What Are You Working On? James Williams’ 1940 Lincoln Zephyr

itshisnowAfter owning a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet for a few years, chopping and sectioning it to make it into a full-blown kustom, James Williams of Benicia, California, went through a divorce and his former wife-to-be informed him the Cadillac would be hers when the divorce was final. Bam, off it went! He isn’t certain where the car ended up but mentioned that he would love to see it finished one day. A lot of sweat, bloody knuckles, time and money went into that car and he regrets losing it.

Unfortunately, at times, that’s the way life goes. James was out of the car hobby for a couple of years but recently things started turning around and he acquired a very desirable 1940 Lincoln Zephyr Sedan. Fortunately, there are times that life makes up for a punch to the gut. About nine months ago, he spotted the car on his uncle’s lot. His uncle, ‘Mr. Merv’ specializes in early Lincoln Zephyr parts and supplies in Pomona, California, and he’s referred to as the “King of Lincolns.”

The ’49 Cadillac Sedanet as it approached body work completion. James had the car chopped, sectioned and suspension modified. Note how much had been removed in the sectioning process at the lower front fender.

The ’49 Cadillac Sedanet as it approached body work completion. James had the car chopped, sectioned and suspension modified. Note how much had been removed in the sectioning process at the lower front fender.

The car was in such pristine shape it seemed a real shame to cut it up, but like that old saying: “Anyone can restore a car, but it takes a real man to cut one up.” Mr. Merv is privy to James’ intentions for this Lincoln as a full blown kustom and actually encouraged James to “get after it.” James vows to finish this car.

James wanted to do something that’s never really been done with this model – meaning Lincoln never made a two door sedan in 1940. The Ford Motor Company only offered Lincoln Zephyrs in a three window coupe and a four door sedan. All Zephyrs were equipped with a V12 engine with the four door model being the most popular.

Sometime during the production run, Lincoln moved the gearshift from the floor up on the column in all their models but James may put it back on the floor-where it belongs! He swears this Lincoln build will be quite unique in its two door configuration. As of this writing, it’s gone from a four door to a two door sedan. James will be taking it a full step further because it’ll eventually morph into a two door pick-up, somewhat like an Australian Ute, but way cooler.

The original V12.

The original flathead V12, very desirable to the correct customer, James says he needs a “modern engine and transmission” in the car and will keep the engine for a later project.

James will be going ‘late model’ for an engine in this kustom and has saved the V12 flathead that used to be in the four-door for another Lincoln he has. In its place will be a 500 ci Cadillac engine attached to a TH400 automatic transmission.

Currently, the car has been lowered five inches on the stock suspension. The top has been chopped 3-3/4 inches in the front with a five-inch pie cut in the rear to lay the roof down. As for the chop, James added, “This is actually the last chop to be done by the great West Coast Kustomizer, Frank DeRosa.” James says he’s blessed that DeRosa came out of retirement for one last go ‘round to chop his Lincoln.

The body minus its doors. Huge opening will use a longer two door door.

“There are times when nothing but the best will do,” he said of DeRosa. Frank is currently in the process of rebuilding a couple of Zephyr coupe doors to fit into the new two-door shell. The body will be shaved of some emblems and the rear taillights, although James offered no information as to what the taillights would be.

The four door rear door will be used to fill the remaining openings .

Sometime next year the car will go in for a complete suspension overhaul – a Mustang II with air bags up front, a 9-inch Ford with 4-link and air ride in the rear. After a trip to DeRosa’s shop to view the mods, James said he isn’t too happy with the current chop and may re-chop the front posts another inch in order to install a 1946 Chevy V-butted windshield. Besides that, there’s some top secret stuff going to take place on the Lincoln in the near future.

A model of the car. It’s always best to have an illustration or an actual model to compare the mods to when modifying any car. Renaud Zed Legardez built the model. Rik Hoving did a digital restyled version with the fadeaway fenders (not shown here).

A bit farther down the road, the paint may be something in a blue shade with a bone colored leather interior. The goal is to have it look kustom but at the same time have people scratch their heads and wonder – did Lincoln ever build this model?

James stated, “That’s where I like to go with a kustom vehicle. When you’re at the point that people really can’t tell if it came that way from the factory or it’s been altered at all, you’re on the right track.”

Adding the 1939 Ford headlights to the front fenders certainly changes the look of the kustom. World famous kustomizer Frank DeRosa is handling the changes.

Even if losing the very modified ’48 Cadillac Sedanet was a blow, James has learned plenty of new skills to finish the Lincoln…and he notes – a Lincoln is just as big as a Cadillac and rides just as nice.

What do you think of James’ Lincoln project – did he improve a classic? Let us know in the comments below, and if you have a project of your own that you’ve been slaving away at, share it with us! Send us an email and yours could be the next project featured in “What Are You Working On?”.

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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