1939 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe
Rudy Munoz of Union City, CA
Royal Cruisers Car Club - Founder
Have you ever heard the saying “a bridge can lead you where you want to go and it is a way to see where you have been, for it is all along the same path”? Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t, the point is, we are all on a path in life and for one reason or another we tend to stick with what we know, our groove in life, what makes us happy, and that’s exactly what Rudy Munoz has done his whole life. If you don’t know Rudy by his name, you know him by his builds. So, if you will, sit down, grab a drink and let me tell you the story of Rudy’s first built, 'The First One'……..
It’s hard to write a story about a legend, how can I tell a story about a person or in this case a car that I have idolized my whole life? Growing up in the 90’s, many of us had posters of Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari F-40’s on our walls, but for me, never being a “normal” kid, I had Rudy’s ’39 Zephyr on mine. First time I saw it, I didn’t even know what it was but something about the color, the flow, the overall attitude it presented on the pages of “Streetlow Magazine” was something that stuck with me, and I made sure to never forget it.
What you see in these pictures didn’t happen overnight, the build, in total, took over a year and a half to do. However, that’s nothing compared to Rudy’s lifelong passion which ultimately led up to this build in 1995.
It is funny how we always remember that one car isn’t it? Maybe it wasn’t your car personally, but we always remember the car that “bit” us, the one that made us say to ourselves “that’s what I need to have”. Rudy remembers it like it was yesterday, “it was all about the lifestyle in those days, your car said a statement about you and who you were. In 1976, I had a ’67 Impala, it was my first car. The set up was to have square headlights, a twisted chrome rod iron grille which you made yourself and of course it had to sit right”. Rudy said back then, hydraulics were just coming around, they weren’t as popular as they are now. “If we wanted to lower our cars, we had to heat the coils, one guy had a set of torches, we would drive in, he would heat them up and lower the car and we would drive home” Rudy says. The only problem with that……….cops.
According to a law that was passed in the 1950’s in California, it was illegal for any person to lower their car past the lowest point of their wheels. But in true California fashion, one young man named Ron Aguirre, who was tired of receiving tickets for his low suspension on his custom Corvette called “X-Sonic” became a pioneer in the field of hydraulic lifted cars and added them to his Corvette to raise the suspension when in the presence of Johnny Law.
Rudy says “I was sitting on the front lawn of my Mom’s house, staring at my car, when a ’66 Impala passed by, the owner looked at me, laid the car out and raised the front and drove away and that’s when I realized that would be the solution to all of my problems, no more tickets!”. At the time there was a shop in San Jose which was opening called Andy’s Hydraulics, Rudy was given a “shopping list” for what he would need and once he retrieved all the parts, Andy traded him some other parts and instructions which were drawn on a napkin to assemble his hydraulic system, and from there, that’s how Rudy has always lived his life.
From then on it was all about lowriding, customizing and bombing, in just about anything that Rudy could get his hands on, and I mean ANYTHING from Porsches to Corvettes to a ’37 Chevy Woody, Rudy isn’t afraid to break the mold. So how did this ’39 come to be?
“I started buying coupes, early Cadillacs, Plymouths, Dodges, they were cheap because nobody wanted them then, but I knew that if they were lowered with a set of skirts and visors, they could be cool”. The crazy part about this story is that anybody could have had this car, but this was the 90’s and at that time, nobody was customizing Lincoln Zephyr’s this was the first. Rudy found this car at the Pleasanton swap meet in the back of a trailer. Rudy says he doesn’t know what it was about the car, but he knew he had to have it after seeing the long lines on the back. A deal was struck, dismissing all the tire kickers, and it was delivered to his house.
When Rudy got the car, it was painted in a forest green color, under the hood it had an NOS ’51 Merc flathead that ran, no wiring, glass, or interior. Rudy definitely had his work cut out for him, he knew it was a good purchase thought because it was fairly complete. “When I first finished the car, it was unchopped, forest green, and was juiced with an old school hydraulic system but my friend Joe Lemones was bugging me to chop the top so I had him chop it 3.5”. Now that the chop was done, the roof was in primer and through a series of trades with a friend a deal for the candy organic green paint was struck and laid out and Rudy admits “the paint job was not supposed to come out as good as it did but I’m glad I got it” and I’m sure we can all agree how well it complements the car. Besides the chop, Rudy shaved the front bumper and hood ornament and added rare accessory mirrors with thermometers built in along with accessory reflectors.
Rudy did all the fab work and suspension on the car himself. The car sits on the stock frame which has been notched in the rear. Up front, there is a Mustang II with stock brakes, nova steering box, 15’ wheels wrapped in 6.70 bias ply tires with Plymouth hubcaps currently.
Under the hood, since it only has less than 1,000 miles, Rudy kept the ’51 Merc flattie that came with the car, topped with a Stromberg 94, headers into straight pipes supplies the tone. This is all backed by a stock Lincoln 3 speed going into an NOS Columbia 2 speed rearend with the same wheel and tire treatment as the front.
The interior was done by another friend in Oakland who was working out of his garage at the time, and it still looks like it was done yesterday. Rudy said he wanted as close to stock brown mohair as he could get and this is what they came up with. The dash was painted candy green to match the exterior which compliments the stock gauges nicely. A chrome glovebox door was added along with a stock steering wheel with accessory clock and flip down suicide knob. Speaking of accessories, the devil is in the details and Rudy didn’t skip on those either. He added an OG umbrella holder to the kick panel, art deco cigarette case on the headliner as well as a Jenson style antenna.
Upon completion Rudy planned to drive it and drive it he does. He has many fond memories with his ’39 however when asked about his favorite memory here is what he said: “In 2010, I took it to the West Coast Kustoms car show in Santa Maria, CA- The last car show I took it to. I was parked across the street in a dark alley and a bunch of buddies grabbed me and told me to put it under the lights of the Santa Maria Inn sign so everyone could see the car. When I did, the car lit up like a piece of candy. The gentleman came up to me and said “I hear this is the first one- the car that started the Lincoln trend, can I sit in the car?” he sat in the car for about 30 minutes and friend Chuy from Deadend Magazine says “Hey, do you know who that guy is sitting in your car?” I answered that I didn’t know him but he asked if he could sit in it and I said yes. Chuy says “That’s James Hatfield from Metallica, the lead guitar player!” he is a really nice guy and even introduced his family to me and I believe he has had several Lincoln Zephyr’s and the cool thing was my ’39 was the inspiration for his love of Lincolns!”.
Rudy’s car goes beyond celebrities sitting behind the wheel, it was also the inspiration for the custom Zephyr “Scrape” built by Terry Cook. Like I said, this car is timeless, Lincoln fans and custom enthusiasts are still taking styling queues from Rudy’s car to this very day. There are similar builds, but there is only one first and this is it.
3 Window Coupe modified with a 3-1/2” Chop by Joe Lemones
Shaved hood ornament & front bumper
Stock 1939 Lincoln Zephyr grille
Special accessory with Thermometer & Reflector on back side
1939 Zephyr Headlights & taillights
Stock 1939 Zephyr rear bumper
Candy Green single-stage paint
Paintwork by Ex-Employees of Maldonado’s Shop
Stock Beige Tuck-n-roll upholstery
Stock Brown carpet
Stock 1939 Zephyr Dash painted candy green with chrome glovebox & ash tray
Original 1939 Zephyr Steering Wheel & Steering Column
Accessory Clock on Steering Wheel and fold down suicide knob
Stock 1939 Zephyr frame with C-Notch in rear
Columbia 2 Speed Rear End
Stock Fuel Tank
Chassis Fabrication by Rudy Munoz. Union City, CA
Front & Rear Hydraulics with Old School Pumps
Mustang II Suspension Front Kit with Nova Steering Box
Suspension Work by Rudy Munoz. Union City, CA
Front & Rear: Drum brakes
15” x 6" original steel wheels with 15” Plymouth hubcaps wrapped in 670-15 Firestone Deluxe Champion Bias-Ply whitewall tires
1951 Mercury Flathead engine; Green paint color
Flathead Cylinder Heads & Intake
Stock Air Cleaner
94 Stromberg Carburetor
Engine Work by Rudy Munoz of Union City, CA
3 Speed Lincoln Manual Transmission
Straight Pipe - Exhaust Work by Hayward Mufflers. Hayward, CA
Chrome Plating by Faith Plating. San Jose, CA
Grand National Roadster Show 1990s
Lowrider Magazine - 1990s (first Lincoln Zephyr featured)