To the applause of reporters and onlookers, Jac Nasser drove a citrus-yellow Ford Thunderbird down a ramp and onto a Cobo Center stage last week at the North American International Auto Show.
Ford Motor Co.'s CEO got out of the reborn roadster and said, 'I told you the T-bird would be back, and here it is.'
Call it a timeless classic. Call it an automotive legend. Just don't call the new Ford Thunderbird concept car retro.
Retro means copying old designs; instead, the two-seat Thunderbird concept represents a modern interpretation of a car steeped in heritage, in the view of Nasser and Ford's vice president of design, J Mays.
'It's not retro,' Mays said. 'While the Thunderbird concept is loaded with heritage cues, it is a decidedly modern machine.'
The concept Thunderbird points to the direction Ford will take when the Thunderbird is revived for 2001 as a two-passenger roadster. Ford has confirmed the revival of the rear-wheel-drive sport coupe, but not a model year. The Thunderbird was discontinued in 1997 after a 43-year run.
The Thunderbird concept incorporates features from the 1955-57 and 1961-62 models. The cues include porthole windows, hood scoop, egg-crate grille and round lamps. The concept car sports a removable hardtop, which is expected to be offered in the production vehicle.
A wraparound windshield set at a 64-degree angle is banded in chrome. Chrome also surrounds the porthole windows. Chrome slash marks that are cut into the sheet metal on the front quarter panels echo the chevrons prominent on the original 1955 model.
Inside, the past blasts back with a leather-wrapped instrument panel and white gauges with turquoise-hued pointers.
The production Thunderbird will ride on Ford's new rwd DEW chassis. It will be assembled in Wixom, Mich., alongside the new 2000 Lincoln LS, which also is derived from the DEW platform.