Lincoln Model L Convertible Phaeton
As one of the most successful custom coachbuilders, Philadelphia’s Derham continued operations until 1974. In 1928, the firm designed a striking four-passenger convertible phaeton body on a Hispano-Suiza chassis for Countess Holstein. While this car was displayed at Derham’s showroom, two further convertible phaetons were built by Derham’s craftsmen for Chrysler and Packard chassis. For 1930, the final year of Model L production, Lincoln added the Derham design to its custom-body catalogue. Of only 20 examples constructed, only three are known to survive.
Stylistically, Derham’s Convertible Phaeton was a perfect match for the 136-inch Lincoln Model L chassis. According to the coachbuilder’s own catalogue description, the body was designed from the outset as an open car and then closed, reversing the normal body-building practices of the era. As executed, the Derham convertible phaeton provided the best of both worlds—a true open phaeton and a rakish sedan with crisp lines flowing naturally into a sloping rear deck. The noiseless top was fitted over the tops of the front and rear windows. Once modern yet conservative, the convertible phaeton remains a triumph of handsomely tailored lines and proportions.
This example is accompanied by an extensive and fascinating historical file, with provenance carefully detailed by John Maitland, who purchased the Lincoln for $200 in March 1952 from the Estate of Daniel Cook, who was given the car by his elder aunts, who had reportedly acquired the car directly off the floor of the New York Auto Show when new. Interestingly, the Cook sisters were descendants of Thomas Cook, founder of the first organized travel and tour company in 1865. At the time of purchase, the car was in original condition with approximately 50,000 miles. Under Mr. Maitland’s care, the muffler, tailpipe, and running boards were replaced, the upholstery was preserved, the car was repainted, and it was fitted with a new convertible top and spare-tire covers. Mr. Maitland found the car to run well, being capable of freeway cruising at 50–55 mph, and following a transfer to New York City, he drove it daily from his home in Westchester to his local commuter-train station.
Following a transfer to Detroit in 1956, Mr. Maitland sold the Lincoln, and then in 1958, it was acquired by Lima, Ohio’s Norman Delaney, who had the engine overhauled, installed new rear-end seals, and retained the car through 1969. In 1970, it became part of the prestigious Tom Lester Collection and it was refinished in Light Tan with Coffee accents and Orange wheels. Subsequent ownership history is well-known to the present day.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in July of 2012 at The Inn at St. John's, Plymouth, Michigan.
90 bhp, 384.8 cu. in. L-head V-8 engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 136"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Mark Fainstein