Ford - Forty Nine (49)
The new Ford Forty-Nine concept is designed to take America on a "sentimental drag-race" down memory lane and underscore Ford's commitment to designing excitement into its new cars coming down the road. The Forty-Nine concept harkens back to the romance of a Friday night at the drive-in, listening to rock-and-roll and cruising "the strip" in a chopped and channeled custom car.
"The inspiration for the Forty-Nine concept comes from the passion and excitement of the original, combined with the imagination of people across America who customized the car and turned it into what they thought a really great car should be," says J Mays, Ford Motor Company vice president of Design.
"The concept melds together many of the custom car designs from the 1950s as well as elegant cues and shapes from some of the great Italian designs, such as Ghia."
As soon as it was introduced in New York City amid much fanfare in June 1948, the '49 Ford became a runaway sensation. As the first all-new, postwar Ford design, the car attracted 1.3 million orders even before it officially went on sale at dealerships. The design was so acclaimed that it won the prestigious Fashion Academy Award in 1949 and repeated the rare honor again in 1950.
The original '49 had a modern slab-side design, with front fenders, body sides and rear quarter panels forming one continuous line from head to taillights. It boasted a "dream car" silhouette as well as a simple grille and balanced greenhouse. The car's advertisements heralded its "mid-ship" ride, "hydra-coil" springs, "picture window" visibility, "Magic Action" king-size brakes and "sofa wide" seats built for living-room comfort.
The '49 Ford fit perfectly into America's cruising and car customization craze, which reached a frenzy in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Teenagers across the US began snapping up the car, tinkering with its engines to make them go faster, reshaping the bodies to make them look sportier and reworking suspensions to achieve an altered ride. The 1949-51 Ford coupes were considered some of the most desirable cars to chop and channel.
To create the all-new concept Forty-Nine, Ford designers went back to the car's roots - simple shapes, clean body panels and modern conveniences.
The Forty-Nine concept's hyper-smooth appearance is achieved by an all-glass upper body structure with totally concealed pillars and windshield wipers. The exterior finish is velvety black with bright chrome wrapping around the greenhouse and modest chrome accents elsewhere, such as its badging and 20-inch chrome wheels.
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. The floating console houses the 5-speed shift lever and ventilation.
Totally new and modern features include the hardtop door construction and electronic/ mechanical door, hood and deck releases.
The interior colour theme is two-tone: black and terracotta. The black leather seats have terracotta leather seat backs. Terracotta leather also accents the upper door trim panels, instrument panel and package tray. The armrest is leather wrapped in charcoal. The lower door trim panels are finished in metallic silver paint.
The car's primary gauges are contained within a single round instrument binnacle - similar to the hot rods of the era. The analogue tachometer takes centre stage and is surrounded by the electronic speedometer, temperature, oil and fuel gauges. Audio and climate controls are displayed across a flip out panel at the base of the windshield.
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.
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 rear view mirror is positioned along a prominent "wind-split" rod, which extends from the instrument panel to the front header. The mirror can be adjusted up or down along the length of the rod, which serves multiple purposes. It adjusts to the needs of drivers of all sizes and also looks striking. The rod also serves to house the radio antenna, which extends through the roof.
The audio system features a multi-disc CD changer and a strategically placed speaker network, anchored by a massive sub-woofer, all driven by a 200-watt power amplifier.
Under the bonnet is an obvious extension of the exterior design philosophy. The engine bay is finished in polished, stainless and chrome metal finishes throughout. The intake manifolds are finished in satin metal and valve covers in gloss black. 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 gives a hint at the powerplant inside the car. The Forty-Nine concept is powered by a Thunderbird 3.9-liter, DOHC, V-8, 32-valve engine - tuned to fit the car's appearance and refined muscle.
"Like the Thunderbird, the Forty-Nine reminds us of the love affair that generations have had with the open road and the automobile," says Mays. "Both of these cars remind us of a romance and a passion of the American touring car that is just as thrilling today as it was 50 years ago."