Was Ford’s Astrion meant to be a super-sporty Thunderbird or just another concept car? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


As noted when we posted the video on Ford’s Styling Center the other day, the advanced design that much of the first half of the video focused on is something of a mystery given how much time and energy that Ford and the video’s producers devoted to it. So let’s see if we can get to the bottom of it or at least place the design in some applicable context.Here’s what we know so far: Ford’s brass codenamed the car the Astrion. Gene Bordinat is the vice president of styling at the time the video was filmed, so it’s sometime after 1961, when he was appointed George Walker’s successor as vice president of styling at Ford. Bill Ford is pictured driving a Bullet Bird—specifically a Sports Roadster version—in the video, so the video was filmed sometime around or after the introduction of the 1962 Thunderbird models. Though the video provides mini profiles of two of the clay modelers, it makes zero mention of the Astrion’s designers. And the Astrion (or, at least, this Astrion) doesn’t appear in Jim and Cheryl Farrell’s Ford Design Department Concepts and Showcars, 1932-1961.

The Farrells could have simply not included the Astrion because it came along after their chosen era of study (or the whole thing could have been a lark, or something that Ford paraded for the cameras, and not a serious design study), but some clues to the Astrion’s identity can still be scratched out from their research. First, the rear of the Astrion—with its small fins, skegs, and ovoid taillamp housings—bears some similarity to the Lincoln Marlin, the alternative proposal for the 1961 Lincoln Continental that John Orfe and Howard Payne worked on and that Walker and Elwood Engel liked (and that Engel apparently used as inspiration for the Chrysler Turbine car’s taillamps). According to the Farrells, the Marlin’s fins and skegs “were concessions by the car’s designers to the belief that the 1961 Lincoln must show at least minimal continuity with the previous model Lincoln.” However, the Astrion and the Marlin differ in just about every other aspect.

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