The Return of the Biodiesel Plug-in Hybrid Turbine-Driven 1959 Lincoln Continental Convertible

By Charles Krome

One of the more unique vehicles to visit the SEMA show in the fall of 2010 was a certain American-made product capable of 50 miles of all-electric driving and a further 350 miles of travel when powered by its onboard generator. The car put out zero tailpipe emissions using pure electricity, of course, and even when relying on its generator, the net result was about 40 percent fewer emissions than a Toyota Prius. The generator offered another bonus, too: When used to recharge the car, it was responsible for 48 percent fewer emissions than would be produced if the vehicle were plugged into the U.S. power grid—although that’s an option here, too. Oh, and when it is plugged in, any extra electricity could be fed back into the grid, too.

A secret Chevrolet Volt variant? Nope. A reincarnated vehicle from Chrysler’s ENVI project? Hardly. Some under-the-radar effort from Ford? Not exactly. It was none other than Neil Young’s LincVolt, a 1959 Lincoln Continental outfitted with a high-tech powertrain featuring a UQM 150-kW turbine motor, a bio-diesel “microturbine” generator from Capstone and 850 lbs. worth of lithium-iron phosphate batteries.

The bottom line was a 19.5-foot land yacht that weighed more than three tons yet still offered a Volt-esque all-electric driving range. As expected, the LincVolt’s actual mileage depended on a number of variables, but Young claimed that on a full charge, it racked up a 40-mpg mark to the first 100 miles and 20 mpg through 400. That’s not too shabby for a car with a 6,200-lb. curb weight and represents about double what a production ’59 Continental could reach.

The thing is, as sharp-eyed grammarians may have noticed, I’ve been describing the LincVolt in the past tense, and that’s because it seems to have caught fire a few weeks back when it was in storage, with most signs pointing to a problem with the car’s plug-in hardware as the cause.

But look out, mama, there’s a white boat comin’ up the river, and it’s distinctly missing a big red beacon and a flag and a man on the rail (obligatory Neil Young lyric reference No. 1). In fact, it’s actually the LincVolt on a metaphorical voyage back to health. Apparently, Young and his automotive partners have dedicated themselves to rebuilding the car, with newer tech, and you can watch all the happenings—live and in concert—right here: http://www.shakeypictures.com/webcam/webcam.html.

So far, I’ve seen the burned-out shell of the Lincoln, sitting there all helpless, helpless, helpless (obligatory Neil Young lyric reference No. 2), and right now—3:43 p.m. ET—the site is showing the empty space in which the vehicle was sitting earlier today. But just wait until sweeps week!

(For more info about the car, visit http://www.lincvolt.com.)

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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