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Concept Car of the Week: Ford Forty-Nine (2001)

Fri, 03 May 2013 00:00:00 -0700

Over 1.3 million orders were placed for the 1949 Ford before it even went officially on sale. The revolutionary post-war design with slick slab sides and semi-covered wheels became a symbol of American optimism.

"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," said J Mays, Ford's vice president of Design at the unveiling of the retro-futurist coupe back in 2001.

It also takes inspiration from great Italian designs, most notably some Ghia concepts. Not so much a '49 redesign, the Forty-Nine concept doesn't even have the bullet nose; it was more about representing an era of automobile passion.

Ford designers used simple tricks to purify the appearance of the concept such as all-glass upper body structure with concealed pillars and integrated windshield wipers. The velvety black paint enhances the gorgeous highlights undulating on the bonnet, broken only by the sharp crease in the center. The smooth bodyside of the original has been preserved with a simple surface extruded without interruption from the headlamps all the way to the back, creating an imposing black fuselage.

Large 20-inch polished wheels provide a beautiful contrast and that typically American custom touch. Apart from the wheels, the use of chrome has been reduced to a minimum with only an insert on top of the DLO, the badge, and the two exhaust finishers. The tail drops elegantly and is encrusted by two thin wraparound LED lamps that are visually extended by a thin recessed feature line along the body. A few details are reminiscent of different Ford models through the ages. The C-pillar, for example, is very similar to a 1960 Starliner, and the glass roof seems to come form a '56 Crown Victoria.

Great care was also taken inside the cabin. It has a simple yet innovative architecture and manages to achieve a very fresh design despite an abundance of retro references. The first thing you will notice is the perfectly straight floating console. As well as being an integral part of the structure, it also adds rigidity to the car. Note the gearshift, which slides horizontally along the console. Under this, the large tunnel supports the four buckets seats, with the two front pair cantilevered.

When seated inside, you are surrounded by a blend of black and Sienna leather with raw metallic accents giving an atmosphere both mechanical and romantic. The car's primary gauges are contained within a single, round instrument binnacle – similar to the production '49 and hotrods of the era. A detail that really stands out is the rearview mirror, which can slide along a vertical rod that extends through the roof to become the antenna.

As you would expect, a large V8 sits under the bonnet, but this particular (Jaguar-derived) V8 comes from the Thunderbird, as indicated on the badge on the side fender: 3900cc, DOHC 32 valves tuned to fit the car's appearance. The engine bay is an absolute work of art. The combination of satin black, the satin metal of the intake manifold, the gloss black of the valve covers and polished stainless steel accents and aviation pipes are simply nerdgasmic.

Despite a very positive reception, the Forty-Nine was killed off to give way for the GT. Only one car would be produced and it was decided that a halo car would be preferable rather than a retromodern model that could have flopped like the Thunderbird.


Engine 3.9-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8
Dimensions Unknown

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.


By Flavien Dachet