An Unexpected Gift

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At his vintage car restoration shop in San Carlos, California, Ray Menefee saw many beautiful cars come and go over the years. But out of his personal collection, the all-original 1930 Lincoln Model L 183 came to him in the most interesting way: through a bout of matchmaking that set forth the chain of events that would lead to Ray’s eventual ownership.

When the second-to-last owner came to him, devastated that he needed to sell the Model L, Ray knew exactly who to call: a longtime friend who kept a vintage car at Ray’s garage.

“I called him and he came right over,” Ray says. Half an hour later, they had a deal. Ray continued to maintain the Model L for his friend until 2012, when he passed away.

Shortly thereafter, Ray was surprised to receive a copy of his friend’s will. “I nearly fell out of my chair when I read what was to be done with the Model L,” he says. Needless to say, “what was to be done” was park it in Ray’s garage, permanently.

Ray’s elite restoration shop, which he built as part of a highly specialized second career, actually started as a hobby. Before he restored classic cars, Ray earned his stripes learning to repair them. His childhood was spent apprenticing with the lead mechanic for his father’s bus line. “By the time I was 10 or 12, I could identify every car on the street,” Ray says.

After retiring from a longtime career in steel working, Ray found himself searching for another outlet to work with his hands. “I was fixing all these cars for people – suddenly I realized I’m doing all of this for free. There’s something wrong with this picture!”

That’s when he started his specialized restoration shop. “I worked on dozens and dozens of cars, but only cars I wanted to work on.”

The Model L fell under this category, and after nearly two decades of servicing the car, Ray has overlooked not one detail. An eye-catching all-original, its dark exterior paint appears black to most—but Ray’s skilled eye sees it shining Midnight Blue.

Since 1930 was the last production year for the Model L 183, this car is particularly special. A highly successful luxury vehicle for its time, the Model L features a luxurious backseat with full-tufted upholstered seats and five copper-colored silk window roller shades.

Ray points out a few little holders affixed to the doors. He tells us that it’s a smoking set on one side, complete with corded lighter, and a cosmetic case on the other, both adorned with inlaid walnut. An ornately set analog clock, which Ray notes is the only thing in the car that does not work, completes the backseat accoutrements.

Ray officially retired for the second time in 2000, but at 83, he still keeps Model L in perfect condition almost by himself — although he laments his inability to crawl around under the car anymore.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to maintain this car for generations to come,” he says. “It will probably outlast us all.”

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