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Lincoln Dealership Mystery: From the William Schmidt Archives

Updated – By Hampton C. Wayt: As someone who specializes in factory design artwork, I have heard many stories over the years of car drawings decorating the walls of car dealerships. These stories are usually given to me as a kind of “provenance” explaining the origin of an original drawing I am being shown, and the basic theme is always the same. The guy who owned the artwork, they say, had a car dealership and was friends with Harley Earl. While visiting Detroit (or Detroit visiting him), he was given the piece, and it hung in his office until he retired.

Update at the bottom of the article.


  •         This factory design rendering seen in the vintage photo (below) survives in a private collection.

Although the details of these stories are often clearly incorrect (Harley Earl could not have had so many friends), there is little doubt that the basic premise of these accounts is likely true.   Until recently, however, I have never been able to prove a single case. Then came the following two photographs.

Found among many images from the archives of noted car designer William M. (Bill) Schmidt are these photographs of a Lincoln dealership in the early 1950s. Decorating the walls of what appears to be the service department is a whole host of fantastic factory styling renderings. In fact, very few of this level of quality of drawings survive today—although, by coincidence, I do know the whereabouts of one of these specific pieces.

1950 Lincoln - Mercury Service Department

  • Futuristic auto design artwork decorates this unnamed Lincoln dealership in the early 1950s. Photographs are from the archives of noted car designer William L. (Bill) Schmidt of Lincoln Futura fame.

Unfortunately, Schmidt did not leave any record of what dealership this is, or even who created the artwork (which, we can assume, must include his own work). Can any Old Motor readers identify the location? And do any of you know the whereabouts or names of the artists of the pieces? If so, please let us know.

1950 Lincoln - Mercury Service Department

T1             T2              t3             t4

  •                                The names of the artist of these amazing renderings are not recorded.

Update – Sharp-eyed reader Ace Zenek has spotted what he thought might be the name of the dealership owner on top of the Mercury cabinet (enlarged below) in front of the dark-colored Lincoln Cosmopolitan. A likely possibility is that it reads: “Merc O Matic” and refers to the automatic transmission as a couple of readers have mentioned, which also sounds logical. What do you readers think?


19 responses to “Lincoln Dealership Mystery: From the William Schmidt Archives

  1. I believe that the wording on top of the display is “Merc O Matic”. This is repeated (partially obscured) at the bottom of the poster below on the left.

  2. I’d make a big bet on Merc-O-Matic. The poster below reads “For the drive of your life – The New Mercury with XXXXXXXX Drive! I can’t imagine it being anything other than Merc-O-Matic Drive.

    • One of them looked like a late ’60s Pontiac. Or an early ’70s Ford after Ford hired Bunkie Knudsen away from Pontiac.

  3. I add my voice to “Merc O Matic. The art just above the Lincoln windshield would be the column shift quadrant. Both vehicles are ’51 models, so that would place the photo in that year. The location is not known to me, however.

  4. Some details that may help determine the location of the dealership is the presence of refrigerated air conditioning shown of the walls as grills with a supply up high on the wall and a large square return vent lower on the wall. this would place the building far in the South in 1951. As noted by others, the cigarette dispenser is pre war, the fluorescent lighting looks nearly new, the office chairs are wartime production. All humans clearly shown are men, but only the man in the light colored suit to the far right may be wearing boots. My bet is Southern California or Florida.

    • Ed,

      That’s an interesting theory about the A/C and location. I had always assumed the dealership was in Michigan and that Schmidt knew the owners. Perhaps Ann Arbor?

      At any rate, I do know that the original painting that is pictured above was discovered in the Detroit area.

      • This dealership looks too nice for Ann Arbor. For comparison here is Fitzgerald Jordan Lincoln Mercury of Ann Arbor in the late 40s/early 50s at http colon //

  5. I was lucky enough to obtain 2 early 50s Cadillac concept pieces that were found in the basement of Lone Star Cadillac in Dallas.

    • Good catch. Photographer’s assistant, holding the light by the look of it. Wonder if there are any other reflections that might give a hint to what the front of the dealership or the street its on looks like?

  6. What you guys think of the white bucks on the guy sitting in the chair and the two-tone shoes on the sharpie in the light suit on the right?

  7. Since these photos came from William M. (Bill) Schmidt’s archives, I would assume that they were his designs. However, they certainly remind me of designs done by Jim Powers, who worked for Ford. I’m forwarding the article to Jim, to see if he can shed any light on the mystery.

  8. I’m wondering if Ford had a practise in place where dealerships and other locations were provided with framed renderings. A number of renderings also were displayed in various Ford offices and plants up to about 1980 or so. Several were displayed in one of the plants I worked in, and through a happenstance encounter with one of the guys in the labour gang, found that he had been instructed to take them down and dispose of them. Unfortunately when I learned this most were already gone, but I was able to save two of them which are now safe in my library.

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