I grew up in the Midwestern United States (Michigan, specifically), and I had been exposed to a somewhat limited range of culinary delights that much of the rest of America was accustomed to by the mid-1980s. This is not to say that ethnic foods were foreign to me. My Liberian father and many of his west African cohorts and their families were the reason, prior to my having spent my fourth grade year in Liberia, that I could claim some familiarity with foods considered unusual to many of my friends and peers.
Still, aside from that and despite a great selection of authentic Mexican restaurants in the Flint area (La Azteca and Tia Helita’s, to name a couple, are noteworthy establishments that still do great business today), about as “Mexican” as the Dennis family had dared to eat when I was growing up (quite sadly) was the occasional Taco Bell dinner near the Dort Mall.
“The Bell” may have been exactly what I needed after nights of revelry in my college years (and beyond), and there are things on that menu that I still really like, but in terms of authenticity, the offerings of this fast food chain simply don’t count. Never have, and probably never will. And that’s alright.
I say all of this to set the stage for my first experiences of “green” salsa with my tortillas. I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to a lot of things, even as I know basically what I like and what I stand for. I’ve eaten many foods some would consider exotic, including alligator, monkey and even a type of termite called a “Bug-A-Bug”.
My taste palate as an eight or nine year old was about as adventurous as in present day, and I also remember being fascinated with and in awe of the culture of my father’s people. If Dad said something was good to eat, I usually tried to do so (sometimes also suppressing my urge to vomit, to the best of my ability) to try to impress and also feel some kinship with him and his culture from which I am just barely generationally removed.
Still, when it comes to familiar foods, I have certain expectations in terms of what things are supposed to taste like. We all do. I can’t recall the exact instance or even time period when salsa verde came into my life, but I remember thinking it was all just so wrong – the color, the texture… everything about it. Salsa is supposed to be red, darn it. Only guacamole is green. According to a semi-recent DNA test, I have absolutely no ancestry from Latin America, but at the time, I had somehow felt qualified to make this judgment.
And all of this was before I actually tasted some of the green stuff. I was like that Dr. Seuss character who remained solidly unmoved by the annoyingly persistent Sam-I-Am in the latter’s quest to get him to try the titular “Green Eggs And Ham”. Like the protagonist of that children’s book, though, once I tried green salsa with my chips, I got hooked – and the rest is history.
I thought it was very fitting that I had spotted this four-door Thunderbird outside of one of my favorite, local Mexican restaurants in my neighborhood, particularly because the salsa verde at Susupuato No. 2 is among the absolute best I’ve ever had – and its color reminds me a bit of that of the paint of our featured car.
Like my first time being exposed to salsa verde, the first time I had seen a Thunderbird sedan, it was a genuine “What… the…” moment for me. I was born in the mid-’70s, so seeing even a ’77 Mercury Cougar sedan (or even Cougar Villager wagon) didn’t make me scratch my head around that time. These four-door T-Birds, though, were somewhat thin on the ground when new, and even moreso a decade later in the very GM-centric town that Flint used to be.
I want to state right off that I really, really like the style of the new-for-’67 Thunderbirds. I know this is not popular opinion, and I’m not saying I like these cars just to be different. The full-width look grille with its hidden headlights looks elegant, square-jawed, and slightly menacing all at the same time.
I have also always liked the look of full-width taillamp lenses, and the ones on this generation of Thunderbird are among my favorites. From what I’ve read, here at CC and otherwise, perhaps quality and exclusivity had started to take a slide with this generation, but to a guy who has never driven one (or any of the ones before it), I can’t just take someone else’s word for it.
This interior looks like a very “premium” place to be, and the bright, metal accents and its aircraft-inspired aesthetic make it look very lounge-like – in the best way. The added ease of access and egress made possible by the extra pair of rear doors seems to be a fair enough tradeoff for the loss of a “coupe” profile. In fact, I’d say that the Thunderbird sedan gives up very little in the looks department to its two-door counterpart. The extra formality of the sedan’s profile with its vinyl roof and dummy “landau” bars delineating the door frame openings almost has the same effect as an automotive top hat.
The Thunderbird sedan was a reasonable sales success in its first year on the market, accounting for about 25,000 sales out of about 78,000, about one-third of total production that year. While the coupe was offered in both base and Landau trim, the sedan came only as an upmarket Landau. The percentage of four-door sales steadily eroded over the fifth generation Thunderbird’s five-year life span, with only about 6,600 sold in ’71 out of about 36,000 total (18%). All up, there were about only 77,500 four-door Thunderbirds ever produced. It should also be noted that though a four-door bodystyle was added for ’67, the convertible (with 5,000 sold for ’66) was also dropped for that model year. Overall sales did increase for ’67 from 69,200 sold in ’66.
My initial impression of this bodystyle of this famous, pioneering personal luxury model was that it was bizarre, odd, incorrect. Eventually, it found my acceptance, which then morphed into downright adoration. As a photographer, I love little details, and this car was rife with them. The “for sale” sign on the window (the seller was asking for $8,000) tempted me for only a few minutes, as I have neither the means nor the space to garage a car like this… yet. Its color and fine shape, however, did whet my appetite for some salty tortillas with a big bowl of salsa verde. Perhaps this weekend.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, October 25, 2015.