January 6, 2002
Detroit, Michigan – The burgundy Forty-Nine convertible concept shown at the Detroit auto show media preview harkens back to the romance of a Friday night at the drive-in or bowling alley, listening to rock-and-roll and cruising “the strip” in a chopped and channeled or convertible custom car.
The ’49 Ford was the key to a company turnaround engineered by Henry Ford II and his “Whiz Kids.” It was offered in many variations including the standard edition, station wagon, Custom Club coupe, Custom Fordor, Custom Tudor – the most popular model – and convertible. The coupes and station wagon drove strong family sales while the convertible drove important new younger buyers to Ford dealerships.
Hollywood provided inspiration as well. James Dean starred with the convertible on the “silver screen” in the classic Rebel Without a Cause, where the ’49 Ford co-starred with a ’49 Mercury in one of motion picture history’s most famous car scenes. Fueled largely by the demand among young people, the ragtop netted sales of more than 51,133 cars.
To create the Forty-Nine concept, Ford designers went back to the car’s roots – simple shapes, clean body panels and modern conveniences. The Forty-Nine concept’s hyper-smooth, slab-sided appearance is enhanced with the new convertible, open-air look. The exterior finish is a rich burgundy with a matching burgundy cloth soft top. A bright chrome wraps around the exterior with modest chrome accents elsewhere, such as its badging and 20-inch chrome wheels.
Clean, simple, design cues are conveyed in the rounded high intensity discharge (HID) and projector-beam front lighting. In the rear, sleek, narrow, wrap-around LED tail lamps make a distinctive statement.
The interior also is a modern interpretation of the original car’s simple design cues. A cantilevered, bench-style front seat is power-actuated. A floating centre console runs the entire length of the interior, giving the impression of four-passenger bucket seating, while also serving to stiffen the vehicle’s structure.
The interior colour theme is two-tone: black and burgundy. The black leather seats have burgundy leather seat backs. Burgundy leather also accents the upper door trim panels, instrument panel and package tray.
The car’s primary gauges are contained within a single round instrument binnacle – similar to the production ’49 and hot rods of the era. The analogue tachometer takes centre stage and is surrounded by the electronic speedometer. A two-tone, leather-wrapped steering wheel features cruise and radio controls on a metal ring, reminiscent of the “horn-ring” popular in the 1950s.
The design under the hood is an obvious extension of the exterior design philosophy and the interior theme and an homage to hot-rodders’obsession with performance and appearance. The engine bay is finished in satin black, stainless and chrome metal finishes throughout. Filtered interior air inlets are located at the trailing edge of the front wheel opening, and dual stainless steel exhausts penetrate the rear bumper fascia. The engine bay is not only cosmetic: The chrome “Powered by Thunderbird” badge on the side fender gives a hint at the powerplant under the hood.
The Forty-Nine concept is powered by a Thunderbird 3.9-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8