Curbside Classic Clue

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

We tried an interior shot, but did that slow you guys down? Not. The ’57 Beetle’s radio grille looked familiar to willbodine, on the second guess of the day. Let’s move back outside and see what you make of this.

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Supremebrougham Supremebrougham on Nov 30, 2009

    A quick and simple image search made this one easy, it is indeed a 1958 Thunderbird.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Nov 30, 2009

    A 1958 T-bird fits the CC mold for revolutionary models, if that's the correct guess. If you're puzzled about it, you'll just have to wait for Paul to explain it to you, if that's the correct guess. It's significant, even without the batmobile connection, if that's the correct guess.

    • Dr Lemming Dr Lemming on Dec 01, 2009

      I agree. In 1958 Ford introduced the Edsel and the four-seater T-Bird. The latter was supposed to be a niche car but outsold the Edsel, which was supposed to sell hundreds of thousands of units. With the surprising success of the T-Bird (and hugely expensive failure of the Edsel) Ford execs realized (at least for a time) that they would never one-up GM if they continued to slavishly copy its hierarchy of brands based upon price/prestige -- and one full-sized platform. More than any of the Big Three, Ford pioneered product -- and platform -- proliferation. The classic 1961 Continental and the ground-breaking 1965 Mustang grew directly out of the 1958 T-bird's success.

  • Cdotson Cdotson on Dec 01, 2009

    First retractable hardtop? Is that really revolutionary? I honestly don't understand what seems to be widespread fascination with automobiles that may allow unobstructed rainfall on the center consoles (convertibles and sunroofs). They suffer from less structural rigidity and higher weight than their appropriately fixed-roof brethren.

  • Dr Lemming Dr Lemming on Dec 01, 2009

    Believe it or not, back in the 1950s Consumer Reports was the print equivalent of TTAC in key respects. It had the only rigorous road tests, but just as importantly the magazine also offered some pretty critical punditry regarding the Detroit automakers. CR editors noted that in the 1958 recession only two US-built cars saw sales increases: the just-revived Rambler American and the new, four-seater T-Bird. Both of these niche cars turned out to be pioneers of two major trends. The T-Bird led to the rise of "personal coupes," and the American helped spur the Big Three to introduce a wave of compacts. That said, it may be going too far to call the four-seater T-Bird revolutionary because in a very real sense it was merely Ford's cheesy rendition of the 1953-55 Studebaker Starliner coupe. That was America's first popular-priced personal coupe. I doubt Ford would have attempted a four-seater T-Bird if Studebaker hadn't found some sales success with the Starliner, which in 1956 was renamed the Hawk. To me the 1953 Starliner is more interesting than the 1958 T-Bird. This is partly because it is such a beautiful design. The Starliner also has a certain tragic quality because it helped kill Studebaker, which arguably didn't have the economies of scale to keep current a low-slung coupe body and a relatively distinct, taller body for its sedans.