he year was 1949. After years of wartime sacrifice and sameness in durable goods, postwar America was ready for an automotive design revolution. The ’49 Ford - with radically new "slab sides," integrated body and fenders, independent front suspension and rear quarter windows that opened - served as a symbol of optimism for the future.
Fifty years later, an all-new Ford Forty-Nine custom coupe concept car is poised to repeat a bit of history, as it makes its world debut at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The new Ford Forty-Nine concept is designed to take America on a "sentimental drag-race" down memory lane and underscore Ford’s commitment to designing excitement into new cars coming down the road. The Forty-Nine concept harkens back to the romance of a Friday night at the drive-in or bowling alley, listening to rock-and-roll and cruising "the strip" in a chopped and channeled custom car.
"The inspiration for the Forty-Nine concept comes from the passion and excitement of the original, combined with the imagination of people across America who customized the car and turned it into what they thought a really great car should be," says J Mays, Ford Motor Company vice president of Design.
"The concept melds together many of the custom car designs from the 1950s as well as elegant cues and shapes from some of the great Italian designs, such as Ghia." As soon as it was introduced in New York City amid much fanfare in June 1948, the ’49 Ford became a runaway sensation. As the first all-new, postwar Ford design, the car attracted 1.3 million orders even before it officially went on sale at dealerships. The design was so acclaimed that it won the prestigious Fashion Academy Award in 1949 and repeated the rare honor again in 1950.
The original ’49 had a modern slab-side design, with front fenders, body sides and rear quarter panels forming one continuous line from head to taillights. It boasted a "dream car" silhouette as well as a simple grille and balanced greenhouse. The car’s advertisements heralded its "mid-ship" ride, "hydra-coil" springs, "picture window" visibility, "Magic Action" king-size brakes and "sofa wide" seats built for living-room comfort.
The ’49 Ford fit perfectly into America’s cruisin’ and car customization craze, which reached a frenzy in the late 1940s and early ’50s. Teenagers across the country began snapping up the car, tinkering with the engine to make it go faster, reshaping the body to make it look sportier and reworking the suspension to achieve an altered ride. The 1949-51 Ford coupes were considered some of the most desirable cars to chop and channel.
Back to the Future
The Forty-Nine concept’s hyper-smooth appearance is achieved by an all-glass upper body structure with totally concealed pillars and windshield wipers. The exterior finish is velvety black with bright chrome wrapping around the greenhouse and modest chrome accents elsewhere, such as its badging and 20-inch chrome wheels.
Clean, simple, design cues are conveyed in the rounded high intensity discharge (HID) and projector-beam front lighting. In the rear, sleek, narrow, wrap-around LED tail lamps make a distinctive statement.