What exactly is the American Dream? Was it easier to answer that question fifty years ago? If you were seven years old, and had just arrived from Austria at the same time this 1961 Thunderbird first appeared, the answer is definitely yes. What more was there to aspire to then this? Seeing fifty of these convertibles in Kennedy’s Inaugural Parade only cemented the image. In America anyone could realistically aspire to own a car that actually looked like a Dream Car in a car show, one that would glamorously jet you away from the humdrum of ordinary life, if not exactly rocket you to the moon. Yes, in the fall of 1960, Ford was building my dream. But it was short-lived.
Most car design is evolutionary and derivative. Rarely does a manufacturer make a complete clean break with the past, and risk everything on a fresh stylistic new beginning. Except of course, when you’re at the end of your rope, and staring death in the face. Suddenly, anything, even something boldly original, is very possible and worth risking. It happened exactly once, in the modern history of Lincoln. Frankly, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it in terms of an existing car make, the 1961 Continental is about as clean a break from its predecessor model as any American car in the post-war era. The only other car that comes close in creating a similarly new and lasting design language is the 1960 Corvair, and that had no predecessor. We could surely use another ’61 Continental in these unoriginal times, but don’t hold your breath. Even near-death experiences don’t seem to have the same effect anymore. (Read More…)