One of the most delightful finds at Parry Lakes this year was this 1960 Ford Thunderbird convertible – delightful in that it is still somewhat of a rara avis here in Western Australia and that it was so readily accessible. The venue opened about 7:00 and it ws still sparsely populated at 8:30, so I got a good unobstructed view of the bird.
You car historians will be able to trace the rise in horsepower, accessories, gadgets, assemblies and sprung weight for this marque of car from its inception in 1955 as a ”personal car” by consulting the texts and the internet. Oppose this in your mind with the idea of the Chevrolet corvette as a “sports car” and then let you mind run over the European conceptions of sports cars at the same time. Do what you want with the results and decry each of these for their own faults – the Ford Thunderbird did have a place on the street and filled it brilliantly for much of its lifetime.
This ’60 is bigger than the ’55 or ’57 by some degree, though still not the space ship ’60 that was to come – this ’60 still had the “junior country club “look about the styling and one can trace the last of the 50’s stretched out in it – you really can see a ’52 sedan somewhere in there – stretched out and flattened and sculpted like a bar of toffee in the hot sun. And it has a two-tone paint job.
Four seats – the back two nearly as comfortable as the front ones. This is a car that you can take your pal and his girl as well as your girlfriend out in. Or pack three girls in besides yourself. Plus a case of Birch beer and a picnic basket. If you speak politely to the girls they may let you have a bottle of beer. If it is a sunny day, you may have some little difficulty in carrying more than the beer and the basket, as we shall see later.
This car is preserved well – the paint finish is very good and the trim is in good trim. A fine thing, this, as there is a lot of it. Look at the size and weight of that front bumper! Eight bays of grillwork and a central spine. The tail treatment is also pretty exciting – sculpted into the exhausts of a jet – the Chance-Vought F7U Cutlass comes to mind. Thankfully, the ’60 Thunderbird had a better service record than the Cutlass…
The interior is cruise territory. Nothing sporting about that wheel nor the column shift – and it is POWER steering. Keen observers will also note no tachometer and rudimentary oil pressure and water temperature indication – pure family sedan stuff. Not so evident is the tiny little hot/cod/air control panel down in the center console- this would not be out of place in a 40’s car – an AM radio – bet it still gets CONELRAD – and the secret controls for the convertible top.
Speaking of which…where is it? Admittedly it is a sunny day in Perth but surely it is a little imprudent to leave the convertible top back home in the garage. What if it blows up a storm?
Perhaps there is something in the boot that could be used as temporary cover – let us look…et voila..all is revealed. One convertible top fiolded into itself in a compartment lined with checked fabric and operated by sophisticated apparatus normally reserved for raising fortress guns from disappearing barbettes…we have hydraulics and steel castings and clear plastic, and possibly tar-coated hemp mats. I would not be surprised at a dead ferret tail, mahogany backscratcher, or summons for debt in there somewhere. Ford always did have a penchant for inventiveness with their tops – see the Ford Skyliner of the late 50’s. At least you now know why you won’t get more than a very small picnic in there if you cruise with the top down*.
Okay, joking aside. if you cannot afford to restore a Boeing B-52 G Stratofortress for use as a daily commute to and from work – or have trouble parking it in Subiaco – this is the next best 1960 machine. It is contemporary with the Quad 22 amplifier, the Leica M3 camera, and most of my wardrobe. Greater praise cannot be given. You could cruise cooly in summertime around Perth and equally cooly – plus damply and coldly – in winter. Parking at Lovers Lane would be a memorable experience, particularly if you could persuade your three girls to wear a beehive hair-dos and period underwear. Tell them it is a cultural tribute – and dont forget the Birch beer and picnic basket.
* Try going 60 miles an hour down the road in the rain and putting top up at the same time.