Henry Ford II was determined to remove the speckle that tarnished his company since the 20s. The young president’s grandfather was a powerful industrialist who set the modern motor industry in motion while promoting decidedly-anti-Semitic initiatives of his aides, which included among others the distribution of “The International Jew”, a modern version of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, approved and signed by old Henry himself. Even after Ford passed away, the U.S. Jewry refused to forgive. A late 1940s Jewish Encyclopedia had two words only under “Ford, Henry”: See, anti-Semitism.
Young Ford, who became president in September 1945, aged 28, initiated a series of public events already in 1946, aimed at convincing the Jewish public that Ford has changed for good. Thus, Ford contributed in 1951 a one million dollar donation for the National Conference of Christians and Jews, for building its headquarters in New York. That same year he was awarded by the Anti-defamation League for his “distinguished contributions to the American heritage of freedom”. Though having assembly plants in Egypt and Morocco and selling some 20,000 vehicles a year in Arab countries – over 20 times the entire Israeli market size at the time – Ford did not blink when it came to his company’s direct business arena. He promoted the opening of an assembly plant in Israel, ultimately rejected as Ford could not promise the Israel Government with any export markets. He also provided Israel with liberal credit terms in purchasing Ford vehicles. Later on, in 1966, Ford gave his approval for the assembly of passenger cars in Israel, thus immediately entering the Arab Boycott black list and expelled from the Arab countries for over 15 years.
The publicity given to some of his donations had a particular value for Ford. Along with contributions to several Universities in Israel, it was the delivery of a presidential limousine to Israel’s first president, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, which made headlines. In 1950, Ford built 17 limousines for U.S. president Truman. A single additional one was constructed especially for Weizmann. It now appears there may have been another Lincoln donated for an Israeli VIP.
In late 1948 Ford introduced its first post-war new Lincoln model. It boasted a modern styling, suicide doors and a 5.5L 152HP V-8 capable of propelling the two-tone behemoth to nearly a 100mph. As was then the rule, this model had a wide variety of versions and trim levels. The upper-end ones were designated as Lincoln Cosmopolitan. They included a wrap-around front windscreen, power seats and power windows, amenities unheard of at the time in Israel.
The Israeli army fleet of passenger cars composed in its early days a total of 150 vehicles: a multitude of brands, purchased when the right opportunity emerged. Going through 1950-vintage documents at the Israel Ministry of Defense archives reveals Ford, Plymouth and Dodge, alongside with the odd Chryslers, Hillman, Humber, Packard, Buick, Nash, Fiat and Skoda. Against this chaotic backdrop, the Chief of Staff’s personal car stood out prominently. It was registered as Army-500, and listed simply as “Lincoln”. The extent of singularity attributed to this car is evident in a letter circulated by the chief ordnance corps office in March 1953, attempting to have things in order. The letter calls the units to return all passenger cars other than Plymouth, Dodge, Ford and Willys station car, for these to be later sold. Exemptions were given to three executive cars, the first of which was Lincoln No. 500. The identity of this Lincoln is made clear reading another letter, this time signed by the Chief of Staff office on 23 September 1953, containing a list of spare parts required for the General’s car. Printed in English but prepared in Tel-Aviv, it is headed “Lincoln Cosmopolitan, series 9H, body 73”.
Lincoln Cosmopolitan 9H-73 is a 1949 model year “Town Sedan”, a grand four door fastback interpretation of pre-war Czech Tatras, among others. The Town Sedan was no commercial success. Ford produced some 73,500 Lincolns of the 1949 vintage, only 7,302 of which were Cosmopolitan Towns. A year later, when the presidential limo was built, the Town was not offered for sale any longer.
Three officers served as Chief of Staff until August 1953, when these Lincoln spare parts were ordered: Dori, Yadin and Makleff. Apparently all made use of the 1949 Cosmopolitan. Should it have been in service later than in December 1953, it was also in use by the fourth army commander, Dayan.
While it is difficult to tell today whether the opulent Lincoln was given to the Israeli Ministry of Defense free of charge, evidential circumstances may point this was indeed the case. It is highly unlikely that poor 1949 Israel Ministry of Defense was quick at acquiring a vehicle this expensive for its Chief of Staff. It was 2.5 times more expensive than a regular Ford Fordor, another government executive vehicle at the time. When replaced, the Lincoln made way for a rather plebian Oldsmobile Super 88. The Olds was considered a top executive by Israeli standards, but was a lot less expensive. Expectedly, Lincoln was not officially imported to Israel during the 1950s, and in the 1959 Ministry of Transportation registry only two 1949 Lincolns show up. One of these, a Grey Cosmopolitan built in early 1949, did not have a civilian registration until August 1959, when it gained its Tel-Aviv number of 26-383. Was this formerly Army-500?