I’ve only been to Red Hook a handful of times, but this Brooklyn neighborhood has a somewhat ethereal quality. It feels like no other place in New York City: detached and distant, with no subway coverage, and yet surprisingly close to Manhattan. The expansive neighborhood has a peculiar charm, with industrial buildings on one block but cute rowhouses with gardens on another, and cobblestone streets scattered throughout. On one meandering walk through Red Hook, I spotted a pristine Checker Marathon. It wasn’t my only curbside sighting: two classic Fords were parked amongst the ubiquitous Camrys and CR-Vs.
There once was a time, long before the birth of the minivan and the crossover, when seemingly ever middle- and upper-middle class household in America had a woodgrain-panelled station wagon. This 1974 Ford LTD Country Squire was Ford’s priciest wagon, positioned above the more pedestrian LTD Wagon, Galaxie 500 Country Sedan and Custom 500 Ranch Wagon (and the smaller Torino and Pinto wagons).
Engine offerings consisted of 400 or 460 cubic-inch V8s, although a 351 V8 was available on the Galaxie and Custom wagons. The following year, Ford ceased selling the Galaxie and Custom wagons to retail buyers.
The Ford brand’s position at the bottom of the Ford Motor Corporation totem pole was no barrier to success in the full-size wagon segment. 1974 was a bad year for full-size vehicles, but the Ford full-size wagon range remained at the top of the pile. In fact, the ritzy LTD Country Squire weathered the storm of high gas prices better than all its rivals, including the usually similar-selling Chevy Caprice wagon. Ford produced 64,047 units of the LTD wagon for 1974 (along with 12,104 Custom and 22,400 Galaxie wagons); total production of Chevy full-size wagons was close, but a greater proportion of Ford wagons were of the most upscale trim level. A few hundred bucks extra bought you a Buick, Mercury or Chrysler wagon, but the LTD Country Squire obliterated them in sales, especially in 1974. Ford’s wagon mojo was strong in the 1970s.
Often when one spots classic cars in such amazing condition in NYC, there is invariably a sign nearby indicating that a TV show or movie is filming and that they are rented background cars. While parts of Red Hook could pass for a bygone era without requiring many set decorations, I spotted no filming sign near the Country Squire or this exquisite 1962 Thunderbird.
I would be sweating bullets parking such a gorgeous classic like this on the street, even if it was in relatively quiet Red Hook. This ‘bird looked as though it rolled right out of a showroom. You can spot it is a ’62 because of the decorative vents on the rear quarter panels, whereas ’61 and ’63 models had different side ornamentation. I consider this generation to be the ne plus ultra of Thunderbirds: no generation before or since is as beautiful to behold as this Bill Boyer design. Stripping away the extraneous chrome and bird logos could actually serve to enhance the design, such is the beauty and simplicity of the shape.
I don’t know if Red Hook is usually such a hotbed of beautiful classics (I didn’t even mention the brown Benz!) but if it is I need to go for another stroll there someday.