The Lynx Project Lincoln-Mercury’s Lost Dream Car

The Lincoln-Mercury Version of the X-Car
Did one exist? Evidence is mounting...

The Lynx project team came into being when, in 2002, while purchasing Ford Motor Company dream car materials at the Hershey auction, Mark S. Gustavson discovered some really interesting – and equally cryptic – references to a previously-unknown Lincoln-Mercury concept car that was built in 1964 as some kind of a L-M response to the Ford X-Car program. Those early references were fleeting and tantalizing, and precipitated an automotive archeological program that has plumbed into rare archives and uncovered information from the United States and Europe (particularly Italy and Switzerland), the Ford Custom Car Caravan and the Lincoln-Mercury Caravan of Stars and even the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Almost 7 years, so-far, of hard work has resulted in The Lynx Project – an effort that will reveal the history of the Lynx concept car program by replicating, in scale, the now-wide range of information about the elusive Lynx concept car.

Research has produced many details of the long-suppressed existence of the Lincoln-Mercury Division X-Car – the Lynx – which was produced in three authorized iterations. The following narrative – which represents the understanding of the history of the Lynx prototypes in mid-year 2007 – reveals the intriguing story the research has revealed. This history will be revised and supplemented in the book on the Lynx concept car due for publication in a few years.

Please enjoy with us the following narrative (copyright, 2006, The Lynx Project):

Lynx Production and Display History
Once the overall outline for the three Lynx prototypes were generally defined in early 1963, it was time for Lincoln-Mercury General Manager Benjamin D. Mills to put those plans into action. In early May 1963, Mills met with Dearborn Steel Tubing (DST) head Andy Hotton to discuss the general scope and detail of the nascent Lincoln-Mercury concept car program, by then underway for about 14 months. Mills talked with Hotton about carrying out the preliminary mechanical and bodywork tasks necessary to modify three V8-powered, pre-production 1964 Comet Caliente convertibles in anticipation of dramatic coach work at the famed Italian carrozzeria, Bertone. DST had a strong reputation for fearless craftsmanship (it had just completed the Thunderbird Italien for the Ford Custom Car Caravan), and was known for its vigorous protection of design studio projects from competitors. The combination of high skill and confidentiality was very attractive to Mills since his project had to be concealed not only from possible competitors, but from inter-Division snooping within Ford, as well. Mills correctly decided that DST was the shop to take on the tasks of not only largely disassembling the factory vehicles, but also doing the required initial engineering and basic body reconfiguration on the three Comets prior to shipment to Bertone for special Italian coach work. The revolutionary plan to build three differently-configured versions of the concept cars design within a tight time frame required an experienced, fully-staffed shop to handle the initial work quickly and well.

DST was chosen for another reason as well: the independent shop’s had ample experience doing high-performance engine and chassis work, and was called upon to configure the three “program” prototypes.  As an example of the adventurousness of the entire Lynx program – which was such a contrast to the public perception of a purveyor of conservative cars - the first prototype took some genuine risks: Mills’ plans for the power plant of the first prototype would certainly require those skills. Mills had in mind the construction of a McCullough supercharged version of the inline corporate six cylinder engine (christened the “Super Six”) that powered the base models of compact Ford and Mercury-Division cars. Though the small inline, prosaic engine was obviously not intended for a high-power configuration, Mills’ version would be tilted on its side to fit it under the dramatically sloping hood featured on the concept car design: Mills’ design drawings created through an exchange between the L-M design and Miller were detailed enough to permit Hotton’s crews to correctly anticipate the interference between the dramatically sloping hood of the first prototype and the front of the engine – just where possible interference might occur. The engine was fitted with a supercharger pressurizing a Ford 4-barrel carb sitting atop a custom-built intake manifold to provide plenty of horsepower and torque for enthusiastic driving. Other changes included building a modified oil pan and pickup, designing and fabricating the brackets to place the McCullough supercharger lower on the passenger side of the engine, fabricating a unique “Super Six”- script valve cover, and constructing all the specially-fabricated brackets and braces for this most-unusual engine. This experimental “show” engine, christened the “Super Six” was planned to give the admiring public the sense that the Lincoln-Mercury Division was thinking of spirited performance by its presentation of a fully-functional, high-performance, small displacement inline engine. To expedite the creation of the special powerplant, Hotton retained Ak Miller, Ford’s performance advisor who was, by then, also well known for his performance work on Ford’s small six. Mills retained Miller to design and fabricate m the specially-constructed engine that would be coupled to Ford’s version of the Borg-Warner T-10 4-speed.

Because of the radical ‘Super Six” engine, and given the political climate at Ford Motor Company at the time the Lynx prototypes were being built, Mills pressed Hotton about the need for absolute confidentiality on the L-M Division project, a point Hotton acknowledged (though it placed DST in an interesting and risky position because of its on-going work for the Ford Division.). Hotton assured the Lincoln-Mercury chief that the work could be done well, in strict confidentiality, and on time.

During the development of the special engine, other equally-crucial aspects of the project were underway. Bodywork was the most visual and probably the most important aspect of Mills’ Lynx concept car program. Despite the extensive development work on the Lynx vehicles, Mills knew in June of 1963 that the preliminary fastback roof design for his dream cars was the least satisfying styling aspect of the cars. Though a lot of effort had been directed to create a graceful roof design that would match the adventurous design of the rest of the car, every proposal was ultimately unsatisfactory (and some were truly awful); Mills knew that some breakthrough had to happen, and soon. During one on-site discussion with Hotton about how to plan the preliminary construction work of the three Lynx prototypes, the Lincoln-Mercury Division chief saw an intriguing, teal-colored fastback – the Mustang Vivace – that he had not seen before. The Vivace was fitted with a swept-back, clearly European-influenced roof line – sitting near the entry to DST’s shop. Mills learned that the Vivace was loosely based (very loosely, as it turned out) on one of the first “proof of concept” in-house styling studio design studies of the proposed Mustang convertible. To Mills’ surprise, this car had escaped the design studio, and had been subsequently greatly modified by Hotton. The beautiful roof design, influenced by the Ford Division’s Allegro X-Car, entirely satisfied Mills’ objectives – it was lithe and could be integrated into the finned rear quarter panels of the Lynx design.

The creation of the Vivace was eventful, and was based upon Hotton’s personal interest in the Mustang that developed through his close involvement with the Ford Division. Interested in restyling the car, Hotton asked about the disposition of an early, metal styling study of the forthcoming Mustang convertible he saw sitting in the studio. Surprisingly, the studio head (undoubtedly with the tacit approval of Bordinat) offered the car to Hotton but disclosed to him that the mule was only crudely tacked together and lacked basic structural elements in the body, that the connection between the sheetmetal and the Falcon unibody was tenuous at best and could not be registered for street use. Hotton enthusiastically accepted the offer, and made arrangements to have the vehicle towed to DST. Upon arrival, Hotton examined the car and started to seriously sketch the car that he wanted to build based on the genuinely crude car that sat before him. And the design chief was right: The car needed a lot of work since it was only crudely assembled in the design study to only test out design elements and finishing schemes. As his designs gelled, Hotton sensed an opportunity to fulfill his years-long desire to create a lithe fastback coupe for his personal use that would avoid the production-compromised design elements then emerging from the Ford styling studio. His initial roof design matured as he studied the Ford drawings to the Thunderbird Italien that was under construction in the shop at the same time. Aware of the nascent Ford Custom Car Caravan, Hotton came to the realization that his restyled Mustang might find a place on that most remarkable of Ford promotional campaigns in which Ford-themed, if not explicitly Ford-based, vehicles would be campaigned across the United States as part of the corporate effort to capture the imagination of a young, custom-and-performance minded, audience.

The first thing Hotton did on the Vivace was to weld seams and stabilize the metal body built from Kirksite tooling – low-production metal shaping dies used to create and test out prototype production parts (which were not production quality, but could be used for non-production based concept cars). The body also was also only tenuously attached to the Falcon platform and further work (including completing the inner body structural shapes) was required just to stabilize the basic body structure. The lack of a roof made things unstable, but that problem was resolved when Hotton started on the restyling work. With the basic body integrity achieved, Hotton modified the shock towers to accommodate a Thunderbird 390 tri-power engine (which engineering work would later prove very useful when Ford ordered the construction of the Fairlane Thunderbolt drag cars) that Hotton acquired for a deep discount.

Hotton continued his work and restyled the car to satisfy his own objectives with changes that included the design of a lovely fastback roof (loosely based on very early renderings of the forthcoming Mustang 2+2 roof design), a full-width and integrated front grille-and-headlight set up (where Marchal headlights were placed behind a rotating grille section framed by a front bumper), a wall-to-wall taillight integrated with a dropped rear deck which eliminated the trunk, enlarged and raised wheel wells, restyled doors (entirely different door outline) and other details. Once the bodywork was completed, the Vivace was finished in 1963 Ford Ming Green (spiked with a bit of opalescent powder) with a matching two-bucket seat interior. 

Mills really admired the Vivace roof and wanted to import that basic design to his personal version of his basic Lynx prototype design and use the developing production Mustang fastback roof design for prototypes one and two, with modifications. With that in mind, Mills took the Ford Division Styling Studio manager to lunch one day, with Hotton in tow, in early June 1963 to discuss the roof styling that Hotton had developed from the pending Mustang 2+2 roof design after which the Lincoln-Mercury chief acquired a copy of the several preliminary design drawings and layout details for the 2+2 fastback roof. design would be used almost without change, on the first prototype. Mills wanted to use the early Mustang drawings and dimensions for the exterior sheet metal shapes, the window reveals, and supporting structures. Elements of the proposed Mustang fastback roof drawings were quickly incorporated into the Lynx styling by L-M designers (later, the Lincoln-Mercury design prepared roof drawing sets which were sent to Bertone for use in fabricating the roofs for the second prototype, and Mills’ fourth Lynx version).

On June 25, 1963, Mills delivered to Hotton the fully-developed engineering and body technical illustrations necessary to carry out early conversion work on the three ‘64 Comet convertibles due at DST in late July. That day, Hotton and Mills spent the afternoon talking about how the first three “official” Lynx prototypes (as well as Mills’ car) were to be styled, and through what the cars were to be built; Hotton was openly pleased by the clear similarities between his Vivace roof design and the roof for the fourth Lynx car. The DST chief expressed surprise (and pleasure, given the value of the work) at the scope of the initial work that would need to be done in his shop, and repeated his assurance that the work would be done well and on time.

While Hotton was reviewing the Lynx plans and project descriptions, Mills had to acquire three Comet convertibles quickly. In anticipation of the start of 1964 Comet convertible production at the Los Angeles plant on July 18, 1963, Mills directed his vehicle coordinator, Jim Abrams, to prepare the paperwork to acquire three pre-production 1964 Comet Caliente convertibles using the same administrative procedure through which “pool cars,” or evaluation vehicles, were acquired. On Thursday, July 22, 1963, Abrams submitted the documentation to the company using an ICBA (Inter-Company Buying Authority) number citing a line item reference to Mills’ budget for “Special Projects.” Mills wanted V8 convertibles as the basis for the three program cars since the unibody and engine compartment sheet metal was stronger than that of the coupes and hardtops (because of additional bracing to the floor pan) and were built with larger brakes and 5-lug wheels. Additionally, all three convertibles needed the heavier-duty steering and suspension components offered in the convertibles, along with an 8" rear axle that could handle the extra torque of both the V8 power plants and the supercharged “Super Six” engine that would be installed in the first Lynx prototype. Though the V8 was to be removed from VIN No. 4J25500021 and replaced with the supercharged Super Six engine, it was less trouble and, ultimately, less expensive to order that car with a V8 and a four-speed than to order a six-cylinder car and then be faced with installing the heavier duty V8-related parts. Necessary paperwork was sent to the LA plant where three cars equipped as specified were built as part of the early pre-production run. 

Mills’ specifications weren’t hard to satisfy: all three convertibles had to be V-8 equipped with a single four-barrel carburetor; one of the V8 cars was to be equipped with the recently-introduced Ford C-4 automatic transmission (VIN No. 4J255000404), and the remaining two V8 cars were fitted with T-10 four-speed manual transmissions (VIN No. 4J25500022 and VIN No. 4J25500021). Because Mills’ order had to fit into the regular production sequences, only two vehicles had sequential VINs. Abrams was advised, on July 26, 1963, that the cars were ready; they were quickly loaded onto a corporate transport truck and left Los Angeles for DST. When Mills called Hotton to let him know the cars were en route, Mills repeated his strong concern about the need for absolute confidentiality -- a point that Hotton again acknowledged.

Time was quickly becoming a real problem because the interval planned for building the three prototypes was limited. At least one of the cars had to be ready for the Ford exhibit at the New York World’s Fair in late Spring 1964, Mills was beginning to appreciate the substantial time required to build three complete, differently-configured, cars. This was a larger problem than known to Hotton because Bertone shop time would have to be further adjusted to build a fourth car (Mills’ personal Lynx). Mills told Hotton that the three Lynx prototypes would be put to different display purposes – all in the service of proposing to both the public and Ford corporate management that the L-M concept car could be readily adapted to a number of promotional (and later, market-friendly) uses. The first Lynx would be campaigned at custom car shows and would need to feature plenty of custom paint and chrome as well as the modified production six cylinder engine to satisfy the emerging “sporty car” market; the second Lynx would be presented occasionally at car shows but would spend most of its time at SCCA events where it would occasionally compete in B production sedan events (but would never be entered in competition thereby permitting Lincoln-Mercury to tap into the essence of the Ford Division’s Total Performance program); and the third Lynx would be a highly-styled convertible, with a fold-away soft top and a removable hardtop that would attract again the young sophisticate buyers (for whom the corporation had no car since the two-seat original Thunderbird). All the prototypes would be used in various displays - most especially the Lincoln-Mercury Caravan of Stars at the Cavalcade of Custom Cars at the New York World’s Fair, with the roadster eventually going to Bordinat for his support of Mills’ project. But there was still one more thing to work out with Hotton: In mid-July, 1963, the Lincoln-Mercury chief spoke to Hotton about a fourth prototype – his personal Lynx. This created a new, and larger, problem for Hotton because his work just increased by twenty-five percent as well as for Bertone’s already-tight schedule. And there was one more inevitable effect – Mills knew that the budgets for Bertone and DST would need to be increased to pay for the additional cost plus, undoubtedly, a performance bonus to encourage the best and most timely work.

After arriving as scheduled on the morning of July 29, 1963, the three convertibles were quickly unloaded and driven into the DST shop, where the crew started the first phase of the work by stripping from all of the cars the front clip, the doors (saving the data plates from each but leaving the door hinges/bulkhead in place), the front and rear bumpers, lights, exterior trim, the trunk lid, the windshield glass, the convertible top mechanisms and all of the interior components and trim (except the dashboard). The second general task was to reconfigure the basic unibody structure to accept the fresh coach work: this task required shortening the Comet unibody platform to achieve the Lynx wheelbase of 101", and then relocating the factory firewall and toe board rearward to achieve one of the distinctive design features – long front fenders leading a short-coupled interior compartment and short, finned rear fenders and drop-down deck design. Third, the front unibody/subframe cross member had to be moved rearward a bit to clear the design of the lower front pan and grille. On the platforms for the second and third prototypes (the V-8 cars), the engine and transmission pick up points were also moved rearward just over 8-1/2” from the factory placement, while the I-6 car was moved rearward 9 ½" to give the cars a much-improved front/rear weight balance. The new mounts the DST crew installed permitted the engine and transmission combination to maintain its factory relationship to the firewall and preserved the factory transmission shifter mechanisms’ location. This work on the three cars involved more effort than was at first supposed because the unibody firewall was an integral structural element, and because shortening the wheelbase meant working around the factory convertible transverse unibody strengthening sheetmetal. These substantial changes also meant that the production steering column had to be relocated and extended – aided by the use of a U-joint – because the distance between the firewall and the steering box had increased.

With the basic unibody and mechanical reconfiguration work finished, it was time to do early body work changes. While production tooling for the sleek Mustang 1965-model year prototype roof wasn’t yet ready in August of 1963 (and wouldn’t be for another ten months), the availability of Kirksite tooling enabled Mills to provide Hotton early concept rough-stamped roof sheet metal parts necessary to basically configure the roof for the first prototype. With the removal of the factory Mustang 2+2 sheet metal completed, the initial prototype-specific task for DST was to rough-in the greenhouse on unibody 4J25500021 (the first Lynx prototype) using very early pre-production the fastback sheetmetal as a template for assembling the Kirksite sheet metal bits from the Ford Division. Once received, Hotton’s crew welded the several metal stampings together and then fabricated the metal structure to support the roof of the first prototype. This assembly was then mated to the reconfigured Comet unibody. Additional sets of these prototype Kirksite sheet metal stampings were procured and included in the items later shipped to Bertone (though, as it turned out, the Italian metal formers preferred to form their own sheet metal parts, especially since the roofs on prototype two – and Mills’ car – differed significantly from the largely production roof shape already installed on the first prototype). After DST placed the the assembled roof sheet metal on the basic roof/body layout for the first prototype, Mills discovered that the roof shapes for the prototype number Two (and, ultimately, Mills’ personal version – the fourth Lynx prototype) could be more easily-achieved by the craftsmen at Bertone. 

Mechanical changes, too, had to be accomplished. The “Super Six” engine, received, in mid-August 1963 from Miller’s shop in California where it had been tested and dialed in on Miller’s dyno, was installed in the engine bay of the first Lynx prototype after a DST workman finished welding the motor mounts.  Show detailing had not been done at this point; Mills understood that aesthetic enhancements could be accomplished after the cars were returned from Bertone because the construction and painting process would compromise any engine detailing. Another task arose concerning the second prototype: to satisfy the goal of entering the second prototype in SCCA B-Production sedan competitive events, Mills requisitioned a single high-performance 289 cubic inch 271-horse engine V8, then available in the ‘63 Fairlane sport coupe, from the assembly line in the Cleveland plant, and directed that it be delivered to DST for use with the factory T-10 4-speed. While working out installation issues with the reconfigured unibody and firewall, DST mechanics replaced the factory 8" rear axle with a narrowed Galaxie heavy duty 9" unit, fitted with 3.70 gears, on what would be the Lynx “racing” prototype. Finally, on the body for the third Lynx prototype, Hotton’s crews installed a prototype Mustang convertible windshield frame and glass - the same basic design that would also be used in the Bordinat Cobra that would be built about 18 months later.

After the basic work was finished on August 8, Hotton individually packed each of the three stripped-down and modified Comets in strong wooden crates. Because the prototypes were expressly designed to make the maximum use of readily-available items from corporate parts bins to reduce the costs of developing the regular production versions of the basic Lynx design and to trigger recognition of productions bit to enhance marketability, several additional crates were filled with supplemental production parts for use on the prototypes. Included in the additional crates were additional prototype wheels, bolts of upholstery materials, switch gear, back up lights, and so forth, as well as two prototype Mercury styling studio Mercury dashboards that were destined, after modification, for use on Prototypes One and Three. The crates of spare parts and the three crated cars were loaded into two enclosed Mercury-Division transport trucks and sent to the Detroit Metro airport in Romulus for a flight to New York. Once in New York, the three cars and parts were transferred to an Alitalia cargo jet which left for Italy late on August 11. The three rolling unibodies and accompanying parts arrived in Italy, passed through customs, and were delivered to Bertone on August 13, 1963. On that same day, Mills had his financial chief wire a substantial deposit to Bertone to facilitate the acquisition of supplies, and to make it clear to Bertone that Mills expected the famed carrozzeria’s attention focused on the Lynx project, an effort that would require the full-time efforts of nearly every craftsman working for the Italian coachbuilder. 

During the development and initial work at DST, plans for Mills’ personalized version of the Lynx concept car were percolating in his mind, and on the drawing board of one close friend in the Lincoln-Mercury styling studio. With the three Comet unibodies and associated parts safely delivered to Bertone, Mills’ turned his immediate attention to his private plan to build the fourth car in the series, his personal Lynx prototype. Because his plans for his personal version of the Lynx series wasn’t part of the corporate three-car project, Mills would need to personally acquire a “retail” Comet hardtop for his project (convertibles were still in short supply and cost more). The car’s mechanical specifications weren’t often found in one car: a 260 two-barrel V-8 Caliente hardtop equipped with a four-speed manual transmission hooked to a 3.50 Equa-Loc rear axle. However unusual, that array of parts gave Mills what he needed most: enhanced strength of the engine compartment sheet metal, the manual transmission pedal assembly, heavier-duty suspension and a locking rear axle. Because it was unlikely that such a car might have been found sitting in dealer stock that early in the production run, Mills ordered the Caliente hardtop from Bob Desseau Lincoln-Mercury in Birmingham, Michigan on September 10, 1963: Mills paid a $400 deposit and awaited delivery of the vehicle. However, in a stroke of good luck, the dealer located a Pacific Blue Caliente hardtop with a black interior and the required drive train specifications at a dealership in Chicago, and had it shipped to Birmingham. It was prepped and delivered to Mills’ home by an enlightened dealer anxious to please the Lincoln-Mercury chief. On September 18, 1963, and with fewer than eighty miles on the odometer, Mills drove his Caliente to DST where the same work –essentially – performed on the three convertibles was repeated. Removing the steel roof presented a few wrinkles, but the work was done expeditiously. After the V8 had been removed (no new motor mounts were installed), the denuded Comet hardtop was picked up from Mills’ home by a Lincoln-Mercury truck and taken to Detroit for shipment to New York, then on to Bertone.

Between September1963 and the completion in April 1964 (there are no longer any records available to determine the interim dates accurately), Mills flew to Italy several times (commonly over long weekends), and often with a designer and an engineer in tow, to visit Bertone, to check on construction progress, and to check conformity of the work on the first three prototypes to the design drawings. Each trip was filled with meetings and careful reviews of the construction progress and the design and mechanical elements as construction progressed over the fall and long winter and into early spring. Inevitable minor problems cropped up that no one had anticipated. For instance, the production inner front engine compartment paneling had to be modified because the lower fender and hood line required the top of the shock towers and adjacent panels to be re-configured – essentially, lowered. That problem, and other inevitable fabrication difficulties, slowed construction and led to inevitable growth in the project budget and time line. Mills became convinced that his visits – along with more frequent visits from the assigned representative of the L-M styling studio who spent protracted periods of time at Bertone – were essential not only to the progress of the three prototypes, but also to insure that the finished work faithfully matched the Lynx design documents and drawings. Mills also understood that the experience building the first three prototypes would be essential to ease – and speed – the construction process of his personal version. These delays validated his earlier decision to have DST to do both basic and advanced modifications to all of the Lynx prototypes.

Of course, these visits to Bertone by Mills also included attention paid specifically to his personal Lynx prototype, which was being built separately from the other cars. Unlike the production-orientation of the three “program” prototypes, Mills car was a radical, European-themed “custom” that reflected – unfortunately, it turned out – the still-hypersensitive, sometime hyperbolic, history between the Ford Motor Company and Ferrari. Most dramatically, Mills’ Lynx was powered by a Ferrari 250 LM V-12 engine and transmission. Even though it was based upon the essential Lynx design, Mills brought a sense of flare and daring to his specifications that could not be found on the production-oriented focus of the three prototypes. From its voluptuous swept-back coupe roof line, lowered windshield, Bertone-style front fender vents, rocker-mounted jacks, two-tone Connolly leather interior that accompanied a large, twin-gauge dashboard and Ferrari-inspired bucket seats, to an exotic deep blue pearl paint job set off by chrome Borraini wire wheels, the car was a stunning departure from the almost prosaic design and finish details of the three Division concept cars. In every way, the car was difficult (and surprisingly expensive) to build despite the time saved during the body configuration work done at DST. When it became apparent that the concurrent completion of Mills’ personal car would compromise the development and completion of the three “official” Lynx prototypes – which were due back in the United States no later than April of 1964 to hit the show circuit – Mills instructed the workmen at Bertone to defer work, if briefly, on his car so that the finishing work on three other prototypes could be wrapped up. This slight delay was important because the significant modifications to the factory Merc unibody transmission tunnel – to permit the installation of the Ferrari engine – was a time-consuming modification.

Lynx prototypes one, two and three were finished on April 9, 1964 and were delivered one day later to the Torino Caselle airport for loading onto an Alitalia cargo plane. After a delayed and storm-tossed flight, the cars arrived, largely undamaged, at Idylwild on April 12, 1964. After clearing customs, the three cars were loaded onto a cargo plane for delivery to Detroit Metro. Once deplaned late on Wednesday, April 15, the cars were quickly loaded into two Mercury-badged transport trucks and delivered directly to Dearborn Steel Tubing at about 1:15 a.m. on Thursday morning. There, Mills, who could scarcely contain his pleasure and excitement with the appearance of the three prototypes, met Hotton and a few of his key people to unload the trucks, and get the cars and crates safely inside the DST facility. A few hours later, Hotton joined Mills for an early breakfast and they discussed what had to be done to prepare the three prototypes for show and promotional duty. There was scarcely a week to clean and detail the three cars. Additionally, some inevitable but minor damage had occurred in the shipping process and had to be repaired. Mills also asked Hotton’s crews to make cosmetic enhancements to the engine compartments of the three prototypes where dust, primer over-spray, and final paint mist had been, inevitably, deposited on components during the construction phase. This untidiness was a particular problem for the first prototype in that it had to be brightly detailed to successfully compare with the custom cars to which it would be inevitably compared to during its presentation in the Lincoln-Mercury Caravan of Stars campaign. Hotton temporarily allocated most of his crew – lead by the shop foreman – to get the work done quickly.

The engines in all three prototypes were removed and treated to a coat of fresh paint – a darker body color on the Super Six engine block, and ‘56 Ford Fiesta red on the 289 engine block in the third prototype, and black on the hi-po engine for the second car. The Ford “Total Performance” parts bins were tapped for cosmetic items: chromed valve covers and round air cleaners, chromed oil filler caps and dipsticks, and fresh wiring. The engine pulleys were sent out for show chroming to a local plater who did rush (and lucrative) work for DST, and then installed along with new belts and fresh Ford “Autolite”-script batteries. When the engines were out of those cars, a fresh coat of black medium-gloss acrylic lacquer was applied to the inner fender panels and firewalls. The second prototype was also further modified: Hotton lowered the front suspension of the second prototype by re-drilling the bolts holes for the upper control arms, and added other competition-oriented parts along with SCCA markings to the doors. Unfortunately, curved-spoke Torque-Twist mags weren’t available early on: station wagon wheels with Goodyear Blue Streak tires were installed. The roadster also was show detailed, and fitted with a set of radial-laced wire wheels and thin line whitewall tires.

Mills instructed DST to prepare three stamped (and sequentially numbered) aluminum data plates indicating the day on which the cars were first delivered to Dearborn Steel for the conversion work with the sequence arbitrarily selected. Since the three cars were never intended to be registered for everyday use, and because the prototypes could not be confused with production cars with factory data plates, the DST tagging was essential to identify and track the cars in factory records and on the show circuit: the DST plates identified the vehicles, but could not be used to register them. This “prototype tagging” scheme and procedure had been previously used, in part, on the Thunderbird Italien (though the Italien was ultimately given to a private owner who registered it in California using the still-present factory dataplate and VIN).

When this work was finished, Hotton personally riveted the DST data plates to the inner passenger engine compartment front fender wells and then reinstalled the now show-worthy engines and associated parts.

Before releasing the three cars to Mills, Hotton and one highly-trusted shop foreman test drove the three cars to determine that the cars functioned properly; this effort led to brake adjustments and a little more tuning especially on the temperamental first prototype (integrating the blower and carb with the throttle linkage caused no end of difficulties).  Finally, all the cars were washed again, treated to two coats of wax, and the final details were addressed to prepare them for the shows. The first prototype was shipped to the Cavalcade of Custom Cars at the 1964 New York World’s Fair where it joined the Mustang Vivace already on display; the second car was sent to Lime Rock and other road course racing venues for exhibition runs, and the convertible was consigned to the nascent Lincoln-Mercury Caravan of Stars for display across the United States.

When Mills’ personal Lynx was finished in late May 1964, he first displayed his version at the several European auto shows under the Bertone banner, even though the Lincoln-Mercury/project name was prominently displayed on a show card, and appeared in a small photo in Road and Track. Following the Continental show season, the car was delivered to a freight forwarder at the Charles De Gaulle airport and airfreighted back to the United States for delivery to Mills. After the car’s return from Europe, Mills delivered his car to Hotton for some minor cosmetic touch up. 

Though the record is a bit spotty, Mills’ personal, “fourth” prototype never had a DST plate, and apparently always retained the factory data plate placed on the rear jamb of the driver’s door: so far as the Michigan auto registration bureaucrats were concern, Mills’ car was just a wildly customized ‘64 Comet. 

The fourth Lynx prototype, funded exclusively by Mills, wasn’t modified by DST. (It was eventually licensed for street use using the original VIN and data plate information which, of course, didn’t match the modified car at all).

The debut of Mills’ personal Lynx in European auto shows came as a major shock to not only the Lincoln-Mercury Division, but to the general corporate headquarters. Disturbed not only by the “official” three-car concept program that was significantly over budget, and deeply exasperated -if not outraged – that a corporate-themed vehicle presented under a Division banner was running a drivetrain sourced from the then-despised Italian manufacturer, a decision was made at the corporate level to effectively suppress the Lynx project and destroy the cars. Bordinat called Mills, in late 1964, to warn the Division Chief of the pending order to scrap the three Lynx prototype vehicles and all associated parts. In fact, things turned bad within a few months as the popularity of the three prototypes grew rapidly and gained media attention, especially Mills’ car with the forbidden powerplant. That pending destruction edict led Mills and two trusted associates to locate a storage area in a secluded Detroit warehouse where the three “official” vehicles were sequestered along with the by-then terminated IMC hobby kit project, the Bertone body buck for the second prototype, the Vivace Mustang (that Mills’ had purchased from Hotton, and for which there was no room at his home), and other items.


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