The Lincoln Cosmopolitan Hardtop Coupe: A Slice of Americana in Munich…and Delhi

Images: Gautam Sen

It has been a while since we celebrated the 50th anniversary of India’s decisive victory at the war which gave Bangladesh its independence. In late 2021, early 2022, there were a series of articles on the various senior army, air force and naval officers from the Indian armed forces, several of whom played important roles in that short but very effective war. Both Major General J F R Jacob and Lt General Jagjit Singh Arora have been written about extensively. Somehow time seems to have forgotten Air Commodore Purushottam, the one who oversaw the crucial bombing of Dhaka air base and other PAF bases in East Pakistan.

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A handsome understated look distinguishes the Lincoln Cosmopolitan’s front end

The Air Commodore’s son Lanse Purushottam was a good friend. And after Lanse’s father retired, I used to visit him and his family at their apartment in a high-rise on Calcutta’s Judge’s Court Road. One of the highlights of each visit was an eventual dive into the basement parking where a much rusted and battered Lincoln Capri convertible was permanently on blocks.

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With a more rakish C-pillar and sloping rear window, the Cosmopolitan/Capri hardtop coupe has a sporty air about it

At that point in time—this was in the second half of the 1970s— I found the Lincoln kind of handsome, despite its humongous size, stretched that much further by the addition of a kitschy Continental wheel kit hanging on precariously at the tail end of that disintegrating car.

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The Cosmopolitan is over 5.4 meters long, yet it is dwarfed by that giant of a Kenworth truck just behind it

Over the years the condition of the Lincoln deteriorated, I moved out of Calcutta, and so did Lanse and his family, and we all forgot about that car…which was, in all likelihood, the only Capri convertible coupe from around 1952 in India. But guess what? It survives in Delhi!

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The rear lamp is deep and large and is part of the subtle tailfin, which had become the vogue for all American cars by the early 1950s

Thus, it was a feeling of déjà vu when I came across a 1953 Lincoln Cosmopolitan at Motorworld Munich last November. This one was a coupe (and referred to as the Hardtop Coupe), and once again, I realised that the ’52/’53 Cosmopolitan/Capri were handsome cars indeed. Except for some minor changes in the bumper and grille for the 1952 and ’53 model years, the Cosmopolitans/Capris from those two years were almost identical. By 1954 the rear fenders and lamps changed for a much fussier look.

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The rear overhang is rather pronounced and is the one feature that differentiates the Lincoln from the Mercury Monterey, the model with which it shares many body parts

The Lincoln Cosmopolitan and Capri (trim levels differentiated the two, with the Capri being better equipped and slightly more expensive) were launched in 1952 to compete with the Cadillac Series 62 and the Packard 400. Although the Capri outsold its cheaper sister model—the Cosmopolitan, three-to-two—the two added together never came anywhere near the Series 62 Cadillac in popularity. In terms of performance and features though, the Cosmopolitan/Capri was more than a match.

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Two-tones and whitewalls were pars for the course for American cars from the 1950s

The American magazine Popular Mechanics for their October 1952 issue tested a Capri which was timed at 14.8 seconds for the 0–60mph (97 km/h) sprint, and the quarter mile from standstill was dispatched in 21.3 seconds, which was most impressive for a car that weighed 1920kg. Even the fuel average of 8.9 km/litre at 40mph (64 km/h) was exceptional then, as the Capri was lighter than most of its rivals, given that it was smaller—a case of downsizing long before it became fashionable.

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The chrome spear strip running the flanks of the Lincoln provided visual relief to the slab-sided look of the car

The Cosmopolitan/Capri was launched with a brand new 160bhp 5.2-litre V8, mated to a four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic from arch-rival GM. Air-conditioning was offered as standard, and the Capri was among the first models to feature automatic headlight dimmers. Body styles on offer were a four-door sedan and a hardtop coupe for both the models, and a convertible coupe available only as a Capri.

The Cosmopolitan/Capri had a slow start in 1952, with a total of 27,000-odd finding homes all over the USA… and in other parts of the world as well, such as this Capri convertible in Calcutta which was one of only 1,191 convertible coupes made that year.

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No messing with those giant bumpers!

1953 was a much better year for the Cosmopolitan/Capri, what with more than 40,000 sold (the hardtop coupe being a major success, with as many as 19,478 being made)—in the process outselling the four-door sedan (18,912 produced)! The car at Motorworld is one of the 6,562 Cosmopolitan Hardtop Coupes made that year.

The fact that the engineers at Lincoln managed to get the maximum power of the 5.2 unit bumped up to 205bhp for the ’53 model year Cosmopolitan/Capri, and that the Capri convincingly swept all at the 1952 and 1953 La Carrera Pan-Americana races in Mexico, must have contributed to the car’s sales success.
Either way, the first-generation Capri (which was in production until 1955) was a handsome car with perfect proportions, subtle detailing and relatively (for an American) conservative use of chrome. Designed by William M. Schmidt (who would also go on to design the Lincoln Futura concept car, and which became the Batmobile…), and assembled in Los Angeles, Wayne, Deaborn and Saint Louis, the first gen Cosmopolitans/Capris are seeing greater appreciation in recent times.

The one at Motorworld Munich is indeed a very desirable piece of Americana.

Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


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