Home » Floating Bird: Cold Start

Floating Bird: Cold Start

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My real job deals with the design of retail spaces, so I do know a thing or two about what makes sense in terms of displaying products. For example, I probably wouldn’t show a hair dryer sitting on the top a snow-capped mountain. It would make no sense to show a washer and dryer sitting on a beach. Somehow, years back a number of automakers didn’t think the same way.

[Ed note: The Bishop is pitching in for Cold Start while Jason is out and I’ll be damned if he isn’t doing a great job – MH]

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There are a large number of mid-century-era advertisements from car brands where the cars are placed in situations that are decidedly not car-like. Often they beggar belief as to not only what they’re trying to show, but in some cases the mind boggles as to how they must have made these images happen in a pre-CG world.

One of the most famous is a television spot from General Motors to promote the new 1964 Chevy, a clean-looking car that I’m sure GM never expected to go on to be the star of rap videos and appear in lyrics where antagonists are attempting to steal one’s Alpine head unit from the dashboard. For this spot, a new convertible was helicoptered to the top of a very tall and skinny Castleton Tower in Moab, Utah. This was an actual car and actual person sitting on a tiny surface 2000 feet above the desert floor. According to some sources, winds delayed the retrieval of the car for something like two hours, so the model (who had a harness on underneath her dress) and hidden crew were stranded briefly.

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Chevy even recreated the scene a decade later with the decidedly less cool 1973 model, including details to show how the sausage was made.

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This commercial seems to be one-upmanship from Chevrolet of this spot for the 1963 Thunderbird.

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The ’63 model was one of the so-called “Bullet Birds”.

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1963 Ford Thunderbird (1)
Classic and Collector Cars

This is a Cold Start but just for the hell of it here are the T-Bird classifications for those who want to deep dive:

1955-57 Classic Bird: the Two Seater

1958-60 Square Bird: the first Four Seater (Mister Mister’s Broken Wings video)

1961-63 Bullet Bird: the rounded off, jet-engine-taillight 1961-63 model

1964-66 Flair Bird: more rectilinear Thelma and Louise car

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1969-71 Glamour Bird: the fuselage-shaped landau bar one that you could get as a four door

1972-76 Big Bird: Chevy Suburban-sized behemoth

1977-79 Torino Bird: Ultra-popular downsized basket-handle roof model

1980-82 Box Bird: awful looking Fox-based boxy travesty

1983- 88 Aero Bird: ultra-cool euro-style model with Turbo Coupe

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1989-97 Super Bird: sophisticated legit touring car model

2002-05 Retro Bird: love-it-or-hate-it revival of the two seater

That’s more than you wanted to know there. Anyway, the Bullet Bird in the ad is obviously floating on some paper-mache-covered barge or whatever that is, hiding the big pots holding palm trees and whatever ballast to keep the thing level with a 4000-pound personal luxury coupe on one end. A camera crew sits on the shore a couple of dozen yards away smoking cigarettes and taking shots. They even have one from earlier in the evening where they waited until it was dark, likely leaving the lovely models out on the float for hours and needing food and a bathroom. Again, why would the time and effort be put into this, especially when the whole staging of the image is so painfully obvious?

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If nothing else, it DOES get still get our attention sixty years later. If you’re in advertising, you should know that there’s nothing more important than that.

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Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
5 months ago

Darwin’s T-Bird classifications:

Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of cars, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of cars in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.”

Last edited 5 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
5 months ago

Looks like one of those New Yorker magazine cartoon caption contest prompts.

I would go with “While you were asleep the AAA dropped off a couple gallons of gas so now we’re all set to go right?”

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
5 months ago

These would be great ads for in car navigation software. “No we won’t direct you to a washed out bridge.”

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
5 months ago

That Chevy ad makes, “Come up and see me sometime,” more of a threat than a promise. Since you brought up hair dryers, has anyone seen that commercial for Jardiance? The stylist is aiming a blow dryer at the stars head, and her hair isn’t moving. I giggle every time.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago

T-Bird should always have been a two door two seater maybe dwarf back seat for insurance it could have been a steady corvette competition car.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
5 months ago

“That’s more than you wanted to know there.”

No, it’s certainly not. I’d only encountered the terms square, bullet, flair, glamour, aero, and retro in this context before. I had assumed there were terms for all of the others but it’s nice to see a list. Thanks!

My personal experience is confined to the ’65:

https://live.staticflickr.com/4602/25005385657_3d043eb953_b.jpg

Maymar
Maymar
5 months ago

See, Flubber was actually based on a true story, but it was quashed by the government because as much as such an energy source would be fantastic for shifting us away from petroleum, the public is incapable of safely handling flying cars powered by possibly lightly radioactive piles of goo. Setting it up as a comedy premise helps deflate the plausibility of it in the public’s eye, but Ford accidentally let a few test shots leak.

https://pics.imcdb.org/0is523/tbird15ng8.2044.jpg

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
5 months ago

I just want to know where and how the crew on top of Castle Rock were hidden. Did they fashion a rock-color tarp? Trunk? Seems like there are few if any locations up there to hide from the camera. The view from the left would allow hiding on the right side, but one view showed under the car. Viewing from the right doesn’t leave enough room for the crew to hide on the left side of the car. Yeah, I’m one of those want-to-know-behind-the-scenes people.

Tbird
Tbird
5 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

That’s easily a 2 body trunk.

Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
5 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Believe this rock feature is in Monument Valley, which is a fair piece south of Moab.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
5 months ago
Reply to  Dale Mitchell

Oops, Castleton Tower, not Castle Rock!

Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
5 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

That is all one; I meant the rock feature depicted in the ad; I’ve been to Moab – while there are many unique rock feature in & around, this pillar of stone would still stick out if it where there (no pun intended)

Brett Stutz
Brett Stutz
5 months ago
Reply to  Dale Mitchell

I can see how you’d think that, but it it is Castleton Tower at Castle Valley, Utah. Castle Valley is about 20 miles east of Moab.

Tbird
Tbird
5 months ago

Owned a ’96 Super Bird with the Mustang GT spec 4.6 V8, 4R70W wide ratio auto and a 3.27 traction lock axle. Was an absolute beast on the highway and had respectable handling within limits. Could cruise at 27 mpg and had limitless passing power. Huge contrast with my ’94 5 speed SHO Taurus. Had a Torino Bird in high school.

Der Foo
Der Foo
5 months ago

That ’73 Chevy must have been stripped down severely. I don’t think that helo pictured was heavy lift capable.

Der Foo
Der Foo
5 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

In the top photo, it looks like it has most of the panels (front and rear quarter, doors) plus the tires and suspension. The front bumper is missing and the hood and truck are likely off. Still, when you think of how heavy the cars were back then, it is still quite a load.

To back up your assessment, I guess when it came to actually placing the gutted car on Castle Rock, they did do it in pieces because it would have given the helo some safety buffer and better handling to get it properly in place. Castle Rock isn’t but 2K ft so not much impact on a helos operational envelope, but still winds would have factored into the pilot’s lift plans.

Seems they could have done it in one haul with something like a Seaking if they at least removed the engine and transmission with a few other things. Probably cheaper with a smaller helo.

Mac
Mac
5 months ago

A few months ago, on a whim, I boarded a plane from Milwaukee to Minneapolis on the hunt for a 1960 Thunderbird in Corinthian White for my wife (having just sold her 1974 TR6).

I found an acceptable example and decided to make the purchase. Drowning out the Seller’s pleading that I tow the car home as it was five hours away, I began my journey. (Life is about the adventure, right?)

There is no quicker way to find out the quirks of a car than taking it on an extended road trip. Within the first twenty minutes I discovered the following;

  • It did not like sitting in bumper to bumper traffic (duh).
  • If I exert too much pressure on the gas pedal, the linkage WILL disconnect leaving you stranded on the highway until you can bend it back and reconnect the pedal.
  • Take note of the gas needle often as you never know when it will drop flat due to an electrical gremlin.
  • It WILL NOT go into park when you get to the gas station.

After six and a half hours, and several stops to straighten throttle linkage, I made it home and parked it next to our 1960 Ford Country Sedan (with a log behind the tire acting as a temporary Park).

Along with redoing some of the wiring, adjusting the transmission linkage so I can get into park, and replacing the throttle linkage – the car is getting seat belts this spring so we can put our Kiddo’s car seats in the back and go tour around.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
5 months ago

The ad looks like part of a show that you’d see somewhere like Epcot. The tarted-up barge floats out to the middle of the lagoon while bathed in spotlights, Mickey Mouse climbs out of the car, music starts up, there’s some dancing, and then the spotlights switch off as the fireworks begin.

Fencing_elf
Fencing_elf
5 months ago

Come take the T-Bird away now, Daddy!

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
5 months ago

Gotta mention here that the early to mid ’60s Birds could be had with a cool removable rear seat tonneau cover that allowed one to mimic the 2-seater style of the originals! They make the cars look almost cartoonishly sleek.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
5 months ago

Looks like their rescue boat suffered a puncture. She got cold and they wrapped her in the deflated boat.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
5 months ago

A washer and dryer on the beach makes perfect sense because you’re always hearing about things washing ashore.

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
5 months ago
IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
5 months ago

“Martha, we’re going to have to eat the leather interior of this car to survive.”
“I think that’s vinyl.”
“Martha, would you mind helping me fashion this palm tree into a very long roasting spit for no particular reason?”

Last edited 5 months ago by IRegertNothing, Esq.
Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
5 months ago

I used to think the original T-bird was the bees knees but the Bullet Bird design has aged particularly well, I think. Looking at collector quality old T-birds this morning gives new meaning to the old jingle: “What’s the word? Thunderbird! What’s the price? Fifty twice!”

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
5 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

30 twice in my day

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
5 months ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

You’re old!
I just looked it up and Thunderbird fortified wine is now $36 a bottle! I guess we’re both old…

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
5 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

Wait, it’s fuckin’ what with the who, now?!?!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
5 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

Is it? Got a link?

I dunno why anyone would buy that rotgut when a 1.75L bottle of vodka can be had for less than half that at Trader Joes, maybe even less on the bottom shelf of your local grocery store.

OTOH if fortified wine is your thing a bottle of decent port can be had for about $10 too.

Lots of better options out there, especially at that price.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
5 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

https://www.nationwideliquor.com/85048/thunderbird-wine

Yeah I’d never drink that garbage, even if it was still just $1 a bottle.

Last edited 5 months ago by Dar Khorse
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
5 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

I tried Night Train once.

Once.

“Yeah I’d never drink that garbage, even if it was still just $1 a bottle”

The sad thing is people spend thousands of dollars on old, rare wines that very likely so far past their prime they make Thunderbird a *insert ultra high end wine here* by comparison.

Last edited 5 months ago by Cheap Bastard
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
5 months ago

I had a chance to buy a barn find 63 back in the early 80s. $200, iirc. Mileage was I want to say 34k. But no one had been in the building for a good decade. The roof was gently descending upon the car, and there was a good 1/2” of moss on it. Wasn’t my thing at the time. I ended up with a VW Westfalia camper sometime later

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
5 months ago

Now I understand where Polestar got their inspiration when they did the Polestar 3 world premiere in some type of container on the middle of the ocean.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55aLCfyNByU

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
5 months ago

2009-present Angry Bird: The Raptor owner stuck behind you in traffic.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
5 months ago

I wonder if GM would be able to return to return to Castle Rock these days. Would all the enviro people flip their biscuit? (silly question?)

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
5 months ago

Open scene.

A group of 60’s ad execs are sitting around a conference table, drinks in hand.

Ad exec 1: (downs 3rd vodka gimlet) Okay. Okay. But lissen. The CAR is on a teeny, tiny island! Jush big enough for the car. And a palm tree! Jush the car… an a palm tree. Couple models, too. Dude an a chick.

Ad exec 2: The broad is in a bikini (hic), right?

Ad exec 1: NO!! No, maaaan. Thas what makes this differnt! She’s wearing, like, this… HUGE dresh. Like, made from CURTAINS huge. Gold. An shiny. Yeah…

Ad exec 2: Well I got nuthin better’n that…

Ad exec 1 falls to floor.

Parsko
Parsko
5 months ago

I’ve never seen those T-Bird classifications before. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to be revisiting that list throughout the day, as it’s now on my mind. I had NO CLUE that was a thing, but seems obvious now.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
5 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

I’ve always loved T-birds, but had no idea the horrid Box Bird existed until this place brought it to my attention a while back – always thought the only Fox platform ones were the smart-looking coupes of my teenage years.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
5 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I remember reading that the box bird was described by a Ford exec as being “ugly from every angle”.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
5 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I know the purists decry anything with more than 2 seats, and the 70s one seemingly model the term “rococo”, but wow it really seems the worst of all worlds – 70s without the charm and 80s without the efficiency.

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