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Retro Rides, Part 2

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Ford Thunderbird, Chevrolet SSR, Ford GT
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Retro Rides, Part 2

Bill Crittenden
10 February 2006

Retro Sports Cars

Like modern-styled cars, some retro cars just are made to be cool, practicality be damned.  Sports cars have their own retro cars, too, and here's a look at them:

Ford Thunderbird

The Ford Thunderbird was designed to be evocative of the original 1955 Thunderbird.  In styling alone, it pulled it off impressively well.  The car even came in retro colors to complete the look.

The car was based on the Lincoln LS platform, but only came with the V8 engine.

The Lincoln LS reference is an excellent way to point out the impracticality of this car.  The Thunderbird was a two-seater V8 convertible that had an MSRP of $38,355 to $44,355 (2005).  The LS was a luxuriously (if on the low end of the luxury spectrum) appointed sedan with room for four adults, previously available with a gas- and money-saving V6.  The 2005 LS, the last year it was sold alongside the Thunderbird, had the MSRP at $32,640 on the low end.

This comparison isn't to say that the Lincoln LS is a better car than the Thunderbird.  Which is the better car depends on what the buyer is looking for.  It is merely to illustrate the impracticality of such a car.  While the PT Cruiser could be a family car, a daily driver, the Ford Thunderbird was exclusivly for those of sufficient means that they can buy a $40,000 car and not need it for any practical purpose.

Sales were disappointing, and the Thunderbird was discontinued.

Chevrolet SSR

The Chevrolet SSR follows similarly the formula of the Ford Thunderbird.  Based on Chevrolet's old pickup truck styles of the 1950's, but with a retractable hardtop, a Corvette-derived engine and respectable trunk space (compared to sports cars) at a price barely less than $40,000.

Being a two-seater V8 powered convertible it doesn't score many points in the practicality department, but I see it as a slightly more practical alternative to pure sports cars such as the Corvette.  The SSR's 2006 MSRP is $39,890, and the Corvette's is between $43,690 and $64,890 with the convertible at $51,390.

Ford GT

The best performing and least practical of all retro cars, the GT40 inspired GT (there was an issue over name ownership rights) is a supercar with an American name.  In fact, the original GT40s were made to beat Ferrari at the track-and did.

This car is basically an image car or "halo" car, not made to sell as much as to show what Ford can do.  In both respects, however, the GT is a success.

Other Retro Cars

The Subaru B9 Tribeca isn't so much a complete retro vehicle so much as one that has one very distinctive retro styling cue: the front grille is borrowed from an old Subaru design and is reminiscent of the shape of many European front ends from decades past.

The Dodge Charger and Pontiac GTO are revivals of muscle car-era nameplates on modern muscle cars that have little to do with the original cars other than the V8 engine/rear wheel drive formula.


So that's a look at where America stands with recent retro cars and trucks.  Now, the question is, where are we going?  Parts 3 and 4 will come after my trip Saturday to the Chicago Auto Show.  In it I will write about some recent retro concept cars (Part 3) and some of my ideas for retro cars (Part 4).

©2006 Bill Crittenden



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