Friday 19th February 1954
The prototype Ford Thunderbird was finished; it debuted at the Detroit Auto Show the next day. The T-Bird was a scaled-down Ford built for two. It came with a removable fiberglass hard top and a convertible canvas roof for sunny days. With a V8 and sporty looks, the T-Bird was an image car. For $2,944 a driver could drop the top, turn the radio dial, and enter a more promising world. General Motors (GM) had created the Corvette two years earlier to meet the needs of the G.I. who had developed a taste for European sports cars. In keeping with Ford’s cautious tradition, the T-Bird, its response to the Corvette, still looked like a Ford and was classified as a “personal car” and not a “sports car.” But it was popular. Just as it had relied heavily on one car, the Model T, in its early stages, Ford would rely heavily on the T-Bird to bolster its image as a progressive car maker capable of keeping pace with GM. A decade later the Mustang would take the torch from the T-Bird, but to remember Ford in the 1950s one only needs to call to mind the stylish growl of the Thunderbird’s V-8.