TEMPE, Ariz. — Nobody’s sure why someone took a 1932 Lincoln KB sedan and turned it into a tow truck, complete with a boom and hook. Fortunately, however, the luxury car-turned-work truck came into the possession of Gregory Bilpuch, a long-time classic car collector and officer in the Lincoln Owners Club.
Bilpuch, of Lake Orion, Mich., wanted to right the wrong, and enlisted the help of David Holls, whose career in General Motors’ design studios spanned nearly four decades and included a key role in the creation of cars such as the big-finned 1959 Cadillac, the split-window 1963 Corvette Sting Ray (and the C3 Corvette launched for 1968), the 1966 Buick Riviera, the second-generation 1970 Chevrolet Camaro and many others.
What they concocted for what remained of Edsel Ford’s proud Lincoln was a boattail speedster body in the style of Hibbard & Darrin, a pair of American automotive designers who found fame working among the famed Paris coachbuilders of the 1930s. Hibbard (Tom) & Darrin (Howard, but known as Dutch) did designs for a variety of automakers and also created custom bodywork for Hollywood stars. They were among the pioneers in applying aluminum to car construction.
The boattail speedster body Holls sketched — at first on the back on a country club menu — includes an aluminum hood and boattail trunk lid, pontoon fenders, and full-disc wheel covers.
Working with famed hot rod builders Marcel Delay of Corona, Calif., Bilpuch spent five years rebuilding the Lincoln, which finally made its debut in the summer of 2000 by finishing second in the rebodied class in the famed Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance on the Monterey Peninsula.
But the dateline on this story is Tempe, Ariz., not Lake Orion, Mich., or even Corona or Monterey, Calif., which brings us to the latest chapter in the Lincoln’s life.
When Phoenix resident and car collector R. Dale Lillard started dating Marilyn Aderman, she mentioned a cousin in Michigan who also collected cars. That cousin was Gregory Bilpuch. Last fall, Lillard bought the Lincoln.
But Lillard wasn’t going to be content showing the car. He noted that the Lincoln actually had tied for first at Pebble Beach, but was awarded second place because it had not completed a driving tour that was part of the event.
“It was a show queen,” Lillard said. “It was never driven except into a trailer.”
Lillard has been a frequent participant in the annual Copperstate 1000 vintage rally here in Arizona and wanted to showcase his newest acquisition, so he spent six months getting it rolling, including going over the car’s 12-cylinder engine, its brakes, even changing the rear end so the car could cruise at freeway speeds — and have gearing that would improve its fuel economy, albeit the improvement was only from 4 miles per gallon to 6. (The car weighs 5,500 pounds and that 448-cubic-inch V12 is thirsty.)
He was so exciting at the prospect that he even agreed to wear a 1930′s style outfit Marilyn picked out for each of them. Their outfits and his car drew a lot of attention at the Field of Dreams car show that launches the Copperstate cars on their way each year.
The Lincoln set off on its maiden voyage on the 21st annual Copperstate, which took more than 70 classic cars and their occupants on a 1,000-mile tour from here at Tempe Diablo Stadium and the Field of Dreams car show to Greer, a village in Arizona’s White Mountains. From there, the cars headed east, entered New Mexico, visited hideouts used by Butch Cassidy and Geronimo, then returned to Arizona to drive up the famed Coronado Trail mountain road (formerly known as 666 — yes, the Devil’s own highway, complete with 400 switchback turns — before returning to Greer.
Next, it was across the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, past the “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona,” and on to the red rocks of Sedona.
Finally, the route led through Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff, past Lake Mary and down the Mogollon Rim back to the Valley of the Sun.