lincoln introduced the Zephyr model, styled after a streamlined express train. In 1939, the Lincoln Continental was unveiled, which the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright called "the most beautiful car ever made."
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