Yes, a car picture will follow, but first some data.
Here is the leading car producer in the US beginning in 1968 and then working backwards ten years at a time:
1968 Chevrolet 2,139,290
1958 Chevrolet 1,142,460
1948 Chevrolet 696,449
1938 Chevrolet 465,158
1928 Chevrolet 1,193,212
1918 Ford 435,898
1908 Ford 10,202
No, Chevrolet did not lead every year from 1928 to 1968, but Ford did lead every year from 1908 to 1918 (actually, from 1906 to 1926, inclusive). I think one can get a sense of the devastating impact of the Great Depression (as well as the impact of World War II) in that the production total for the leading car manufacturer in the US was basically the same in 1958 as it had been in 1928.
The US auto industry first reached production of 1,000,000 cars in a year in 1916 and reached 2,000,000 for the first time in 1922. In 1932, during the Great Depression, US auto production was basically half of the 1922 figure: about 1.2 million cars compared to 2.3 million in 1922.
From motor1.com a picture of a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, the last model year for the first iteration of the two-seater or Baby Bird. On this day in 1957 the last original two-seat Thunderbird was produced. (Ford introduced a two-seat Thunderbird for the 2002 model year, but disappointing sales led to the end of that model after 2005.)
What is somewhat forgotten today is that the move to the four-seat Thunderbird (aka the Squarebird) for model year 1958 did dramatically increase sales of the car. Production for the second generation T-Bird (1958-1960) totaled about 196,000; for the first generation (1955-57) that number was about 53,000. Car aficionados sometimes forget, and I am also guilty of this sometimes, that car companies are in business to make money. Even noted labor leader Samuel Gompers once remarked, “The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit.” It is my strong belief that businesses really only have three imperatives: produce goods and/or services, obey the law and make a profit. Anything else they do is optional.
Anyway…the Squarebirds are not valued that highly today (except for convertibles) while the Baby Bird has almost reached legendary status. My favorite Baby Bird (not that anyone asked but this is my blog) is the 1955 model. I’m not a big fan of the Continental kit on the ’56 (sorry, Frank; Frank is a neighbor who owns a ’56 Thunderbird) and I think the ’57 is a little ungainly with the elongated rear fenders/quarter panels. I mean, I like all three models, but I like the ’55 the most.
What do you think?