the view through the windshield
1955 Lincoln Capri: A nice, but not too successful Lincoln

If you look at a '55 Capri today, you'll see a nice-looking car that looks, well, very mid-1950s. But that's not how it looked to prospective buyers back then. 1955 was the year of all new bodies for most other cars. Chevy, Pontiac, Packard, Ford, Mercury and the entire Chrysler line all had a brand new look compared with their 1954 counterparts. Lincoln didn't.

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Everybody but Lincoln had-three tone color combinations and wraparound windshields. Chrysler first introduced "The Forward Look" in 1955. Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile got new bodies in 1954; Lincoln had the same old body introduced in '52 and it was considered stale and stodgy by 1955. Most embarrassing of all, the '55 Lincoln was underpowered compared to its rivals.

The marque which had won the Mexican Road Race in '54 still had the 341 cubic inch V8 engine now rated at 225 horsepower. That was no match for the 236 horsepower Buick Century, 250 hp Chrysler Imperial, 270 hp Cadillac Eldorado or 275 horsepower Packard. 1955 was right in the middle of the Styling and Horsepower Race and Lincoln wasn't winning either race.

The 1955 Lincoln did have some nice new features. The automatic transmission was all new - the GM Hydramatic was dropped for a beefed up three-speed Ford-O-Matic type unit called Turbodrive.

The car did have some new styling elements designed to make it look longer than the '54 model. In 1955, the Capri series was the top of the line and the coupe shown here was the most popular body style - representing 42% of production. The Lincoln Capri coupe cost a little over $3,900 - about 90 cents per pound. The car had a 123 inch wheelbase and was 63 inches high - quite tall for a '55 model. Ads touted "Elegance with Power" and a top speed of 116 miles per hour was claimed.

A '55 Lincoln Capri being backed into movie theater lobby for display. (photo courtesy of The Old Motor)

1955 was a banner sales year for most makes, but not for Lincoln. Sales dropped 27% to 27,222 units. The Capri coupe was the brand's most popular offering - 11,462 examples were produced. Meanwhile Packard sold 55,517 cars and Cadillac sold 140,777 vehicles. The brand-new Imperial brand, - a former Chrysler top-of-the-line model which became a separate nameplate in 1955, found buyers for 11,432 of its offerings.

It's a shame that the '55 Lincoln didn't get more respect in the marketplace. It's really a pleasant car and its looks have has aged well. Hey, everybody makes mistakes ... but Lincoln learned from this one and bounced back in 1956 with a powerful, very stylish car with all of the bells and whistles that people wanted in the mid '50s.

All's well that ends well. (first posted 11/30/10)

Remember When: 1955
auto blogIn 1955, the first McDonalds drive-in opened. Ann Landers' advice column made its debut as did Alfred E. Newman in Mad magazine. The Church Of Scientology was founded.

Nikoli Bulganin became Soviet Premier. Winston Churchill resigned as British Prime Minister. Ousted Argentine dictator, Juan Peron, fled to Paraguay. Hurricane Diane battered the Eastern Seaboard. Banks increased the prime rate to 3.5% - a 25 year high.

Merchandisers sold over $100 million worth of Davy Crockett merchandise. Disneyland opened; so did O’Hare Airport. Tony the Tiger became the pitchman for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes breakfast cereal.

Automakers produced 7,920,186 cars in 1955 - a new record. Kaiser-Willys ceased U.S. auto production after losing $100 million.

In other 1955 auto news, General Motors produced its 50 millionth car - a gold Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop coupe. Chevrolet got its first small-block V-8. It eventually replaced the old flathead Ford V-8 as the hot rodder's engine of choice.

Chevrolet and Pontiac sported all-new bodies. Including trendsetting and legendary stylized hardtop station wagons - the Chevrolet Nomad and the Pontiac Safari. GM introduced four-door pillarless hardtops in 1955. By the following year, most U.S. automakers followed suit.

Chrysler Corporation set a new styling trend with its 'Forward Look', something vastly different from the upright, uninspiring looks of its '54 models. The first production Chrysler 300 was introduced - so named because it had a 300 horsepower Hemi engine under it's hood. The 300 was, arguably, the first muscle car.

Wraparound windshields became almost universal in American cars. Straight-eight engines disappeared - replaced by new V-8 engines, even at stodgy Packard.

New, non-auto products included Play-Doh and Special K cereal. New words included demolition derby, fish sticks, junk mail, cleavage and rock-and-roll.

Several new TV shows debuted, including 'The Millionaire' and 'The $64,000 Question'. Captain Kangaroo made his TV debut.

Disneyland opened in July; the 'Mickey Mouse Club appeared on TV in October; Disney sold 26,000 pairs of mouse ears weekly.

Top songs included 'Rock Around The Clock' by Bill Haley and this Comets, Bill Hayes' 'The Ballad Of Davy Crockett', 'Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White' by Perez Prado, Mitch Miller's 'The Yellow Rose of Texas', 'Autumn Leaves' by Roger Williams, 'Only You' by The Platters and 'Sincerely' by the McGuire Sisters.

Deaths included Oscar Meyer, Albert Einstein, Dale Carnegie, James Dean and Bill Vukovich, who died in a four-car pile up at the Indianapolis 500. The winner of the 1953 and 1954 Indy races was the first driver killed in a '55 championship auto race.

The Dodgers won the World Series, beating the Yankees, 4-3.

copyright 1989, 1995, 2010-21 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


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