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Hemmings Motor News Blog

Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Ford's Design Team Kept Trying to Add This Concept Car Feature to the Thunderbird

Posted October 29, 2020 12:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: Ford

They say that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. If that's the case, then perhaps a handful of Ford designers in the late Fifties and early Sixties should have been sent to the asylum for repeatedly trying to get butterfly flaps onto the Ford Thunderbird's roof.

The idea was simple enough: Cars were getting progressively lower while drivers were not. The stooping and ducking to get into newer cars could be mitigated or avoided altogether by cutting out a section of the roof and filling it with a flap that would raise and lower as the door opened and closed. Rooflines could be further lowered, egress for rear passengers would improve, and nobody would have to worry about knocking off their hat or messing their hair getting in or out of a car again.

According to Thunderbird designer William Boyer's "Thunderbird: An Odyssey in Automotive Design," the idea cropped up at least three times in conjunction with Ford's personal car. First, in 1957 or so, as a proposal for the 1958 model year Square Bird; Boyer's photos show Lowell Simpson demonstrating the "flipper roof". Given the lack of any sort of mechanism other than a hinge, we're going to presume Simpson was demonstrating a manually operated version. According to Boyer, it was "never implemented due to mechanical complexity and sealing problems."

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