By on June 3, 2016

1936 Lincoln-Zephyr

After standing outside the party in the cold, hoping someone inside would hear its plaintive knocking, Lincoln Motor Company is now on the sales rebound.

The restyled MKX is a hit, we’re getting a better looking (and faster) MKZ, and the new Continental is on the way, but there’s also buzz about a another historic nameplate potentially making a comeback. That model is Zephyr — a name Ford Motor Company recently applied to trademark, though if it’s for use on a vehicle, it should probably reconsider.

Ford’s May filing, first noticed by Autoblog, states it wants to use the Zephyr name for use in “motor vehicles and parts and accessories therefor.”

Why is the automaker doing this? Well, Lincoln’s parent company could simply be looking to keep a historic name in the Ford fold, lest its heritage be sullied by use on a fire-prone hoverboard. Automakers do this all the time, and speculation always runs wild. Just over a week ago, the automaker filing the trademark was General Motors, and the name was Riviera.

Or, it could be planning to return the name to its lineup, which probably wouldn’t be a fantastic idea. At least, as far as sales are concerned.

Compared to Continental — an iconic name stamped onto Lincolns for more than half a century that was once synonymous with American luxury, the Zephyr doesn’t have the same name recognition.

The original V12-powered Zephyr ran from 1936 to 1942, part of the time as its own marque. Besides auto history buffs, the only people who remember that model are ones who remember voting for Truman. Ain’t many of them left.

For the first year of its lineage (2006), the MKZ was known as the Zephyr, until Lincoln decided that playing the alphanumeric game could bring the brand new relevance and an upscale flair. (Yes, there was also a British Ford with the name, as well as a Ford Fairmont-based Mercury model, but those less-than-stellar vehicles are also decades in the past).

Maybe Lincoln thinks names are cool again, or it feels that its models have been swallowed up and watered down by the overabundance of non-word model names. Or, it couldn’t care less about bringing back the name. Either way, Lincoln provided no word on the matter, besides a comment that this was just a normal part of business.

A final comment to drop into the Zephyr-related rumor mill: there’s only one defunct Lincoln model name that would have any real pull with today’s buying public, and that’s “Town Car.”

[Image: The Henry Ford/Flickr]

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82 Comments on “Returning the ‘Zephyr’ Name to the Lincoln Lineup Would be Pointless...”


  • avatar

    How bout names people can easily pronounce and remember?

    Continental

    Town Car

    Heaven Cat

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “there’s only one defunct Lincoln model name that would have any real pull with today’s buying public, and that’s “Town Car.””

    the only “buying public” left for which the Town Car name has any real pull turned in their licenses years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      More like their adult children took the keys away. Hopefully before they pulled out in front of an 18-wheeler full of central air conditioners, causing it to jackknife (like my late uncle did). He didn’t get hurt, but got sued by the trucking company.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Not true. There are lots of people, many with licenses—and medallions—ready and willing to plunk a lit sign on the roof of a reborn Town Car.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Versailles?? Hello???

      And how about some Bill Blass Trim Editions FTW!!!!

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Since Lincoln was tied with Mercury, and Mercury is no more, there are lots of unused names Lincoln can use, like Montego, Lynx, Bobcat, Comet, Capri, Topaz, Tracer, Meteor, Monterey, Monarch, Montclair, Park Lane, Marauder, Marquis, and Cougar. Versailles is an unused Lincoln nameplate along with Town Car, but isn’t a Mark X overdue?

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Versailles will forever be a tainted name after the tarted-up Granada that was foisted upon the world.

  • avatar

    While I applaud Lincoln’s (hopeful) return to using actual model names, and ditching its extremely confusing alphabet soup nomenclature. Surely, they can come up with a better name than that.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    Disagree on the pointlessness. The alphabetical designation system they use is confusing to the average consumer. The only way I can keep them straight is to think, “MKZ was the Zephyr, which was the Fusion. MKX is the crossover, because of the ‘X\'”. Entirely too much recollection and association, but ymmv.

    The point of switching from names to codified acronyms in the first place was to add cache to the lineup, a la the Germans. When you can’t even recall what “MK*” goes to which vehicle, it’s a nonstarter. A marketing success should create a lasting impression in the consumer’s mind, not insert a question.

    Calling it “Zephyr” may not resonate with buyers, but at least they can discuss it with their neighbors without head-scratching. (It can’t resonate any less than “MKZ”, anyway…)

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The MK part is stupid, since none of the vehicles are Marks. Certainly not with the cachet of a Mark II.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I agree. Look at what Cadillac is doing with their letter/number combination, and do the opposite. You can’t go wrong going back to model names: I’d rather drive a Zephyr than a MKXYZ. I’d even settle for Brougham!

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      It really should be ZMK or XMK. Distinguishing the first letter is the functional point of nomenclature and whatever marketer thought up the ‘MK’ argument should be drawn and quartered.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Use Mercury names. “Lincoln Park Lane” or “Lincoln Monarch” sound like decent additions to a Lincoln Continental.

    Or come up with new names.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    My father had a 1939 Zephyr back when i was young. Always had a case of oil in the trunk if he was taking a trip and around town always added 2-3 qts of bottle oil when filling up. It was a coupe and i did like the shape of it. He finally traded it in on a 1951 Lincoln 2 door. Drove that car from California to New York and as luck would have it i had an accident on Atlantic ave in Brooklyn. Thought my father would kill me but the company that owned the truck that hit me paid the entire bill to fix the car.

  • avatar

    MKZ was and is a terrible name. A logical transition for consumers, dealers, etc. would be to revert to the only catchy Lincoln name starting with a “Z” once more.

    Besides, there are plenty of hot-rodders that know what’s up with this semi-famous name.

    http://www.decorides.com/scrapezephyr.htm

  • avatar

    More to the point: Hot Rod Lincoln has folklore. Big $$$ folklore.

    http://www.barrett-jackson.com/Events/Event/Details/1938-LINCOLN-ZEPHYR-V12-COUPE-STREET-ROD-178455

  • avatar

    you’re forgetting the fox body Mercury Zephyr clone of the Fairmont.

    Dear Detroit, stop screwing around with names every slight change. build some equity in the nameplates!

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I still maintain that if every compact Chevy from 1980 onwards had been named Nova, without GM abandoning each new nameplate like rats from a sinking ship, the hypothetical 2016 Nova would be an objectively better car even if it were mechanically identical to the Cruze we have.

  • avatar
    skor

    “Compared to Continental — an iconic name stamped onto Lincolns for more than half a century that was once synonymous with American luxury, the Zephyr doesn’t have the same name recognition.”

    ‘Continental’ had street cred….Sonny Corleone got machine gunned in a Continental.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Right, because the last Zephyr made it all better for Lincoln.

    Here’s the thing, folks…if you make truly great cars, people are gonna buy ’em unless they’re named “smegma” or “zygote.” Focus on the product, Lincoln.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’d love to see a Capri, small 4 dr sedan on the Mustang platform , with same powertrains.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I believe that was called the Lincoln LS, which only was missing the Mustang engine.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        That was the critical omission. They really missed with the engine in the LS.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Well you had to create economies of scale for that slightly destroked 3.9 ltr V8 stolen from the Jaguar 4.0/4.2 V8.

          LS and retro Thunderbird were the only cars to get that engine.

          • 0 avatar
            carguy67

            My folks have a 2000 LS with the 3.9L V8. Aside from chronic COP issues and a problematic hydraulic fan it’s a decent mill, but there is precious little space left in the engine bay (changing plugs is an ordeal). I have a 2008 Bullitt Mustang with the 4.6L Modular engine; in my estimation there is no way in Hades to cram the 4.6L–much less a Coyote–into that engine bay.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            carguy67, you’re right. But the solution, if we’re talking new models, is to do what Enzo Ferrari did: design/build the car around the engine. That’s what Edsel Ford did with the first Continental: the long hood was part of the “European” design. Space can be allocated for drivers and passengers later.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The LS was a Jag, not a Mustang. The 4.6L would not fit in the DEW98 cars.

  • avatar
    NOSLucasWiringSmoke

    I couldn’t understand 10 years ago why Lincoln decided to resurrect “Zephyr”, which hadn’t been on a proper Lincoln since 1942, and was going to be associated by many potential buyers with the Mercury Zephyr, an undistinguished, plebian transport appliance if ever there was one.

    The current MKWTF naming scheme is meaningless unless you invest time learning which is which, there’s no rhyme or reason to why a vehicle is a MKthis as opposed to a MKthat or MKother. Resurrecting a hallowed name like Continental was best left until there was a better car for it. I guess we should hope that’s what has transpired, and that people remember the good Continentals and not stretched Tauruses when they hear the name. Lincoln has no better plan, but all those saying that Cadillac should still be calling their cars D/Sevilles and Eldorados should watch what happens closely.

    Another move from about the same era (mid-2000s?) that I didn’t get was Chrysler calling their new premium (if it was) crossover the Aspen. Great name for something like that, famous ski resort and all, if you could only use one of those Men in Black memory-erasing gadgets on everyone who’d ever seen a Dodge Aspen…

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The ’39-’42 Zephyr saved Lincoln. Henry was senile and wanted to end it, but Edsel’s Continental was the halo car that brought customers to the showroom, and they drove away in enough Zephyrs to keep the division from being shut down.

      When McNamara was ready to kill Lincoln, the new Continental became both halo and savior as a luxe sedan, even though it was designed to be a Ford coupe. One of the Fords saw it and insisted it had to be a Lincoln.

      The way to RE-introduce it is to tout the history in advertising. Unlike the MKX/Z/whatever, it actually HAS a history.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    What a beautiful looking vehicle.

    It makes you wonder what happened to the design and style for US designed prestige vehicles.

    They look sh!t nowadays. Look at what are beig offered from Lincoln and the pathetic looking Caddies.

    We had a Ford Zephyr in Australia when I was a kid. They did look rather cumbersome compared to the Falcon. It was of British design, with a the usual small in line British 6. I think there were two engines, one 2.2 and a 2.5 litre engine.

    The Zephyr name should remain back with the Art Deco era and not now. It doesn’t have much charm about it.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Off topic maybe but in the UK we didn’t have Lincoln but we did have the six cylinder Ford Zephyr and Zodiac.

    Four generations of them over 20 years.

    Mark II was my favorite, the UK police had a lot of Mk IIIs.

  • avatar

    The reason why the current crop of MK_ names do not resonate is because (especially because, FYI) they are very phonetically similar to one another…

    Em-kay-Zee
    Em-kay-Tee
    Em-kay-See
    Em-kay-Ecks
    Em-Kay-Ess

    Terrible. And its not just the general dunderheaded public – people in the industry get them confused constantly. Wholesalers who buy these things are overheard double-specifying which car they’re referring to, usually reverting back to its size or – worse – the Ford counterpart. “‘Got a ’13 MKZ, nav, pano slider, 19s. Yeah. Em-kay-Zee…the small one…the Fusion. Yeah. Its a nice unit…”

    Cadillacs CT/XT is at least arranged on some heirarchal level.

    I am very alarmed that the whole nomenclature scheme made it this far.

    Utopian Turtletop is more sonorous.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Isn’t the world all going CUV? How about Aviator?

    They should bring Zephyr back so they can have an ad with Anthony Kedis driving around in one bopping along to some songs that reach the Lincoln demographic, like Suck My Kiss and Love Rollercoaster.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      “Rebel and a liberator / Find a way to be a skater / Rev it up to levitate her / Super-friendly aviator…”

      Hmm…

      Aviator is the upcoming full-size CUV/SUV that will replace the MKT on the new Explorer platform, IIRC. The original mid-size SUV Aviator may have been mediocre, but the name was great, IMO.

  • avatar
    Snail Kite

    “Returning the Lincoln Lineup Would be Pointless”

    Fixed the headline fore you.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Thanks for this article. It made me image search Zephyrs and I found my new infatuation: the 1938 Zephyr coupe is the most awesomely gorgeous example of the prewar “business coupe” type. That big-assed beauty is a BBW!

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Using numbers instead of names killed Pontiac. Am I right ?

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      I was thought that GMs substandard products killed Pointiac

      • 0 avatar
        seanx37

        GM’s too many competing substandard vehicles sold under different brands with dealers to support killed Pontiac. Chevy, Pontiac,Buick, Oldsmobile, and Saturn all selling the same car with different bodies was the problem.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          They were doing that in the 1950s and had half the market! They were even doing that within each devision (then separate “companies”). Chevrolet sold the styleline special, the styleline deluxe, and the fleetline deluxe (later the BelAir), and they were all the same car, 235 six with three on the tree, with different levels of brightwork and seat covers.

          It wasn’t until the ’55 models that they added options and differentiated with levels of standard features, but still the same car underneath the bling. By then, the lowest model was the 1500 series, the mid-level 2100 series, and top level was BelAir or 2400 series, so they were already starting with numbers that didn’t mean anything.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Whatever happened to the 1950s-era infatuation with the word “deluxe” and its many forms you’d see attached to products back then? “Deluxe,” “DeLuxe,” “de luxe,” “De Luxe,” and probably variations of the two-word version with a hyphen.

            A symptom of inhaling too much secondhand smoke while working for Madison Avenue marketing agencies, perhaps?

  • avatar
    seanx37

    Cars need names. Not random numbers and letters. Zephyr is a fine name.
    Now if Lincoln can only make cars that people want. Although their smaller CUV seems very popular lately

  • avatar
    AtomB

    Frank Lloyd Wright had a couple of customized Zephyrs. Lowey had one too. http://www.hemmings.com/magazine/hcc/2015/05/Art-of-the-Design—1940-Lincoln-Continental/3748502.html

  • avatar
    jerseydevil200

    I like car names, like Zephyr. Prefer it to MK whatever. And the MK nomenclature derived from the storied Mark series from Lincoln. Lincoln Mark 7 LSC sounds better to my ear then MK anything. Its already called Lincoln. Whats with the MK?

  • avatar
    STS_Endeavour

    No need to go back to Zephyr at this point. Keep the Z – drop the MK. Keep numbers away from it, and Nissan US won’t have much to complain about.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Yes, “Zephyr” is not a name to conjure with.

    But it beats “MKZ” for memorability and pronunciation.

    It’s not a mistake, it’s just not a Huge Automatic Win.

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