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Cold Start: “Outside Sources”


I’m not certain if this 1974 Ford Thunderbird brochure is the first to prominently feature a car phone, but it has to be one of the first, at least in terms of a mass-market car from a major carmaker. The phone here was very much a prop, as the copy of the brochure only notes that the telephone is available from “outside sources,” and Ford couldn’t be bothered to give any more details. I kind of suspect the phone shown here was just the handset an cord from a regular landline phone, but I can’t really prove that, at least not yet.

Car phones, using a combination of radio and normal telephone lines, have been around since the mid ’40s, though back then the equipment was pretty significant and consumed a decent chunk of a car’s trunk. Here’s an old video explaining how it worked, along with a lot of hilariously stilted conversations:

This probably deserves more than just a Cold Start, but I couldn’t help talking about it a bit. Anyway, welcome to a new week.


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29 Responses

  1. “What a way to go” is not as great a tag line as they thought it was. Reminding people that they could die in your cars doesn’t seem like something you want to evoke.

    1. Besides that, the interior is very much like the inside of a casket to my eye. Can’t say why, exactly. I’ve never seen a red casket lining, but something about this…..

  2. In the 60’s a neighbor was a contractor who always had sweet cars. Cadillac..T-Bird..so forth. One day he showed up with a phone in the car. We kids were in awe.
    Didn’t have it very long as I recall as it was hella expensive to use.

  3. More about how she’s holding that phone and her posture suggests that you’re about to find out why those armrests fold up. I’m pretty sure the only reason that phone is in that brochure that features an inset of the front seat is so she has something to hold just like that. It’s marketing. What sells?

  4. The early car phone coverage was woeful.
    In the early 1960’s the UK prime minister (Harold MacMillan) did not have a phone in his Rolls and the problem of contacting him in case of nuclear war was a tricky one. AA patrolmen had radio pagers, the pager would go off, the patrolman would then make his way to a public telephone box, ring head office and receive directions to a stranded motorist.
    The Prime ministers driver was issued with an AA pager, so, should the Russians launch an attack, the PM would go to a phone box and authorise a retaliatory strike. So as to save valuable time in the event that the four minute warning was sounded the driver was issued with four pennies( the cost of a call), thereby removing the need to reverse the charges.

    1. It’s unfortunate we can’t post pics (yet?), b/c Bosley very much tooled around in bottle green mid-’70s T-bird and frequently used his car phone to call the Angels on theirs, mounted in various Mustang IIs!

  5. Screw the phone – look at that sumptuous whorehouse-red interior.

    I miss interiors that came in, you know, colors. Options besides “dirty dishwater,” “greyge,” and black.

    1. The only better thing was when it wasn’t leather, but red velour with red plastic/vinyl trim.

      Oldsmobile in the ’80s was the king of this.

      1. I had a ’76 Mustang II Ghia with the half-vinyl top, opera windows, and that selfsame scarlet velour upholstery. Was like driving around in a Turkish bordello. To this day I miss that car, at the very least its genuinely sumptuous interior.

        1. My dad says his favorite car he ever owned was his 1977 Thunderbird. Black over red velour. I loved it too. That was a handsome ride in the disco days.

  6. Wait that’s NOT a phone at all. It’s an old-fashioned corded “vibrating device” plugged into the cigarette lighter. Simple battery powered ones were developed in subsequent years.

  7. The show I always think of when I see an old radio car phone is Cannon, with William Conrad. He was always driving around in his big Lincolns, which were always equipped with Motorola mobile phones.

    He rarely made a call while driving. He was usually parked in some scenic location near the crime scene, pick up the phone and tell the operator to dial a number for him. Man, that was the height of ’70s technology!

  8. All I know is my grandmother had one of these. She picked me up from school one day, and this was way before anyone bothered with seat belts. She was showing off and I kept sliding across that bench seat like it was oiled. Think I dislocated a shoulder or something.

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