Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Bird Was The Word

When Chevy came out with the Corvette in 1953 and upgraded the model in 1955, Ford responded with their own two seater in reply, and though the Thunderbird that was introduced was in response, Ford went for a different demographic than those who wanted an American version of European sports cars and roadsters.

The first generation T-Bird eschewed the European lines and stayed with the Detroit tailfinned styles of the 50's. It wasn't even marketed as a sports car, instead Ford called it "a personal luxury car". This was the car aimed not at the youth market, but the young lawyers and the young executives. With good but not fantastic power and upscale luxury options, this was the car that Ford made for Don Draper.  It worked too, as the T-Bird outsold the Corvette by more than 20 to 1 in 1955 and outsold the Vette every year through the 50s and 60s

The 1955 T-Bird was powered by a 292 cubic inch (4.8L) V8 that produced a modest 155 hp with either a 3 speed manual or 2 speed automatic transmission. An optional 312 cubic inch (5.1L) engine added for the 1956 model making 215 hp. For 1957, options for the 312 included dual quad carburetors and even a supercharger which could boost the 312 up to 340 hp. 

Although the muscular options were available, most of the Mad Men stayed with the sedate versions rather than challenge the young greasers at the stop lights. This was never the car of 50s youth, and even the Beach Boys reference to the T-Bird in "Fun Fun Fun" begins with "Well, she got her DADDY'S car and she cruised to the hamburger stand, now". 

The two seater T-Bird lasted only three years, as Ford CEO Robert McNamara felt that the two seater limited the car's market and thought it would be a good idea to redesign it for 1958 as a larger four seater (as JFK & LBJ's Secretary of Defense he also thought getting involved in Vietnam was a good idea). Unlike his military ideas, the redesign of the T-Bird turned out very well as the Mad Men and Ford loved it and the Thunderbird's sales numbers rose 60 percent each year in the late 50s even in the teeth of the 58-60 recession. 

The 3rd generation of the early sixties was redesigned with a bullet shape and a more powerful line of engines, but would follow the formula of the 2nd as would the 4th generation of the mid 60s most memorized as the 1966 convertible in Thelma & Louise

The T-Bird would take a new direction in the late 60s as it became a mid sized luxury car, then fattened to the underpowered behemoth pimpmobiles of the 70s. 

Like the rest of Detroit's models the early 80s T-Birds were downsized and squarish K-Car lookalikes, then redesigned in the mid 80s for with larger and sleaker lines, the smoothness that made it popular in NASCAR and made Bill Elliott one of the biggest winners of that era. 

The 90s continued the sleek coupes and were equipped with a turbocharged 3.8 V6 or a 4.9 V8, then in 1994 it came with Ford's new modular 4.6L V8 still in production today. The 10th generation also came with independent rear suspension which for some reason Ford didn't see fit to put into the Mustang. 

Ford finally dropped the Thunderbird line in 1997 but brought it back in 2002 with the "retro" look small two seater that attempted to lure the enthusiasts of the 1955 T-Bird. It never captured the enthusiasm of the 1st gen and Ford said "never mind" in 2005 and the T-Bird left the scene for good

T-Birds changed through the years, but to the gearheads and petrolheads of the world, the mind's eye will always picture Suzanne Somers cruising the boulevard and driving Richard Dreyfus to obsession in American Graffiti 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hail Britannia

Welcome to the first installment of G&G's World of Cars , recognizing the contributions each automaking nation has made.

First, we start off with the United Kingdom, creator of Top Gear, Monty Python, Harry Potter, the Spitfire, the Titanic, several Oscar winning actors and too many hit pop and rock artists to list here.

The sun may have set long ago on the British Empire and almost all the iconic cars that came from the UK are defunct,or owned by American, German, or Indian conglomerates, but the classics that originated there live on in legend

First, the godfather of the small roadster, the MG TA Midget

The Morgan Plus 4; the gold standard of wealthy collectors over the age of 60

Of course there's the Rolls Royce Phantom, the ride of Hollywood and Saudi royalty

The Mini; icon of 60's London hipness

One of the most beautiful examples of automotive design art, the Jaguar XKE

The Aston Martin, the car of choice for James Bond. This is the Aston Martin Vanquish driven by James May in the Nevada to Mexico trip on Top Gear's Series 19 Episode 2 which aired on February 10, 2013

The Bentley Continental, driven on the streets of London by John Lennon and into swimming pools by the the late legendary drummer Keith Moon

And of course the workhorse of BBC news and documentary crews around the world, the rugged though temperamental Land Rover

Last but not least, the Anglo-American collaboration, the AC Cobra. Yes, that's the car William Shatner and Kaley Cuoco drive in the Priceline commercial

For those of you who wonder if it's only the British who drive on the "wrong" side of the road, the left hand lane/right hand drive is the rule of the road in every nation of the Commonwealth except for Canada. Japan is the only nation not a Commonwealth member with left lane traffic.

Quite an impressive list of automotive excellence from the UK, but let's not forget that like all countries they had their share of vehicles in the Hall of Shame. Examples are the Morris Marina, Austin Allegro, Triumph Stag, Ford Cortina, Triumph TR-7, and numerous infamous models. British Leyland is a primary example of the fallacy of government run companies and all were wired by the infamous Lucas Electric, the butt of more jokes than the Yugo

When all is said and done though, well done mates!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

TV Car Quiz First and Final Grand Prize Round

Car Quiz Time folks, and to reward you the reader, winners will receive the coveted Gears and Gridirons "So You Won the Internet, Who Gives a Shit" Award

Note: Contest Kitteh is just a presenter and is NOT included
The rules are simple enough even for TMZ and Reality Show viewers;

Match the number corresponding to a car to the letter corresponding to a TV show. Answers must be in the form of an answer. Take your time, nobody cares if you're not doing your work because they're going to fire you anyway.

1.   1964 Volvo P-1800                           a. Supernatural
2.   1983 GMC Vandura                           b. Mr Bean
3.   1979 Dodge Power Wagon                c. Lost
4.   1982 Pontiac Trans Am                     d. The Green Hornet
5.   1975 Ford Gran Torino                     e. Baywatch
6.   1996 Saab 900S                                f.  The Saint
7.   1955 Pontiac Star Chief                    g. Columbo
8.   1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser          h. Sanford & Son
9.   1977 Pontiac Firebird Esprit              i.  The Monkees
10. 1969 Dodge Charger                          j.  Nash Bridges
11. 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS                        k.  Seinfeld
12. 1967 Chevy Corvette Stingray            l.  Starsky & Hutch
13. 1976 Mini MK II                                  m.  Miami Vice
14. 1959 Peugeot 403                               n.  Knight Rider
15. 1988 Dodge Dynasty                          o.  Dukes of Hazzard
16. 1975 MG B Roadster                          p.  The Rockford Files
17. 1973 Chevy El Camino                      q.  Route 66
18. 1971 Plymouth Barracuda                  r.  That 70's Show
19. 1989 Toyota SR 5 Pickup                  s. The A-Team
20. 1968 VW T-2 Bus                             t. Cheers
21. 1966 Chrysler Crown Imperial         u. House M.D.
22. 1951 Ford F-1 Pickup                       v. Magnum P.I.
23. 1986 Ferrari Testarossa                    w. I Love Lucy
24. 1967 Chevy Impala                           x.  Friends
25. 1966 Pontiac GTO                            y. Simon & Simon
26. 1961 Corvette                                   z. My Name is Earl

If you're complaining "why are these a bunch of old shows my grandpa watched", it's because the tv producers aren't putting out shows lately with iconic cars, they seem to think it's a movie thing now. Bitch at them, not at me.

Answer Key;

1.  f  2. s  3. y  4. n  5. l  6. k  7. w  8. r  9. p  10. o  11. v  12. t  13. b  14. g

15. u  16. x  17. z  18. j  19. e  20. c  21. d  22. h  23. m  24. a  25. i  26. q