The story goes that the two-seat Ford Thunderbird was first imagined during a wander through Paris' Grand Palais in 1951. Ford's general manager, Lewis D. Crusoe, yearned for a European-style sports car, and asked George Walker, Ford's chief stylist, why they couldn't build one. Walker called Frank Hershey, a veteran designer, who began creating a clay model with colleague William P. Boyer while official approval for the project was sought.
Initially labeling the car a "sports car," eventually Ford called the Thunderbird a "personal luxury car." It didn't handle as well as the Chevrolet Corvette, but featured more amenities American buyers expected, such as roll-up windows, along with a monstrous V-8 that outpaced the Vette's stovebolt six. This helped Ford to outsell Corvette by almost four-to-one. By 1957, however, Americans demanded more interior room, and the Thunderbird morphed into the four-seat "Square Bird," something critics originally lamented. The last two-seat Thunderbird rolled off the production line on this date in 1957, and by 1960 the T-Bird was all about luxury:
Photo: Mustang Joe, via Flickr