Category Archives: Thunderbird

Feral treasure found in Tucson

 

SAABaritic sports car

SAABaritic sports car

A hot weekend visit to Tucson, gem of the Sonoran Desert, yielded a diverse array of feral finds, kissed (well, maybe “baked” is more like it) by the sun.  Cars that don’t have to endure humidity and snow, not not to mention body corroding road salt, last longer and we found some excellent and rare examples parked all over that spread-out ‘burg in southern Arizona.

Open the window, no trunk lid required!

Open the window, no trunk lid required!

A yellow SAAB Sonett III was truly an exciting “get” during our desert sojourn.   It’s powered by a German-built Ford V4 that seems to be trying to pop out of the hood.  The federally mandated protruding bumpers peg this one to be a late run ’73 or ’74 and just one of 8,368 made over a four year model run.   Haven’t seen one of these in the “wild” for quite a spell — maybe 40 years.

Springtime for.. (you know the song by now)

Springtime for.. (you know the song by now)

Less uncommon but still most noteworthy is this VW Thing, the civilian iteration of the World War II Wehrmacht Kübelwagen adaptation of the Beetle platform. The Thing was introduced more than 22 years after the “unpleasantness” concluded in 1945.   Those ribs in the body work are not for pleasure but, rather, to provide a modicum of structural rigidity.  Despite the off-road look, Things were not four wheel drive vehicles so being stuck in soft sand and/or mud is a distinct possibility if you insist on straying from the pavement. On the road or off, the look is as funky as you could possibly want it to be.  While safety regulations put an end to US sales in 1975, VW of Mexico continued to build these, under the model name Safari, until 1980.

Letting it all hang out back

Letting it all hang out back

Both more mainstream and more sun baked is this ’64 Ford Thunderbird.   The paint seems past the point of rubbing it out to restore the shine but we think it looks menacing in a Breaking Bad sort of way. We leave it to your imagination to guess what might be stored in the trunk, aside from the missing wheel covers.  Scary!

'Bird, man

Big, bad ‘bird, man

We were glad to happen upon this ecumenical tableau in an open car port.  Housed together were an upright sedan for formal occasions and a smart pick up for work, from GM and Ford, respectively.  The sedan is, of course, a 1989 Oldsmobile 98 Regency, a conservative conveyance, swathed in velour that is a reflection of the era when George Herbert Walker Bush lived in the White House, declared a war on drugs and the Exxon Valdez hemorraged 12 or so million barrels of crude oil that had just been extracted from Prudhoe Bay onto the shores — and far beyond — of Prince William Sound.  Ah, what a glorious time it was!  The truck is a ’66 Fairlane Ranchero, a melding of Ford’s mid-size car of the time and a pick-up, long a favorite of pool service guys over the ensuing fifty years.

Yes, actually it is your father's Oldsmobile (and your pool man's Ranchero)

Yes, actually it is your father’s Oldsmobile (and your pool man’s Ranchero)

We like the juxtaposition of this 1968 Pontiac Bonneville and late model Honda Civic.  Both were common family sedans in their respective time and dramatically underscore how the definition evolved over the decades.  That big ol’ “Pon-ton” tips the scales at more than 4100 pounds and measures just shy of 19 feet in length; the Honda is 14+ feet long and weighs under 3,000 pounds.  Not sure what the point of this exercise is except to state the obvious: times sure have changed.  The motors?  The Honda is powered by a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder unit driving the front wheels; the Bonneville is powered by a 6.5 liter V8 powering the rear wheels.  Apart from the fact that they’re both painted blue, there’s very little else in common.

..and they said Edsel looked funny?

..and they said Edsel looked funny?

Remember that ’66 Ranchero that is bunking with the Olds 98?  By the late ’70s, it had evolved into this strange thing that’s finished a tasteful shade of Halloween orange with matte black accents.  If the hood isn’t as long as the pickup bed, it’s damn close.  This “only in America” beast is powered by Ford’s “Boss 302” V8.  We know this because we can read.

"Orange" you glad you saw this?

“Orange” you glad you saw this?

Lastly, we encountered a very pristine Mazda RX7 rotary-powered sports car parked on a busy street.  This one is an early ’80s example wearing — how to put this?  — a see-through bra.  Yes, the RX7 of this era had pop-up headlights which necessitates the bra being roll up-able.  Sexy? Not really.  Ridiculous?  You be the judge.

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

We sincerely enjoyed the time spent in Tucson where the saguaro grow tall and the cars just seem to last forever.  It’s kind of a low humidity paradise in some way.

We found a really sharp 1974 SAAB Sonett for sale in nearby Tallahassee, Florida for a mere $12000 here.  It’s orange, too, like a certain Ranchero we recently encountered.

We thought you might like to check out this Olds 98 commercial from ’88.  It’s lack of any real content is stunning but it does take a moment to disparage the imports that ultimately seals Oldsmobile’s fate.  Well done, Olds!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:  info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

What’s the word? THUNDERBIRD!

 

Mid Century X Wing Fighter

Mid-century X-34 Landspeeder

Star Wars fans: is this the reincarnation of the X-34 Landspeeder or what?  OK, maybe this wasn’t the inspiration for George Lucas’s take on how ground transportation looked during the glory days of the Rebel Alliance but a ’64 Thunderbird convertible equipped with a back seat cover nacelle and wire wheels was, in its time, sci-fi you could drive.   The idea to re-convert the T-bird into the two-seater it had been when launched in 1955 was carried out on ’62 and ’63 Thunderbird Sports Roadster.  The option was not all that popular, no huge surprise in the wake of Thunderbird sales having rocketed skyward after the original two-seater was replaced in the big, four-place “Square Bird” in ’58. It featured a distinctive formal angular roof line which became a Thunderbird hallmark until the “jelly bean” shaped generation that came along in 1983.

Guanobird

Guano ‘bird

The intergalactic glory of that ’64 is in sharp contrast to this sorrowful ’80 ‘bird that does little to disguise its very pedestrian Ford Fairlane underpinnings. “Real” Thunderbird people didn’t accept it as such despite all manner of zooty advertising and gratuitous badging.

Don't believe everything you read

Don’t believe everything you read

"The heartbreak of psoriasis.."

“The heartbreak of psoriasis..”

The C-pillars were ultra-thick, in the absence of any rear side windows, on this ’66 coupe, captured by Feral Cars Field Scout Rip Masters.  It’s comforting to recall that fender skirts made a comeback at that time

Colonialist

Colonialist

We encountered a flaming version of the same car.  Classy, no?

Cue: "Back in Black"

Big Red One

Real T-bird elegance and grandeur is reflected in this sweet ’67 Thunderbird Landau Coupe.  The vinyl roof and decorative “S” bar adorning the C-pillar gave notice that the sporty pretense of the original ‘birds had truly flown the coop.

Swank tank

Swank tank

These things have presence with a capital “P” and were also offered with four doors, the rear two of which opened out, “suicide” stye.  Check out this one that was captured in the wilds of the Highland Park barrio in Dallas by Feral Cars Field Scout John McCollough.  Please note what else is sharing a driveway with this rare non-vinyl topped four door, reputed to have been owned by alarmist radio newsman Red Alert. A Pucci-esque mod-style 1968 commercial heralds the new choices in Thunderbird body styles, though it neglects to mention that  a convertible was no longer one of them.

Suicide watch

Suicide watch

The “S” bar connotes old world elegance and serves to break up the blank mass of the thick pillar aft of the back windows just as the “porthole” cutouts had in the ’56 and ’57 hardtops.

"Exclusive"

“Exclusive”

Freak beak

Freak beak

You really can’t get much more formal than this ’68 Landau “triple black” four-door sedan.  Its massive front grill and covered headlights conjure up the look of the top end of an electric razor to some but don’t try shaving with one of these babies.

Fordoor

Fordoor

Spacial profiling

Spacial profiling

Read it and beep

Read it and beep

One of the most iconic eras of the big ‘birds ran from ’61 – 63; these “bullet ‘birds,” so designated because of the shape of their pointed front fenders, were extremely popular during the Kennedy era.  Talk about a time of hope: you could buy your very own ground-to-ground air missile from your neighborhood Ford dealer!

Cue: "Back In Black"

Cue: “Back In Black”

Dirty 'bird

Dirty ‘bird

We captured a massive ’70 Thunderbird “sport-back” rumbling through town.  Some have criticized its neo-Pontiac styling but we thinks it’s an awesome sight, especially “in flight.”

Gone 'bird

Gone ‘bird

Not quite as impressive is this ovoid mid-’90s Thunderbird LX equipped with a rear spoiler that does could double as a handrail for vertigo sufferers.  Meh.

Bland 'bird

Bland ‘bird

We close our paean to a car that seemed to be dealing with a succession of identity crises with another look a that ’64 that dropped in from Star Wars and the one that started the whole ‘bird craze:  a very rough, but original, ’55 shot by Feral Cars Scout Andy Schwartz in bucolic Tannersville, NY.

Low down 'bird

Low down ‘bird

The original is still the greatest

“The original is still the greatest…”

And that dear readers is proof that “the ‘bird is the word.”

Someone had to have the last 'bird

Someone had to have the last ‘bird

This ’64 Thunderbird convertible is for sale and we think it’s a great despite the fact that its back seat is visible.  We think it’s just the thing to transport the wisest man in the universe and a “humanoid protocol droid” which we like to think of as a nattering robot.  Set to the tune of Weird Al’s “Too White and Nerdy” is this video clip of a home-built X-34 Landspeeder replica.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

Bicentennial FoMoCo boogie

Elite all reet

Elite all reet!

Right after we encountered a 1976 Ford Elite we got in touch with Dan Epstein, author of Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76. The book is out in a few weeks to coincide with the ramp up of this year’s MLB season.  Stars and Strikes chronicles such performers as Mike Schmidt, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych and George Brett in the context of a remarkable time in sports and cultural history but Dan suggests that a car like this would be driven by a journeyman player from the days before the era of free agency.  He thinks it would be a good fit for Mets’ outfielder John “The Hammer” Milner who hit 10 grand slam home runs over the course of his career but, due to hamstring issues, never achieved superstar status.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 6.47.10 PM

Elite was Ford’s answer to Chevy’s Monte Carlo and Chrysler’s Cordoba and followed the same basic formula of those “personal luxury” coupes: long hood, short deck, rococo interior and de rigueur vinyl top.  Opera windows were all the rage back then and Ford upped the ante with a bifurcated two pane affair that virtually screams “class.”  While the car was based on the mid-size Torino, it was its own model and predicted the direction for the downsized Thunderbird that debuted the following year.

Opera window double down

Opera window double down: let the sun trickle in

No Torino

Torino? NO!

While we’re on the subject of baseball and 1976, check out this Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser wagon of that vintage.  With three rows of seats and easy loading thanks to the “clamshell” glide-away tailgate, it offers room for the starting nine and lots of cargo carrying capacity. By the way, this Olds is, arguably, the very last American car with tail fins, minimal though they were.

Team player

Team player

Speaking of “rich Corinthian leather,” David Less, our Feral Cars man in Memphis, shot this raging red Cordoba just the other day.  That vinyl-topped half roof is the embodiment of “swank” to these bulging eyes.

Rich Corinthian, etc.

Rich Corinthian, etc.

Let’s add another ’76 opera windowed coupe to our Stars and Strikes overview. This Lincoln Continental Mark IV, shot by Feral Cars scout Amy Treco, sports an oval opera window with etched glass plus vinyl roof top corona.  We bet Pete Rose had one just like it.

Mark IV for LXXVI

Mark IV for LXXVI

Dan points out that one of the touchstones of the magic year was the release of The Bad News Bears, starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal. Matthau’s character was Morris Buttermaker,  a boozy ex-minor leaguer turned pool man.  We found a still of his pool equipment-laden ’64 Cadillac convertible, the implication is that driving a twelve year old car back in ’76 branded you as a loser.   A vintage Cadillac makes you a loser?  We beg to differ!

Bad News Cad

Bad News Cad

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

 

 

‘Bird is the word

(4-door T-) bird on a wire

A dusty old ‘bird but, otherwise in great shape, and carrying classic California “black plates.”   This is one of the few “suicide door” equipped American car of the post-war era –“Kennedy Lincolns, limited edition Cadillac Eldorado Broughams, an odd Kaiser and ‘James Dean’ Mercurys also had ’em.  Ford only made 4-door Thunderbirds for the ’67 – ’71 model years. Seem like this one’s hideaway headlights are on the blink — get it?  Vietnam was just heating up as these came out; Stanley Kurbrick spread the word.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:    info (at) feralcars (dot)com                                                                                                                    Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted.