The 2011 auction of Lee Roy Hartung’s collection included a number of items that attracted a good deal of attention, like the four matching sets of Tucker manufacturer license plates, a rare Edwards roadster and a bizarre Spohn-bodied 1950 Veritas. The sheer size of the collection, however, meant that plenty of curiosities went under the radar, including a unique 1937 Lincoln Zephyr modified with twin grilles that will cross the block again next month with a pre-auction estimate as high as four to five times what it previously sold for.
If the highly acclaimed first-generation Lincoln Zephyr had a weak point, it was the V-12 engine that went under its hood. Sharing many design elements with the Ford flathead V-8, the 75-degree H-series V-12 had a narrow design that kept its displacement down and its water passages small as well as the flathead’s exhaust passages that ran through the block and water jackets, which often led to overheating. Illinois-based inventor Willard L. Morrison couldn’t do much about the engine design, but he nevertheless believed he could improve the Zephyr’s cooling by adding a second grille to the car’s front end.
Morrison claimed in his design patent for the twin-grille Lincoln (D111840) that the modification helped to streamline the car, aided driver visibility, and gave the car a more powerful appearance, but given his background in air-conditioning systems and in designing accessory Winterfront grilles, it’s plain to see his primary intent behind adding the second grille was to add cooling capacity. Indeed, behind the grilles he mounted a split radiator and overflow tank setup designed to take advantage of the additional forward ventilation.
(We’ll note here that a second grille is not an unprecedented modification, but to the best of our knowledge, it had only been implemented when adding a second parallel drivetrain, as was the case with the Konings-modified Ford Model AAs that Netherlands-based Smeets ordered. Morrison likely was not aware of the Konings twin-grille AAs when he built his twin-grille Zephyr.)
Morrison took out another couple of patents on the idea: one for a twin-grille Packard and another that explicitly states the twin-grille design was for admitting more air to the radiator. He also had an idea car built a few years prior out of a 1933 Ford to test out some of his other patents, but the Zephyr appears to be just one of two twin-grille cars he built (another, based on a 1940 Ford convertible and built for a friend’s daughter, appeared to have headlamps mounted at the top of each grille). It was rather well-finished, too, with custom trim that extended back along either side of the twin-grille unit, “Custom Twin” hubcaps, a “Custom Twin” filler panel between the grilles, and a single hood for both grilles.