(from Ford Press Release)
The 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, the Ford Forty-Nine custom coupe concept is taking
Americans for a sentimental drag race down memory lane. It’s classic
shape and brilliant proportioning underscore Ford’s ongoing commitment
to design emotion into all its new cars and concepts.
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
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,” adds Mays. As soon as it was introduced in New
York City amid much fanfare in June 1948, the original ’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 in 1950.
With a modern, slab-side design featuring front fenders, body sides and
rear quarter panels flowing together to form one continuous line from
head to taillights, the ’49 Ford served as a compass pointing to the
future. 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 to deliver
The ’49 Ford fit perfectly into America’s cruisin’ and car customization
craze, which reached a frenzy in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
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
To create the all-new Forty-Nine concept, Ford designers went back to
the car’s roots – simple shapes, excellent proportions, clean body
panels and modern conveniences.
The Forty-Nine concept’s hyper-smooth appearance is achieved by an
all-glass upper body structure with 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 and elegant 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
The Forty-Nine’s interior also is a modern interpretation of the
original car’s simple design cues. A cantilevered, bench-style front
seat is power-actuated. A floating center console runs the entire length
of the interior, giving the impression of four-passenger bucket seating,
while also serving to stiffen the vehicle’s structure. The floating
console houses the five-speed shift lever and ventilation system for
both front and rear seat passengers.
The interior color theme is two-tone: black and sienna. The black
leather seats have sienna leather seat backs. Sienna leather also
accents the upper door trim panels, instrument panel and package tray.
The armrest is wrapped in charcoal leather. The lower door trim panels
are finished in satin metallic silver. The silver carpet inserts are
accented with chrome rails running the front to rear.
The car’s primary gauges are contained within a single round instrument
binnacle – similar to the production ’49 and hot rods of the era. The
analog tachometer takes center stage and is surrounded by the electronic
speedometer. Audio and climate controls are presented in a flip-out
panel located in the instrument panel, just ahead of the shifter. Their
respective readouts, along with temperature, oil and fuel gauges, are
displayed on either side of the centrally mounted clock, at the base of
A two-tone, leather-wrapped steering wheel features cruise and radio
controls on a metal ring, reminiscent of the “horn-ring” popular in the
The rear view mirror is positioned along a prominent “wind-split” rod,
which extends from the instrument panel to the windshield header. The
rear-view mirror can be adjusted up or down along the length of the rod,
which serves multiple purposes: it also houses the radio antenna, which
extends up into the roof.
The audio system features a multi-disc CD changer and a strategically
placed speaker network, anchored by a massive sub-woofer, all driven by
a 200-watt power amplifier.
The design under the hood is an obvious extension of the overall design
philosophy and pays homage to hot-rodders’ obsession with performance
The engine bay is finished in satin black, stainless and chrome metal
finishes. The radiator and its associated structure have been
re-oriented to take full advantage of the design opportunities on the
engine itself. The intake manifolds are finished in satin metal and the
valve covers in gloss black, accented with polished stainless steel.
Filtered interior air inlets are located at the trailing edge of the
front wheel opening, and dual stainless steel exhausts penetrate the
rear bumper fascia.
The engine bay is not only cosmetic: the chrome “Powered by Thunderbird”
badge on the side fender gives a hint at the powerplant under the hood.
And indeed, the concept is powered by a Thunderbird-sourced 3.9-liter,
DOHC, 32-valve V-8, tuned to fit the car’s appearance and refined
“Like all the Living Legends, the Forty-Nine reminds us of the love
affair that generations have had with the open road and the automobile,”
says Mays. “It remind us of a romance and a passion of the American
touring car that is just as thrilling today as it was 50 years ago.”