1956 Ford Thunderbird Mexico
Ford Thunderbird Mexico, 1956
Ford Thunderbird Mexico, 1956 - A beautiful model.
Picture Alex Tremulis with the finished Mexico model as it appeared in numerous PR photo shoots. The sheer size of these 3/8ths scale models made for better data in the wind tunnel than smaller sized models, but they took up a lot of room. It's unknown how many of these models were crushed after their useful days were complete.
The Mexico alongside a turbine concept illustrates how low and sleek it appeared compared to its contemporaries. The man beside the model was often called "Oscar".
Another view of the 3/8ths street scene provides different perspectives when evaluating various designs from all angles.
The Mexico, along with its sister model, La Tosca, both often photographed with each other. Romeyne Hammond (at left) is seen working on the La Tosca.
The 3/8ths models of La Tosca and Mexico in the Rotunda with the model makers.
1955 Tremulis looking over the 3/8ths scale Ford Mexico wind tunnel model.
Alas, the Mexico never did get to make it to full size. A seies of tragic racing events occured in the mid-50's and the Automobile Manufacturers Association placed a ban on support to race teams. But the Mexico model did make it out to the public as seen in the window of a Detroit merchant welcoming the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for their annual convention.
The Mexico with an added-on rounded nose, similar to the late 1960's Chrysler Superbirds. This clay model would serve as the basis for the 3/8ths scale fiberglass models to follow.
Images: Ford Motor Company; www.gyronautx1.com
3/8-scale wind tunnel model designed to cure aerodynamic problems with the 2 seater T-Bird.
Alex Tremulis' design philosophy had always been to strike a happy marriage between aircraft and automotive styling. As a teenager, he already inherently knew that smooth flowing lines would not only look better but would be more efficient at slicing through the air. During World War II he spent a great amount of time designing aircraft to fly faster than had ever been achieved through the use of wind tunnels. It would be at Ford, over a decade later, that he'd finally be able to prove his automotive philosophy in the design for a streamlined Thunderbird capable of speeds of over 200 miles per hour. By mid-1955, Chevrolet was already exploring design improvements to their 1956 Corvette that would eventually lead to the 1957 Sebring SS
. It would be Tremulis' competitive spirit that would bring the much-needed data that only the design refinement within a wind tunnel could provide. Tremulis' highly modified supercharged 1956 Thunderbird Mexico was going to be Ford's reply to Chevy's racing Corvettes, including wind tunnel tests for a car incorporating ground effects now common on all high performance cars.
As Tremulis put it: "I have always considered the Mexico as a milestone. It opened the door to the windtunnel for the first serious investigation of the new aerodynamic art of the automobile. For many years when I thought I was on the verge of selling a wind tunnel program I was always shot down with arguments such as - 'But Alex, remember the Chrysler Airflow'. Some even referred to it as the 'Airflop'. Others presented arguments such as - 'If all automobiles were streamlined they would all look alike.' I would counter their arguments by comparing the styling of two airplanes: The Lockheed Constellation and the DC7. Both planes had the same HP, they weighed the same, they went as fast and they were as different as night and day."
Although the Mexico never made it to a full-scale model, the development of many future record-setting race cars and their drivers would benefit directly from the lessons learned by Tremulis a decade earlier.