Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1960 Thunderbird – Is It AI Or Real?

I’m quite impressed that the latest version of Midjourney AI can render a Mustang almost correctly, but what’s the point? I want to see…bizarre and other-worldly, like this 1960 Thunderbird. Stare at this picture (click it for max size) and admit it: this just can’t be a real car. It looks like the front end of an AI creation, with six red headlights, just like some of the earlier ones we saw.

The front end isn’t a whole lot more grounded in reality either, despite being mighty close to the ground.

These ’58-’60 T-Birds really did a number on seven or eight year-old me after we arrived in the states in the fall of 1960. The gorgeous new ’61 Bullet Bird had just come out, and it blew me away. But there was one of these parked at the curb on my walk to school, and I struggled to understand it. I got that it was exclusive, and its interior was seductive. But the exterior styling…what a disaster. I wouldn’t have used that word then, but I could tell it was already from a totally different era. The ’61 Thunderbird and all those divine new ’61 GM cars; they all looked like they were so airy, and looked like they could take flight any moment. But this; it looked like a deep sea monster that had somehow found itself on dry land, and looked even worse for it.

It was much more angler fish than a bird of some kind.

Having gotten y childhood fears of these off my chest, I will admit a certain attraction to them, precisely because they are so…bizarre. I’d like to think that these twin exhaust tubes are connected to an (optional) 430 MEL V8, and not the standard 352. That was a lot of engine to stuff into its none-too big engine room, but with the biggest production engine in the land and its resulting torque, these would fly, back in the day.

That including on the banked turns of NASCAR’s tracks. With 350 rated hp and a big displacement advantage in a low (aerodynamically superior) body, they created some genuine thunder, despite the MEL engine’s less-than optimal cylinder head architecture. The significantly smaller but better-breathing 348 Chevy won the manufacturer’s title in 1959 and 1960, with Ford #2 both years.

That changed in 1961, with the arrival of Ford’s hi-po 390 FE, which despite being smaller was better suited to the demands of high speed racing.

posted at the Cohort by nifticus

None of the, ah, stranger elements of the ’58 – ’60 T-Bird’s styling can take away from its pioneering role in creating a new market niche, the upscale four-passenger personal luxury/sports coupe. Not that it’s success from transitioning from a two-passenger sports/tourer was guaranteed or even obvious in its first year (1958) when sales were a fairly modest 38k. Of course 1958 was a terrible year for upscale cars, especially those from Ford (Edsel, Mercury & Lincoln). By 1959, sales were up to 67k, and hit 91k in 1960, a record for the T-Bird that would stand until 1964.

In my CC, I called it “The Most Revolutionary Car of the Fifties“, based on its pioneering its market segment and being the spiritual antecedent of the Mustang. Do I still think so? Hmm; maybe not. I’ve come to appreciate more than ever the huge impact AMC made with its Rambler throughout that decade. It’s a tough call; how about a tie?

Can we give Fuzzyman a  new challenge, to come up with an even more bizarre ’60 T-Bird? Is it possible?


Related CC reading:
Curbside Classic: 1958 Ford Thunderbird – The Most Revolutionary American Car Of The Fifties