(first posted 2/27/2012) Although I didn’t have time on the way to lunch to get as many pictures as I normally do, and the Flair Birds deserve a lot more than just an outtake, I’m just going to take this moment to say these are my favorite Thunderbirds, ever. Why?
More so than the Bullet Birds that proceeded them and the Glamour Birds that followed, no other car offered 1960’s style with more consumerist camp crap in a remarkable tasteful way than they did. The intersection between the Swing Away Steering Wheel, Eight Track tapes, and Landau Bar Vinyl Top are intoxicating to think about.
Nevermind that the flair flock shared many of the flaws of its predecessor (overweight, slow, frighteningly bad brakes and sloppy handling). It’s still a stunning car to behold. And with all that gee-whiz gadgetry combined with those over the top looks, it’s totally understandable how Thunderbird maintained a lock on the personal luxury market again formidable competitors, especially the Riviera.
It was the last Thunderbird successfully sold as a way of life, just not a car. And that was the true Thunderbird magic: It never was truly just a car. Like a Cadillac, or Mercedes (or any car that reflected a certain level of income and taste, no matter how crass), owning a Thunderbird of this vintage meant you were living the good life, and could only afford the best.
Whether that mythology was created by Mad Men, Motown or some soft focus reasoning in between those extremes, never (for better or for worse) will we see such a car be so successful purely on its well crafted image.
Laurence Jones writes about vintage cars at his blog, Dynamic Drives.