Images courtesy of the author’s collection.
Starting with the 1966 model year and continuing on into the early ’70s, a recurring magazine-ad motif for Ford’s personal-luxury Thunderbird centered on pilots, air travel, the freedom of the open sky, and endless possibilities ahead.
Other similar motifs were blue skies, overhead panels full of lights and switches, flight controls overlaid with soft cumulus clouds, and — in case the other images didn’t drive the message home, pilots at the wheel. Ford even renamed the T-Bird’s cruise control “Highway Pilot Control.”
For 1969, advertising Thunderbird’s sunroof, a model regards the moon waxing from crescent and gibbous, invoking our nation’s desire at the time to stretch beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. And when blue sky, or the moon, or even lightning weren’t featured, there would be the warm glow of the setting (or rising?) sun, each time of day whispering its own excitement and potential.
In 1970, they dispensed with all subtlety and just placed a Thunderbird on the airport tarmac in front of a couple of Pan Am 747s, a pilot and flight attendant strolling toward the white coupe, likely discussing sharing some cocktails at the Marriott later.
Ford’s message was clear: Thunderbird was for people who liked to aim for the horizon and revel in wherever the flight (sorry, the drive) took them. Never mind the more general metaphor of flight: Anyone behind the wheel of a Thunderbird was automatically a pilot, surrounded by controls in a world of technology and comfort.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by jeff Koch.