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Ford - 1960 Thunderbird
Ford - 1960 Thunderbird

Ford - 1960 Thunderbird

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The Ford Thunderbird is a car manufactured in the United States by the Ford Motor Company. It entered production for the 1955 model year as a two-seater sporty car; unlike the sup... More »
The Ford Thunderbird is a car manufactured in the United States by the Ford Motor Company. It entered production for the 1955 model year as a two-seater sporty car; unlike the superficially similar (and slightly earlier) Chevrolet Corvette, the Thunderbird was never sold as a full-blown sports car. Ford described it as a personal luxury car, a description which named a new market segment. In 1958, the Thunderbird gained a second row of seats for greater practicality. Succeeding generations became larger and more luxurious, until the line was downsized in 1977 and again in 1980. Sales were good until the 1990s, when large 2-door coupes became unpopular; production ceased after 1997. In 2002, a revived 2-seat model was launched, was available through the end of the 2005 model year.GenesisThree men are generally credited with creating the original Thunderbird: Lewis D. Crusoe, a retired GM executive lured out of retirement by Henry Ford II; George Walker, chief stylist and a Ford vice-president; and Frank Hershey, a Ford designer. Crusoe and Walker met in France in October 1951. Walking in the Grand Palais in Paris, Crusoe pointed at a sports car and asked Walker, 'Why can't we have something like that?'Walker promptly telephoned Ford's HQ in Dearborn and told designer Frank Hershey about the idea. Hershey took the idea and began working on the vehicle. The concept was for a two-passenger open car, with a target weight of 2525 lb (1145 kg), an Interceptor V8 engine and a top speed of over 100 mph (160 km/h). Crusoe saw a painted clay model on May 18, 1953, which corresponded closely to the final car; he gave the car the go-ahead in September after comparing it with current European trends.Unlike the Corvette, the Thunderbird was never a full-blown sporting vehicle; Ford's description was personal luxury car, and the company essentially created this market segment.NamingThere was some difficulty in naming the car, with suggestions ranging from the exotic to the ridiculous (Hep Cat, Beaver, Detroiter, Runabout, Arcturus, Savile, El Tigre, and Coronado were submitted among the 5,000 suggestions). One serious suggestion was Whizzer. Crusoe offered a $250 suit to anyone who could come up with a better name.Stylist Alden "Gib" Giberson submitted Thunderbird as part of a list. Giberson never claimed his prize, settling for a $95 suit and an extra pair of trousers from Saks Fifth Avenue.According to Palm Springs Life magazine, the car's final name came not from the Native American symbol as one might expect, but from an ultra-exclusive housing tract in what would later be incorporated as Rancho Mirage, California: Thunderbird Heights.1958-1960 "Square Birds"Although the original Thunderbird was successful as an image-builder for Ford, the corporation's executives -- particularly Robert McNamara -- felt its sales volume was unacceptably small. Market research suggested that sales were inherently limited by its two-seat configuration, making it unsuitable as an only car for families. Therefore, the second generation, introduced for the 1958 model year, was designed as a four-seat car.The four-seat Thunderbird, like the new Lincolns, was designed with unibody construction, eschewing a separate chassis. The intent was to allow the maximum interior space in a relatively small exterior package. Both the new Thunderbird and the new Lincolns were produced at a new assembly plant at Wixom, Michigan, built as part of a corporate expansion plan to increase the sales of up-market cars (Mercurys, Lincolns, and Thunderbirds).The new Thunderbird had a distinct new styling theme, sharply angular and formal, but extremely low slung. The look, which was quickly propagated to the rest of Ford's car line, earned this generation the nickname "Square Bird." The design was driven entirely by the styling department and approved before the engineering was considered. The design was one of two proposed, styled primarily by Joe Oros, who later worked on the Ford Mustang; the losing proposal, by designer Elwood Engel, was reworked in size to become the 1961 Lincoln Continental.The new Thunderbird was nine inches (230 mm) lower than the standard American car of the time, at 52.5 in (1.33 m), with only 5.8 in (147 mm) of ground clearance. The significant transmission tunnel intrusion required to fit the powertrain into such a low car was turned into a styling feature by covering it with a large, full-length center console dividing the front and rear seats and containing ashtrays, switches, and minor controls.Beneath the innovative monocoque construction, the remainder of the engineering was conventional. Ford's new FE-series engine was used, with 352 in³ (5.8 L) displacement. Standard transmission remained a three-speed manual transmission, with optional overdrive or Cruise-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission. Front suspension was independent, with coil springs and unequal-length A-arms. The rear was initially a live axle suspended by coil springs, which were intended to be interchangeable with optional air springs that were cancelled before production. Drum brakes were used at all four wheels.Various delays conspired to have production start only on December 20, 1957, much later than the normal September start; the 1957 Thunderbird was thus built for three extra months.The new Thunderbird captured Motor Trend's Car of the Year award in its debut season, the first of three it would eventually accumulate. While many fans of the earlier, two-seat Thunderbirds were not happy with the new direction, Ford was vindicated with sales figures of 37,892, more than double the previous year despite losing three months of production and 1958 being a very poor year for car sales-the Thunderbird was one of only two cars to show a sales increase that year (the other being the Rambler. Only 2,134 convertibles were built, mostly because the convertible model did not become available until June 1958.For the 1959 model year, Ford made changes to the front, rear, and side ornamentation, and made leather upholstery available for the first time. The rear suspension was revised, discarding coil springs for Hotchkiss drive, with parallel leaf springs. A new engine, the 430 in³ (7.0 L) MEL-series, was available in small numbers. Sales almost doubled again, to 67,456 units, including 10,261 convertibles. Thunderbird advertising in 1959 targeted women in particular, showing glamorous models in country club and other exclusive settings, and the sales figures bore out Ford's marketing plans.1960's sales figures hit another record: 92,843 units sold, including 11,860 convertibles. A rare option in this year was a sunroof; this "Golde Edition" (Golde was a German company whose sunroof patent Ford licensed) sold 2,530 examples.This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from Wikipedia. Hide -
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