Milwaukee, Wis. (March 16, 2019 ) — Many car collectors try to learn the history of their classic or vintage car if it wasn’t always in their possession. That history is often interesting, but few can match the history of an all-original 1933 Lincoln KB limousine owned by Jay Quail.
Quail’s father was the second owner of this massive 12-cylinder, 7-passenger car. The first owner? None other than Francesco Raffaele Nitto, commonly known as Frank Nitti, and nicknamed “The Enforcer,” one of Al Capone’s top henchmen. In fact, he and Capone were first cousins.
Quail noted that the 6,000 lb. 1933 Lincoln represented the “sweet spot of pre-war 12-cylinder engines. While other manufacturers like Cadillac and Chrysler also had 12-cylinder engines, the Lincoln KB’s engine was “revolutionary in design,” he said. It features fork and blade piston rods that are in a straight line rather than opposing each other diagonally.
The 447-cu. in., 150 h.p. KB engine reached a top speed of 105 m.p.h. “There was a cylinder war in the 1930s. The manufacturers felt more cylinders are better,” he noted.
Quail said that a “limo was the go-to choice for the bad guys. It could put a little distance between you and the guys chasing you,” he said.
Furthermore, the Lincoln was always conservative in relation to Packard, Cadillac and Chrysler with its understated elegance. Not flashy, it is a big powerful, comfortable car. It didn’t have hand embroidery and very little chrome parts and the exterior paint was always understated in dark colors.
Lincoln made 107 of the KB limo model. This was the height of the depression and the car sold for $5,000 to $6,000. You could buy a house for that in those years. Quail believes his Lincoln was built in early 1933 because Ford Motor Co. added a fender skirt to the cars built later in 1933. They sent these skirted fenders – always black in color — to the dealers and they would convert the car for you at no charge. His is a skirted version which was delivered in February or March of 1933.
Research indicates that Nitti, who was extremely claustrophobic, had been in jail at the same time Capone was but Nitti got out in 1932. Capone remained in jail, so Nitti took over the operations. He needed a sound vehicle. He kept his dealings close to the vest and liked to stay behind the scenes. He feared going back to jail where his claustrophobia would kick in.
Nitti sat in the far-right corner of the back seat of his Lincoln where there was a microphone so he could talk to the driver. He likely bought this car for protection. Proof of that is the discovery of several thick Chicago phone books that were stuffed inside the door panels. Nitti thought these would help to retard a bullet.
The car has silk, pull-down shades and its original mohair seats; it has just 33,000 miles on the odometer. The privacy glass between the front and the rear of this limo was unusual. “Ninety-nine percent of the time there is a crank and the glass drops between the seats. This car has two pieces of glass on a double track that allows the glass to open to the right or left. If there was someone in the jump seat behind the driver, if the glass was open on the left side, and someone approached the car at the driver side, a long gun could be used for protection,” he said.
Quail’s father bought the car from Nitti’s fourth wife in the 1950s. “My dad was a Lincoln guy. He had an 8-car garage. He bought it because it was a low-mile car. He didn’t care about the pedigrees. His intention was to fully restore it. I am glad he didn’t. Now the value and interest is much greater. It is such a nice example,” Quail said.
Quail sent the car to a specialist a few years ago and had the top end of the engine rebuilt.
The senior Quail won several national awards with the car when he owned it. Jay Quail has never shown the car in any competitions. The Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance on Aug. 4 will be the first time he shows it.
Attendees at the 2019 event in Veterans Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront will enjoy meeting Jay Quail and seeing this Lincoln along with many other classic and vintage vehicles. Quail is executive director of the Classic Car Club of America and has been a CCCA member since 1982. Look for him on the show field with this remarkable piece of history.
Do you have a classic or vintage vehicle that may be a candidate for this event? Applications are now being accepted. Apply no later than April 30.
Details and application here: https://www.milwaukeeconcours.com/application-to-exhibit/