Vintage Cars of ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Lincoln Model L

What Cars Would Jay Gatsby Have Really Bought?

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan - is their love doomed?

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan – is their love doomed?

A 1919-1921 Shopping List by Igor Spajic


A quality car built to Henry Leland’s famously fine tolerances, the Lincoln Model L was nevertheless a boring car.

Despite a reasonably strong 81 bhp from its unusual 60° V8 engine, the debut cars were hobbled by the staid and upright body designs they usually were built with. Henry and his son Wilfred Leland had employed a former milliner as their body designer and though no doubt well made, the models they offered did not rouse interest among the increasingly wealthy younger buyers.

A starting price of six grand in 1920 did not encourage sales either. Then the 1921 Depression hit and to top it all off, the federal government came after the Lelands for alleged unpaid back taxes. The Lincoln company quickly ran into financial difficulties and would have gone under, becoming simply another blip in automobile history.

Another father and son team in the form of Edsel Ford and his father Henry rescued the Lincoln Motor Car Company. It took the Ford takeover in 1922 to put Lincoln onto a firm footing with proper capital backing and marketing. Prices were dropped to a less imposing $4,200 for the sedan.

1922 Lincoln.Model L sedan - a fine car but boring.

1922 Lincoln.Model L sedan – a fine car but boring.

The talented Edsel Ford took over the reins and moulded the carmaker into a provider of fleet, stylish and handsome products that carried coachwork by the best and could also hold their own in performance and reliability. Police and gangsters alike chose Lincolns for their ‘businesses’ during the confrontations of the Prohibition era.

Lincoln flourished in the later Twenties, and weathered the economic storm of the Thirties through the undoubted benefits of being part of the vast Ford empire. Along the way, Lincoln built excellent V12 engined cars and moved the dozen cylinder count to the middle price bracket with the successful and innovative Lincoln-Zephyr.

But that was after Gatsby’s time period, so the Leland era Lincoln Model L is an unlikely contender.

1920-21 Lincoln Coupe Ad

All the elegance and excitement of an electric? A 1920-21 Lincoln Coupe.

Lincoln Motor Car Company

Lincoln Model L

1920 prices – $6,000 – and up


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