I heard this ‘Bird before I saw it. Its 300-hp 390-V8 made a guttural rumble as it roared through this stretch of the Bryn Mawr Historic District in my neighborhood. This particular Saturday seemed like just the perfect kind of day to dust off a car like this and call a buddy to go for a spin, seemingly like the duo in this car. Sometimes being in your car is something you don’t want to share with anybody else – it’s just you and your wheels, the songs you want to hear coming through the speakers, and the ability to go wherever you want for as long as you like. Sometimes, though, you want to share your car experience with someone who appreciates your car almost as much as you do. (I say “almost”, because it is you who gets to be behind the wheel.)
Who says a brougham has to be frilly? I like the no-nonsense, monochromatic, black-and-chrome treatment of this example. I usually like cars to look as “stock” and factory-original as possible, but I have no objection to the wheels on this ‘Bird. Those black spinners with their chrome centers look just menacing enough, shod in those thin whitewalls. Even the factory dummy landau bar on the C-pillar looks wicked in a “Harold & Maude” kind of way. This catfish looks like it means business, and by the sound of its exhaust note, you know it does. This is one of just under 21,000 Landaus (not including 4,500 “Special Landau” models) produced for the model year out of just under 75,000 total ’65 Thunderbirds. Its starting price of $4,589 translates to about $34,700 in 2016. Starting at just under 4,500 pounds at the curb, the Landau’s cost in base form was just over $1/lb – an almost-golden ratio.
By the time this Thunderbird rolled off the assembly line in 1965, this area had just started its downward trajectory after having been a really upscale destination. (Its renaissance began to accelerate around the turn of the new millennium.) The historic Edgewater Beach Hotel in this area had been a sprawling resort with its own private beach, radio station, print shop and other stores, and even a heliport. It would have celebrated its centennial this year, with its first, Maltese cross-shaped building built in 1916. It had once hosted A-list entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplin and bandleader Xavier Cugat, in addition to a few U.S. Presidents and famous athletes. A northward expansion of Lake Shore Drive would take away the EBH’s beachfront access to Lake Michigan, which then contributed to the hotel’s decline and ultimate demise.
This Thunderbird would have been a mere two years old when the hotel closed at the end of 1967. The hotel would be demolished in a state of sad disrepair by 1970. The stately, pink Edgewater Beach Apartments building pictured above was built in 1928. Though it was never a part of the actual hotel operation, it is the only part of the EBH complex which still stands today as a proud reminder of this neighborhood’s legacy as an upscale destination.
I’d like to think this Thunderbird had once been taken when new for a late-spring, windows-down boulevard cruise up North Sheridan Road fifty years ago – perhaps to the sounds of Wes Montgomery, Betty Carter, or Stan Getz. The vision of this beautiful, black raven took my mind to another time in this very same place. Like the Edgewater Beach Apartments, this ’65 Thunderbird may be something of a relic – but also like this building, what a monumentally stylish relic it remains.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, April 23, 2016.
- From Laurence Jones: Curbside Classic: 1965 Ford Thunderbird Landau – Fancy Feast; and
- From Aaron65: Car Show Classic: 1965 Ford Thunderbird–Unique in All the World