Most original records on the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car were burned in the fire that struck the Ford Rotunda in 1962. Except for the public relations press releases from the time the car was introduced and an article in the June/July 1955 issue of Ford Times, very little documentation still exists.
Together with original press releases, and the first drawings of the Futura that chief designer Bill Schmidt donated to the Ford archives, there are about 80 original pictures of the Futura scattered between Ford Photomedia and the archives. Several pictures of the car while still at the Ghia shop in Italy, where it was built, have recently surfaced in England, but none can now be located in Ghia's archives.
Non-Ford publications have reported that a prototype Continental Mark II frame and running gear were used for the Futura. (According to some reports, the frame was also reinforced with tubular cross-members.) Judging from the low profile, the location of the exhaust exits, the size and configuration of the drive shaft tunnel, the fact that the Futura shares the wheelbase and track of the Mark II, and by process of elimination, most people have assumed that the frame under the Futura came from a pre-production Mark II. That's only partially true.
When the styling studio went looking for a chassis to use for the Futura, there was less interest in its pedigree than if it would fit under the show car. The chassis that filled the bill was one of six that had been built by Hess and Eisenhardt of Cincinnati, Ohio, for the Continental project.
It was anticipated that two operable mechanical prototypes for a proposed Mark II retractable hardtop would be built. Because of budget constraints, only one was built. John R. Hollowell, chief engineer for the retractable effort, arranged to sell the extra chassis, which was cobbled from a 1953 Lincoln, to the Lincoln-Mercury Division for $17,000. That was the chassis used for the Futura.
Given Ghia's practice at the time, the sides of the engine compartment of the Futura were probably finished with polished aluminum panels. The engine in the Futura was rated in press releases at 330 horsepower and as "an advanced version of Lincoln's present overhead valve V-8."
The Futura's engine had an unusual oil bath-type air cleaner that, because of the low profile of the car, was mounted to the side of the engine. The engine also had twin fans and modified carburetion.
Again, by extrapolation, some have assumed that a pre-production Mark II engine was used in the Futura. The chassis Hollowell sold to Lincoln-Mercury for use on the Futura included stock 1953 Lincoln running gear, and the 1953 Lincoln engine was advertised at 205 horsepower. It's unknown what, if anything, was done to achieve a horsepower rating of 330.
The car had many unique features. Find out what some of them were on the next page.