1974 Ford Thunderbird
1974 Ford Thunderbird

Regarded as one of the best TV Westerns of all time, Gunsmoke enjoyed an enviable 20-year run. The show was cancelled after the 1975 season, having earned a number of awards, including recognition for its progressive and respectful handling of issues involving Native Americans.

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1974 Ford Thunderbird

Burgundy Special Edition

The show was not perfect, however. Beginning in 1966, Gunsmoke was broadcast in color. While this might not seem like a big deal, everything about the program changed as a result. For whatever reason, the cast of character actors who frequented the program changed, as did the music and the directing. Gone was Gunsmoke’s realistic, gritty, frontier feel, replaced by the over-saturated color, sweaty-faced drama, and shrieky incidental music that would define TV dramas well into the Seventies.

Indeed, if you are aware of both programs, the difference in feel between black-and-white Gunsmoke and color Gunsmoke was much the same as the difference between Rod Serling’s brilliant Twilight Zone (1959-1964), and his later, creepier, icky Night Gallery (1969-1973).

1974 Ford Thunderbird
1974 Ford Thunderbird

Which brings us to this 1974 Ford Thunderbird print ad. Everything about this ad reminds me of the strange and awful things that happened to Gunsmoke when it went to color. The dark and over-saturated color, the intense unnatural lighting, and the creepy guy peering into the car through the sunroof. What the hell is with the guy peering through the sunroof? This ad feels less like a pitch for the T-Bird, and more like evidence for the issuance of a restraining order.

Even more Seventies, however, is the package this ad is promoting. The Burgundy Luxury Group, an extra-cost option on the 1974 Thunderbird, represents everything about Seventies cars that causes auto enthusiasts to cringe. First, there’s the velour. The deep, plush, velvety fabric that briefly became more prized than leather—in burgundy. If there is a special level of hell for naughty Mercedes-Benz owners, it is being damned to an eternity in this car. Velour, for those who don’t know, was famous for trapping cigarette smoke, and subsequently forever smelling like a wet ashtray.

Also included in the package is the car’s burgundy paint job, like-colored vinyl roof, and the wire wheel covers. This nightmarish collection of options came to a breathtaking $411 (about $2500 in 2024 dollars), adding considerably to the ’74 T-Bird’s $7330 base price. Also available for 1974 was the similar White and Gold Luxury Group, which listed for an eye-opening $546.

I guess I am a little unclear what bugs me most about this ad. The dude violating a restraining order, the worst-of-the-Seventies automotive décor package, or how much it reminds me of everything that went wrong with TV in the early Seventies. On the plus side, the Thunderbird Burgundy Special Edition was only offered for 1974. So, while the car makes me uncomfortable, its is also unlikely I will ever actually see one up close.

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1974 Ford Thunderbird
1974 Ford Thunderbird with White and Gold Luxury Group

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1974 Ford Thunderbird Gallery

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