9 artifacts in this set
When Henry Ford introduced the Model A, his first all-new car in 19 years, he gave the first example to his close friend and mentor, inventor Thomas Edison. At Edison's request, the car was rebuilt with an open touring-style body, and Ford made further updates over the years. Edison used this Model A until his death in 1931.
Automobiles, like other everyday objects, underwent streamlining in the 1930s. The 1936 Lincoln Zephyr joined aerodynamic styling with attractiveness. Its flowing teardrop shape suggests motion. Its V-shaped grille slices the air. Headlights blend smoothly into the front fenders. Rear fenders hug the body and fender skirts hide the rear wheels. Even the tail lights are streamlined. The Zephyr was a streamlining success.
This car is Mercury serial number one. Ford Motor Company introduced its Mercury line for 1939. The medium-priced car fit neatly between the basic Ford and the upscale Lincoln. The Mercury 8 featured a slightly larger body than the contemporary 1939 Ford, with a finer interior and a more powerful V-8 engine too. Ford discontinued the Mercury brand in 2011.
The 1949 Ford was revolutionary when it was introduced. After the Second World War, Ford Motor Company had been producing only remodeled designs of their 1942 automobile. Sleek and slab-sided with the trademark circle in the front grille, the 1949 Ford broke from previous ideas of design and engineering.
The public didn't know what to make of the Edsel's styling. Like other fashionable 1950s cars, it was big (over 18 feet long) and colorful (161 paint combinations), with four headlights and lots of chrome. But the grille -- ah, the grille. Edsel stylists said it echoed classic 1930s cars. Wise guys said it looked like a Buick sucking a lemon. After only 27 months, Edsel production ceased.
It's an old auto industry cliche -- "you can't sell a young man an old man's car, but you can sell an old man a young man's car." It's also true. The sporty Mustang was a young man's -- and woman's -- car. The under-30 crowd loved it. But older people also bought them, often as a second car. The Mustang hit a sweet spot in the market, appealing to a wide range of buyers.
Most Americans weren't very interested in small cars -- until 1973, when Middle Eastern oil-producing countries cut back on oil exports. Gas prices skyrocketed in the U.S., and shortages led to long lines at service stations. Many people still wanted big American-style cars, but more and more actually bought small four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, European-inspired cars like this Ford Escort. "The new world car" evoked the Model T's slogan:...
For decades, most Americans thought small cars were cheap and should be cheap. In the 1980s, the Honda Accord challenged that attitude. It was similar in price to the Chevrolet Impala, which was three feet longer with twice the horsepower. But the Honda was well built and reliable and included extras like air conditioning, cruise control, a cassette tape player, and a rear window defroster. Sales steadily increased.
After discontinuing the Thunderbird in 1997, Ford Motor Company revived the storied brand for 2002. It was very much a "retro revival," with the new Thunderbird going back to the two-seat layout and porthole windows of the mid-1950s. But the rebirth was short-lived. Strong initial sales trailed off, and the Thunderbird disappeared again in 2005.