Most passers-by might see only a forgotten shell — no fenders, no doors, no hood, and half an engine — rusting under a tree, but George Munro saw potential during his first encounter with his now-pristine 1940 Zephyr Club Coupe. He was searching for a Lincoln restoration project, and what he found under that tree in Newburyport, Massachusetts, was a challenge, to say the least.
A collector all his life, George’s hunt for that car began in 1957, as soon he had his driver’s license in hand. From there, it was matter of trial and error in search of his ultimate vehicle. Though he had set out looking for a similar car to replace his 1941 Lincoln 4-door sedan, in the mid-1990’s, George found himself taken with the styling of the Club Coupe. “I saw a photo of one, and I knew I had to have it,” he says. Knowing what the Club Coupe could become, if restored to its full glory, George decided to rebuild it from the pile of parts under the tree. Seventeen years and two tries later, he succeeded.
George was still working as a long-haul truck driver, logging thousands of miles that took him all over the country, when he started the restoration project. The long hours spent constantly on the road left him with only long weekends and vacation time to spend with the Club Coupe. During any time he could steal, George says, “I took it all apart, then collected as many of the parts as I could through all the different dealers, friends of ours, flea markets – one by one, piece by piece, as I found them.”
His work really began to click into place after George acquired the original specs from the Lincoln archives, and he was able to begin restoring the Club Coupe to its factory settings — down to the most minute details. “I knew exactly what color it was, what upholstery was in it, if it had whitewall tires, even if it had an extra windshield wiper,” George says.
But his then-twelve years of progress suffered a devastating setback, when a fire consumed much of George’s home and garage. He was unable to save the other two vintage cars in his garage, but miraculously, the Club Coupe remained mostly intact. However, he was left hurting from the loss of all of his brake work, upholstery, and many engine parts. “It was just a big conglomerate of a mess,” he says. It would take him another five years to finally complete what had been close to finished at the time.
“When you look in and see what’s supposed to look like (a car), and it’s only this high off the floor, it’s a little discouraging,” George says, gesturing at his knee level. “But you go in there, and you dump it in a dump truck, and dry away your tears — and you keep going.”
George learned this resilience in his youth, doing farm work with his brothers. If there was trouble with the farm equipment, the work didn’t stop — it just got more complicated. “There was no, ‘Well, it’s broken. We can’t do any work,’” he says. “It was, ‘Go get a hoe, get a shovel’ . . . so you [were motivated to] fix the tractor as quickly as you could.” As a result, by the age of 14, George already knew his way around a car, and was always ready to jump in and do what needed to be done to make it run again.
It was this expertise that George tapped into when putting the finishing touches on the Club Coupe in August of 2015. The end result is a mastery of detail: the interior seats of the Zephyr are made of broadcloth, sewn and welted around the edges; the interior roof is cut from mohair; and the dashboard shines a metallic bronze. The exterior received a fresh new coat of Capri Metallic Blue Paint
While he loves driving the Club Coupe, the real joy for George was in the restoration process. “When you turn the key and push the button, and it starts, that’s the day of relief,” he says. “When it can move under its own power… That’s the result.”
Now, George thinks the coupe runs better than a new car, even without power steering or power brakes. Since completing the Club Coupe, he’s driven it to five Lincoln owner’s club meetings, including one all the way in Michigan – a 2,800-mile trip. George sees these long treks as a testament to the quality of his work, and he describes the ride of the coupe “like sitting in your living room.”
From pickup trucks and farm machinery, to the big rigs that took him all over the country, George has always enjoyed being behind the wheel of a machine — and reveled in having new rides to adjust to.
“I’ve probably had one of every car ever built over the years,” he says. “Fix em’ up, sell em’ off, get something else.”
But the Club Coupe isn’t going anywhere. George knows this one is here to stay.