Enter the Private World of Ford Thunderbird
Forget that the Thunderbird was initially designed to compete with GM’s Corvette. Forget that its first iteration was a two-seat grand tourer, that it had grown larger, and abandoned its sporting pretensions. The Thunderbird was moving upmarket and Ford was re-defining it as a personal luxury vehicle. Whatever personal luxury means to you, it’s clear that Ford’s advertising agency at the time, J. Walter Thompson, was creating a dreamworld around the T-bird. Well-dressed women watch you coquettishly from the passenger seat, measuring your mettle, as if about to say, “C’mon. Take me for a ride…” They’re obviously waiting for you, all you need is the Thunderbird.
The lighting is dark and almost somber to appeal to a serious, rational mindset in the [visibly] un-retouched photos. The message is that the Thunderbird is a serious car, not to be taken lightly, for a serious man. While in the more gauzy ads, the treatment in post-production helped to strengthen the ad’s fantastical qualities as they were airbrushed both to strengthen the focal point and further the advertisements’ story: this private world is an aspirational dream.
And what is a dream if not a personal, hazy collection of details? A fantasy like this isn’t something you’d share with anyone, except maybe that one special person. The models’ positioning (in the ads with couples) within the ads also communicates a secret essence: they were mostly placed behind the Thunderbird, frequently far from the camera’s lens as if experiencing a welcome, shared respite from the world. And then as now, time and privacy were a luxury.