An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Lincoln Zephyr Prototypes

Details of the Briggs Mfg. Co. Lincoln Zephyr Prototypes

Recently we covered the designs of John Tjaarda and the use of one of his early-thirties streamlined rear engine design concepts that was developed by the Briggs Mfg. Co. and introduced to Edsel Ford for the upcoming Lincoln Zephyr. Thanks to reader Graham Allum we now have photos showing both the front and rear engine cars. Seeing as Tjaarda was the Chief of Design at Briggs at the time it was likely that he also had input into the front engine car seen above and below.

  • brigg12
  • The second Briggs Mfg. Co. concept car which was a front-engined design.

The photos are from the August 1934 Motor magazine that reported a version of the rear-engined car was on display at the Century of Progress in 1933 and the front-engined car was on exhibit in 1934. The design of the latter car, other than the front doors and the nose, that were redesigned by Eugene T. Bob Gregorie is quite close to that of the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr. The photographs below show one of the prototype versions of the rear-engined car on a test track along with details of its construction.

  • Lincoln Zephyr Prototypes
  • The John Tjaarda designed rear-engined Briggs Mfg. Co. concept car on a test track.
  • Lincoln Zephyr Prototypes
  • Details of the rear of the car that appear to be quite like Tjaarda’s earlier Sterkenburg cars.


Above can be seen the details of the construction of the unibody structure much like that used in the Lincoln Zephyr. The Ford flathead V8 engine was cooled by the air that entered the louvers in the rear quarter panels and exited through the finned deck lid. Note the round rear windows that are different than the test car which indicate this may have been the 1933 version of the car or another prototype.


The Motor magazine article states: “The powerplant, instead of resting on a frame, is hung from a single transverse spring which connects with the independent suspension. The engine is forward of the clutch, differential and transmission assemblies. The body rests on the power unit attached by nine bolts. The car is controlled by two treadle-type pedals, the left is the brake and the right is the accelerator. The clutch pedal and the gearshift are missing because the transmission and the clutch are automatic.”


10 responses to “Details of the Briggs Mfg. Co. Lincoln Zephyr Prototypes

  1. Man that looks like the Scarab (and others).

    Interesting that the car had automatic clutch and transmission. Wonder if there are any details on that? Something like a Wilson pre-selector?

    Tom M.

  2. I too would be interested to know about that “automatic” Transmission…

    As far as I know Chrysler was the only one to have something close, with their Fluid Drive / Fluid Coupling, which appeared on production Chryslers & De Sotos in 1939.

    REO had its “Self-Shifter” transmission starting in 1933, but I think that still had a clutch for starting & stopping.

    There appear to be little, screened vent-ports in the bell-housing…

    Neat stuff, whatever the details….

  3. I’m also curious as to why Lincoln clung to that old-fashioned flat windshield all the way to 1948, even with these “streamlined” models ?

    I would think that a vee-ed windshield would have help the aero-dynamics ?

    Even the lowly Ford and Mercury went to a split windshield before WW II …

  4. The Czechoslovakian Tatra, with its REAR engined design from Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s Engineering Service, Gmund, Austria, should be mentioned here, as should the Chrysler Corp. “Air Flow” designs of ’34 to ’37 The ’37 Ford Business Coupe (with 85 HP V-8), was similar in aerodynamic body style, and is the champion of dirt track stock car racing during the ’30’s & 40’s, due to its lightness, cornering ability & stock horsepower. The ’37 Coupe was the lightest of ALL Ford V-8 products in the ’30’s & 40’s.

    • The Tatra rear engined T77, T77a, T87, and T97 were designed by Hans Ledwinka, and Karl Uebelacker. NO connection with Porsche . The two engineers (Ferdi Porsche and Hans Ledwinka) worked independently of each other.

  5. Perhaps Lincoln stayed with the flat windshield, which does have a sort of refined look, BECAUSE the lowly Ford and Mercury went to split windshields.

Leave a Reply to Francis McMullen Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *