Monday, September 7, 2009

2 Seat vs 4 Seat History



A short time after Ford had abandoned production of the 2-passenger T-Bird, a flood of questions arose from "purists." This reaction inspired the Budd Co. to submit a modernized 2-passenger design to Ford! (Budd fabricated the steel bodies for the '55-'57 Ford T-Birds.)

For a brief time. Ford contemplated the production of both the 2 and the 4-passenger 'Birds for the '58 model year. Although a bitter pill for T-Bird fans, the decision yielded economic gains.

In 1960-1961, one of my friends wrote to Ford, questioning the rationale for ending production of the 2-passenger model design. Eugene Bailey, a Club member in 1962, received the response from Ford (see letter of Feb. 23, 1961) together with a copy of the Ford Intra-Company Communication (dated February 15,1961), which is reproduced below (on page 9 of Bird-News)

NOTE: The last paragraph of the Feb. 15, 1961 Ford 'Communication' letter references: "(present Secretary of Defense)". We can quite easily identify him as Robert McNamara, the executioner who dropped the guillotine on the revered early 'Birds.
- Editor

February 23, 1961

Mr. Eugene C. Bailey
Commonwealth Edison Company
72 West Adams Street
Chicago 90, Illinois

Dear Gene:

It certainly was a real pleasure to hear from you again and to know that you are well and as busy as usual.

Of course I was very much interested in your comments regarding the 2-passenger 1957 Thunderbird.

I am sure that you know that the change from a 2-passenger to a 4-passenger unit has been the subject of much discussion and, perhaps even controversy.

In an attempt to get an answer to some of your questions, I asked one of our departments to investigate this overall subject with the Company's Product Planning activity, and I think the best way to answer your questions is to simply attach a copy of the internal letter that resulted. I am sure that this does not completely answer your questions, but it apparently is the best information available.

I certainly hope that you will have occasion to be in Detroit sometime in the near future and that you will let me know so that we can have dinner together and a good visit. Please remember me to your wife.

With best personal regards, I am Sincerely, John F. Randall

Intra-Company Communication GENERAL OFFICE
February 15, 1961

To: Mr. R. B. Hayns

Subject: Two Passenger versus Four Passenger Thunderbird

Mr. Jack Eckhold, of Product Planning and associated with Thunderbird, was contacted with respect to the reasons for discontinuing the 2-passenger model Thunderbird. Mr. Eckhold mentioned that many such inquiries have been received in the past by both Product Planning and Sales.

A somewhat standardized approach was used in the replies to such letters. Form letters were used at one time, although copies could not be located as they have not had recent inquiries. These letters included the following:

-In the past, many letters were received from 1955-56-57 2-passenger Thunderbird owners that a 4-passenger model would be preferred over their present 2-passenger model. This was the primary complaint received.

-Market Research Studies during the period of the 2-passenger model also indicated that a 4-passenger or a larger model was favored. These studies covered both 2-passenger owners and potential owners.

-The acceptance of the 4-passenger version of the Thunderbird has been much greater than what was anticipated or achieved for the 2-passenger model.

-Current Market Research Studies indicate that the 4-passenger model preference is much greater than the 2-passenger.

Another factor was mentioned which was not included in replies to inquiries from customers:

At the time the decision was made to introduce a 4-passenger Thunderbird, there was serious consideration for continuing a 2-passenger model. Although Market Research Studies favored the 4-passenger model, the potential for a 2-passenger was substantial. A decision was made by higher management (present Secretary of Defense) that it would be inadvisable to continue the 2-passenger model as the two products would be in competition with each other and thereby reduce, the sales potential of a single model which would be more economical.

D.A.Jesmore, Supervisor
Planning & Problem Control Sect
Technical Services Department


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