This is gonna start off all esoterically autobiographical, here, so bear with me.
In May 1998, in a bookstore in Maryland, the day before a 128-mile bike ride, I started reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Which was, as it turned out, a pretty big deal for me.
What does this have to do with car design?
I had already decided that car design was where I was going. There’s a moment, on page 461, where DFW describes a “1964 Ford Aventura.” A car ‘with a periscopic hood scoop, an engine that sounded more like a jet than a piston engine’, and ‘such a wicked nice multilayer paint job that its black had the quality of water at night.’ I didn’t know what that car was, but, somehow, I did.
Now, of course, you’re saying that there was no such car. Well, yeah. There was a lot of imaginative embellishment on his part. But, in a way, there was an Aventura.
This takes us back to the early 60s, with Lee Iaccoca as president, Gene Bordinat in charge of design, and the first “personal car” on the market, and the best-selling design ever.
This was one of the cars that presaged the Mustang:
Out of the Aventurra and Mustang I projects, which appear to have been warm-ups for the later Ford Division project, the Ford X-Cars were the answer to the Division’s goal of producing visually exciting, if mechanically prosaic, concept cars. The Allegro — the first of the second-generation X-Cars, fashioned in late 1962 — was based upon the earlier DeLaRossa Aventurra design and built on a Falcon unibody.
The Design Center’s staff had undergone several changes, and by then was headed by Don DeLaRossa and Joe Oros, and supervised by Ford chief stylist and Vice-President Eugene Bordinat. Assistant designers John Mahiar and Jim Sipple designed a two-passenger sports coupe under the general project banner of Aventurra. This effort was underway alongside the Ford T-5 program, which would eventually lead to the production Mustang. In fact, the threads of the Aventurra and the T-5 projects often became intertwined to the point that clear distinctions were difficult to make. Bordinat liked the designs but Lee Iacocca thought that it was out of place in Ford’s marketing scheme because he believed there was no market for a two-seater. For a similar reason, the Budd Body Company’s design project, the XT Bird (which was little more than a deconstructionist take on the two-seater 1956 Thunderbird mounted to a Falcon unibody and stripped of the fins) was rejected as an unacceptable styling redux. Despite the negative response to the XT Bird, the Aventurra project continued apace.
The first Mustang was actually more like the first Fiero; mid-mounted, transverse V4.
Driven by Dan Gurney at its public introduction.
And Cobra might be next.