Cars

Cruising Kansas in a Continental coupe

Claude Blakesley's 1948 Lincoln Continental club coupe recalls a time when automotive elegance was once again on the upswing following the sacrifices of World War II. The big car weighed in at almost 4,000 pounds and was powered by a flathead V-12 engine.
Claude Blakesley's 1948 Lincoln Continental club coupe recalls a time when automotive elegance was once again on the upswing following the sacrifices of World War II. The big car weighed in at almost 4,000 pounds and was powered by a flathead V-12 engine. The Wichita Eagle

HUTCHINSON – The old car hobby isn’t just for old guys. Sometimes grandsons can play a vital role in the quest for historic automobiles.

That was the case in tracking down Claude Blakesley’s 1948 Lincoln Continental club coupe.

“When I was real young, I saw one of these and I always wanted one,” Blakesley said. He had been into classic cars for a good, long time, with a beautiful 1926 Chevrolet roadster and a big, red 1930 Packard sedan in his possession at one time or another.

“My grandson (Scott Walker) found this one on the Internet, in California, and told me about it,” he said. “An old man had it, and he was in bad health and was in the hospital. So we dealt with his grandson.”

They eventually came to terms and the seller’s grandson arranged to have the car shipped to Kansas from California. But when the transport truck arrived to pick it up, the owner, who by then was out of the hospital, saw that it was an open truck.

“The old man wouldn’t let them ship it on an open trailer,” Blakesley said.

“I sweat blood for a month. I was kind of between the fire and the skillet,” he said. He finally agreed to pay the extra money to have the car shipped in an enclosed trailer and he was not disappointed when it rolled up.

Except there was a cracked window he hadn’t been told about. When the seller learned about that, he refunded $700 of the purchase price.

“That told me I was dealing with a decent person,” he said.

That was two years ago this month. Blakesley had the cracked window replaced and sent the car to Johnny Torres to have the interior refurbished. Torres, who operates a custom upholstery shop in Hutchinson, couldn’t locate the exact match for the factory woven cloth interior, but found a good approximation and combined it with heavy vinyl to replace the worn leather trim on the seats.

Inside, a beautifully chromed-out radio/heater control unit is centered in the dashboard and a massive steering wheel is mounted behind a 110-mph speedometer.

“Everything works except the radio,” Blakesley said. “I keep the clock unplugged because it will run the battery down.”

The integrated humpback trunk, secured by exposed latches, still contains the original upholstery and is surprisingly spacious. But it’s not easy to load or unload, as the spare tire carrier, better known as a “continental kit,” sits between the trunk lid and the big back bumper.

The 1948 Lincoln Continental was a made-over version of the pre-war 1942 models, but came with a lot of heavy chrome plating and lights up front, where headlights, fog lights, turn signals and park lights, along with not one, but two, big horizontal grilles, are protected by a heavy bumper with both bumper guards and end-mounted over-riders.

The car cuts an impressive figure, with its formal roofline and its brilliant Opal Blue Green paint scheme. It had been repainted at some point during its 67-year lifespan.

“Old Babe Ruth drove one that was just exactly the same,” said Blakesley , showing off a copy of “Old Cars” magazine featuring the Bambino’s ride. He also holds up a copy of an insurance company calendar with what appears to be his Continental featured prominently.

“My agent called me and said, ‘I’ve got a calendar with a car in it that is like yours – would you like to have one?’ Blakesley said.

“My wife said, ‘That can’t be the same car.’ But when you look at the mirrors and the little emblem (a Classic Car Club of America emblem awarded in a competition) on the side, it is the same car,” he said. A call to the previous owner confirmed it had, in fact, been photographed by a professional photographer near a mansion in California.

The Lincoln has spring-loaded doors that are opened by means of a single push button; no door handle is needed since the doors swing open when the latch is released. The Continental also has hydraulically operated power windows controlled by small toggle switches in the door panels. Pressurized hydraulic fluid is supplied by an electric pump mounted in the engine bay.

Another of the Continental’s unique features is found under the big, long hood: a flathead V-12 engine displacing 292 cubic inches and cranking out 125 super smooth horsepower. An offset air cleaner channels air into the single carburetor atop the engine.

Power is transmitted to a Borg-Warner 3-speed manual transmission with factory overdrive. Blakesley says the 4,000-pound car travels effortlessly at highway speeds and rides like a dream.

He replaced the old bias-ply tires that were on the Continental shortly after he bought it, installing a set of 6.70/15 reproduction radial wide whitewalls. He noted that the Continental actually was delivered with three separate styles of hubcaps.

The front hubcaps are decorated with embossed Lincoln script, the rears are plain, to clear the fender skirts, and the hubcap on the continental kit has the red Lincoln logo offset to the top, to clear the single brake light mounted above the license plate bracket.

“I’m not a street rodder guy. I like my old cars in original condition,” Blakesley said. Thanks to a grandson’s help, he now has the one he dreamed of as a kid.

Reach Mike Berry at mberry@wichitaeagle.com.

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