SALINA — Dan Magathan began collecting 1950s memorabilia in the early '80s when he and his wife, Linda, moved to Salina. Their basement is now awash in old 45 rpm records, soda shop booths, a popcorn machine, movie theater vending machines and a fully functional juke box with all the right tunes.
He even went out and found himself an old-time street rod, a '39 Chevy coupe, but something was missing.
"The coupe is just too small... we needed something we can get six or seven people in," he said. With that in mind, he was on the trail of a '49-'51 Mercury four-door. "But they are so expensive for what you get," he said, noting those cars' desirability among customizers.
And then one day in 2008, he found what he was looking for: a 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan four-door sport sedan.
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"It was at South Beach Classics in Miami, Fla., and I looked at pictures of it for two months," he said. Finally, he struck a deal and the car was shipped to Kansas, arriving covered with diesel soot from the car transporter.
But that cleaned up quickly. The Cosmo did have a few other issues, though. "The bumpers were all rusted and had big creases in them," Magathan said. The 12-volt electrical conversion also left something to be desired and the speedometer "waved like a windshield wiper," the new owner discovered.
"I did have the bumpers redone by Industrial Chrome in Topeka," Magathan said. He also had R&A Auto Electric in Salina rewire the front and rear sections of the car. For the speedo, he chose to install a small Dakota Digital unit atop the steering column, just behind the Hydra-Matic shift indicator.
That's right, 1950 was the first year that Lincoln installed a GM-built four-speed automatic in its top-of-the-line cars. "You'd better be sure you have a good emergency brake... because it doesn't have 'Park' in it... it will start in any gear," Magathan said.
His Cosmo had received a few minor custom touches: the original gray mohair upholstery had been replaced by a gray-and-white vinyl tuck-and-roll theme and a pair of dummy spotlights had been mounted to the cowl.
"I had to get a set of Lancer hub caps. I had always wanted them... we called them 'crab claws' back then," he said. Stock hubcaps remain on the rear wheels, since the mid-'50s Dodge caps won't clear the fender skirts. Magathan's son, Brent, installed a modern radio/CD player setup in the dash for cruising to the oldies.
One of the more unusual features of the Cosmopolitan is the power window setup. The windows move up and down by means of hydraulic actuators, with a hydraulic motor driven off the engine of the car.
And what an engine it is: 337 cubic inches of flathead V-8, the biggest of its type in a Ford Motor Co. passenger car that year.
The Magathans loaded up a bunch of friends to drive to the big Ottawa car show last fall. "I didn't know if it was going to shake, shimmy or roll," Magathan said. "But it was just amazing... we were riding along singing to Roy Orbison... everyone says how great the ride is," he said.
"Most people who see it think it's a Hudson or a Packard," he said.
Magathan says he is still looking for some replacement chrome trim and plans to lower the car a couple of inches in the front. But the plan for this car show season is simple and straightforward: "This baby is going everywhere."