(first posted 7/26/2013) There are so many auto myths in the world–the 150 mpg carburetor, self-healing ’69 Dodge Chargers–the list is endless. However, I am proud to say I’ve found the nirvana of Thunderbirds, the absolute creme de la creme.
It’s the Whipped Cream and Cashew Luxury Group, with the highly desirable and optional engine-venting package.
During the 1970s, Ford blessed the Thunderbird with nearly as many different specialty packages as Lincoln showered on the Mark IV. Lincolns got all the press because they are, well, Lincolns–after all, why shine the spotlight on the Mark IV’s bargain-basement sibling?
Anyone familiar with the various sagas of Thunderbird heritage likely knows that the 1972-1976 models were the ultimate in size, comfort, weight, opera windows and engine displacement. That’s a hard to act to top which Ford, to its credit, never did.
In the Thunderbird’s sixth generation, the specialty series made a memorable debut with two Luxury Groups, in both Burgundy and White-and-Gold guises, for the 1974 model year. Although the ’74 and early-’75 editions were lavished with what little media attention the Thunderbird got, the late-to-the-party Whipped Cream and Cashew Luxury Group was treated like the proverbial black sheep of the family. Sadly, its fate should not surprise anyone.
Henry Ford II loved vinyl roofs and wire wheel covers every bit as much as Lee Iacocca did, and since they worked in close proximity for a number of years, it should come as no surprise that the idea of the Whipped Cream and Cashew Luxury Group emerged from the automotive mind of Hank himself.
In 1975, the Ford methodology of naming the various luxury-group Thunderbirds was rather elemental, as with the Copper Luxury Group example pictured above. Ford’s demographic surveys at the time revealed that the most buyers of the Copper Luxury Group were chemists, plumbers and electricians. The ’75 Thunderbird (identical to this one) I once called mine was purchased new by a mailman and his schoolteacher wife, who actually did teach science and thus was solidly within the standard deviation. While taking courses in chemistry and circuit analysis at the time of my purchase, even I fell into the tentacles of this most special T-Bird.
The Silver Luxury Group was quite popular with jewelers and dentists. Interestingly, a batch of 15 Thunderbirds with the Silver Luxury Group were exported to Christchurch, New Zealand, for executives at the silver mine near the town of Ross; various reports show they are still in the executive pool, where they are highly desired for their stout engine, rugged construction and a suspension that doesn’t shake one’s kidneys loose. On occasion, they’ve even been pressed into service pulling ore trains out of the mine .
The 1974 White and Gold edition is the inspiration for our featured car. Hank and Lee thought the Thunderbird was so cool, sweet and smooth, they likened the albino versions to a bowl of vanilla ice cream. The cream and gold colors from 1974 reportedly represent toffee and butterscotch toppings on the bowl of ice cream that was the Thunderbird. Apparently, such subtle symbolism was lost on the general buying public, prompting Hank to take the nuclear option: The Whipped Cream and Cashew Luxury Group.
His orders: “Paint it white and give it a cashew-colored vinyl top. I don’t know how the hell else to get the point across without putting a freezer full of ice cream in the trunk!” Perhaps the freezer idea was strongly considered until Ford engineers pointed out it could push the car even further beyond its nearly 4,850 lb. curb weight (as a point of reference, this ‘Bird has a curb weight of only slightly more than a new Honda Odyssey minivan).
Undeterred, Hank ordered, “Well, give it more power. Damn, you work for Ford Motor Company, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.” With the freezer now deep-sixed, the engineers meandered forward, undeterred by any EPA regulation. (They figured Hank would be getting subpoenas before they did.) Thus came the addition of a second four-barrel carburetor, which increased the output of the 7.5-liter engine by 95 horsepower, to an even 295. Unfortunately, the 460 cu. in. V8 in these ‘Birds really produced a lot of heat. Adding a stouter radiator was prohibitively expensive, so Ford engineers devised this cool yet rather gnarly-looking engine vent.
When first subjected to the scrutiny of automotive journalism, the Whipped Cream and Cashew Luxury Group was resoundingly admonished due to its novel and unique engine vent. Although Ford engineers’ calculations for its design were comparable to those of NASA for its first moon landing, it was all to no avail. The nattering nabobs of negativism that comprise the automotive press likened its appearance to that of a woman’s press-on finger nail. Research has shown only three were produced.
No further ink was dedicated to the Whipped Cream and Cashew Luxury Group, a fact that is truly unfortunate. When my wife saw this true survivor, she exclaimed that it was nearly identical to the ’74 Thunderbird her father had purchased new. After learning that the extra power in this special ’75 made it the third-quickest accelerating 1975 automobile produced in the United States she was amazed, commenting, “Wow, my brother could have really outrun the cops that one day he picked me up from piano practice in dad’s Thunderbird.” Some questions are best left unasked.
Sadly, fate has a way of rearing its ugly head. With only three Thunderbirds getting the Whipped Cream and Cashew Luxury Group with the fabulous engine venting option, this amounted to exactly one-third of total production of this supremely rare luxury group. The reaction from the buying public was,”Hank puts cashews on ice cream? I’ll be darned. I’ve always used chopped peanuts.”
And now you know the history of this most rare and coveted of 1975 Thunderbirds.