CC Outtake: Bechtle And The Baby T-Bird – The 1962/63 Mercury Comet Custom Triplets

Before dinner this evening, walking around on Telegraph in the Temescal Neighborhood of Oakland, yet another member of the Falcon & Family flock was at the curb. But tonight it really hit me: “Wow, those early Comets really look like Baby Squarebirds!”

And then it stuck me one reason why cars equal art in my mind. One of the first paintings that I can remember was of the ’60 T-Bird done by Robert Bechtle, an early photo realist painter that did cars and landscapes of Suburban San Francisco and The Bay Area, starting in the 1960s. The Thunderbird “Blind” C-pillar used to dress up the Comet, in combination with those stubbly little fins, finally connected in my mind to the Squarebirds, and back to that Bechtle painting I saw in a Doctors office probably 25 years ago at this point.

In a way, I’m inspired to stop in these moments to capture what, at the end of the day are mundane cars from 50 years ago because of the inspiration to stop and look at the automobile as art, as a culturally significant consumer good that we all encounter, and momentarily be surprised/thrilled about what conclusions I come to about them.

For instance, tonight I’m thinking how clever it was for Ford to transfer a lot of token hand-me-down styling elements from their most popular prestige-mobile to the humble “Super Falcon.”

In the case of the Comet, it worked quite well. All of those random doo-dads make it look more than the humble extended Falcon that it is. The art of visual illusion, after all if this is an unmodified 1962 Comet, there’s the 170 Cube Inline 6 and a 2 Speed Merc-O-Matic moving this softly sprung boulevardier on a budget.

More fun is to be had with this ’63, which is equipped with a feisty little 260 feeding a Merc-O-Matic,

Or by dropping the top on this Comet Convertible. And it reminded me of other things in my life from 25 years ago:  The drag of pretending to be a grown up, playing doctor and stomping around in my father’s Cowboy Boots. In a lot of ways these Baby Squarebirds were doing the same thing, little children cars, play dress up in more adult car “clothes.” Cars that eventually would soon grow up to intermediate size and out of dress up elements of their parents, sometimes.

From there I go off on some weird journey within my mind about illusion as art, and some weird comparison between Bechtle’s photo realism portrait style, my own photo editing style and the faux luxury aspirations of this compact Mercury that the 2 glasses of honey wine aren’t allowing to form. But, now I really want one of these Baby Squarebirds.