The Lincoln K-Series V12, often referred to simply as “Ford’s K Series”, were a line of high end luxury cars built by Lincoln Division of the Ford Motor Company during the economic depression of the 1930’s. Specifically Lincoln K-Series vehicles were built between 1932 & 1939. It was a case of an ultra-deluxe premium product being delivered and marketing to the automotive market at the wrong time. Perhaps it could be said that there are “always people with money” and its important to have a flagship for your brand – in this case the competition was against the V12 Cadillac road cars – yet still Ford and its Lincoln division struggled valiantly to keep the sales price under the $ 4,000 mark.
The history of the Lincoln K-Series V12 model line goes as such. Mr. Henry Leland had resigned from Cadillac in 1917, just after WW1 ended, and evolved a new car for 1921 which he branded and named “Lincoln”. Lincoln was not a part of the Ford empire yet – it was its own entity. This time period in terms of the automotive industry in the US and worldwide was one of “consolidation” where smaller more entrepreneurial auto making firms where gobbled up by larger concerns with more financial, marketing and sales resources. Lincoln was one such entity being acquired by Ford in 1922.
Mr. Henry Ford himself was happy to let the Lincoln division of his company to carry on making small numbers of exclusive for over ten years before the first “Ford-Lincoln” (the Zephyr) was designed. The new management carried on building “Lincoln V8s” for ten years, but in 1932 they announced the splendid and rather exclusive K-Series cars one of which, (specifically the KB model), was given a V12 engine of 7.3 liters.
These cars were beautifully made and were downright impressive rather than just attractive to look at and admire as fixtures of the road. Their quantity-production precision engineering was obvious, but they were simply just one of seven “V12’s” on the US auto market in 1932. Hence sales figures were low. Just over 2,000 were sold in the 1933 automotive marketing and sales year. Even though the KA, which had been V8 powered, acquired a smaller edition 6.2 liter V12 in 1933, it alone had a retail sticker price of $ 2,700, which thus put it into the luxury end of the auto market out of reach of what was then considered “rich” ( but impoverished) Americans. Even so there was much interest in the technical details overall.
The chassis and suspension were entirely conventional, but the engine was a mixture of both old and new. Among its technical details were a 65-degree angle between banks (60 degrees was then the norm and would of given perfect balance), side valves and detachable cylinder blocks on a light-alloy crankcase. There was synchromesh in the gearbox (all America was following GM’s 1928 example), and a freewheel feature into the setup. Surprisingly brakes were mechanically operated, but they had a vacuum “servo” to assist the driver or chauffeur.
A new model Lincoln was announced in 1934 to replace the original KAs and KBs; this had a slightly smaller engine of 6.8 liters (414 cubic inches), aluminum cylinder heads and a maximum top speed of 100 miles per hour mph. There was yet important restyling a year of two later down the road. Yet sales continued to decline and grind down with the last of the K-Series Lincoln V12s being built and rolling out of Ford-Lincoln production facilities in 1939.
Yet the Lincoln name and exclusive marquee had been established by this product. The Ford designed Lincoln-Zephyr, which carried this prestige brand name which both, was an ultra fast vehicle and filled a lower auto market price niche hit the roads. It began to sell as if were the Ford Mustang of its time. Hence although the Ford-Lincoln K-Series V12 was a case of a magnificent product which emerged against staunch competition and a higher price than most potential customers in its market arena could afford. Yet the Ford-Lincoln K12 V12’s set the stage for the foundation and success of the Lincoln division of the giant Ford Motor Company – which served as Ford’s high end prestige premium faceplate.