November 9, 1960: Robert McNamara becomes president of Ford Motor Company just one day after John F. Kennedy is elected President of the United States.
He may have only held automotive office for a handful of weeks before becoming JFK’s Secretary of Defense, but McNamara’s legacy at Ford is everlasting. However, after saving the company from its own ill-planned and cannibalistic Edsel division, he later created an Edsel of his own in the Vietnam War.
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…)