Retro-futurism – do you remember the early 2000’s?

The American automotive industry coined the term Retro-futurism in the early 2000’s when there was a rush of concept cars that were based on old classics but redesigned to take them into the new century. A couple that made it into production were the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Plymouth Prowler, both of which have proven to be easily forgettable.

Then there were others that would never be mass produced, but to me there is one that should most definitely have been. Designed by renowned car designer Chip Foose, the Ford Forty-Nine was created by the Ford Motor Company as a tribute to the classic 1949 Ford for display at the 2001 North American International Auto Show.

To give you some background and the significance of the original 1949 Ford, it’s probably the car that literally saved the Ford Corporation by selling 1,118,740 cars in 1949 alone and becoming the number one selling all American manufactured car of its time. However, I think in 2001 it was an opportunity lost (and one could argue one of many) when Ford decided not to mass produce the new Ford Forty-Nine as I reckon it is one of the coolest looking cars around.

According to a 2001 Ford Press Release, the original 1949 Ford was a very special car: “After years of wartime sacrifice and sameness in durable goods, postwar America was ready for an automotive design revolution. The ’49 Ford – with radically new

‘slab sides,’ integrated body and fenders, independent front suspension and rear quarter windows that opened – served as a symbol of optimism for the future.”

“The new Ford Forty-Nine concept is designed to take America on a ‘sentimental drag-race’ down memory lane and underscore Ford’s commitment to designing excitement into new cars coming down the road. The Forty-Nine concept harkens back to the romance of a Friday night at the drive-in or bowling alley, listening to rock-and-roll and cruising ‘the strip’ in a chopped and channelled custom car. ‘The inspiration for the Forty-Nine concept comes from the passion and excitement of the original, combined with the imagination of people across America who customized the car and turned it into what they thought a really great car should be.”

Ford built two of these concept cars, one a red convertible with no running gear that was used for static displays only, while the other was definitely a goer, a black sedan with a naturally aspirated Jaguar AJ 3.9 litre 32-valve motor powerplant which at the time they were using in the Ford Thunderbirds.

Click on Chris Paukert’s ‘Road Show’ article to see more of the stunning 2001 Ford Forty-Nine Concept.

But … as much as I love the Ford Forty-Nine Concept, I think local designers at GMH trumped them by far with their fully inhouse designed and built concept car they showcased at the 2005 Australian International Motor Show.

The Holden Efijy was inspired by Holdens second model, the 1953 Holden FJ and although just one car was built, it certainly went. Based on a lengthened Chevrolet Corvette floor pan it has a 6.0 litre LS2 V8 engine with a Roots Supercharger producing 480 kW (644 hp) at 6,400 rpm and 560 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm.

I was very lucky to be hosting the media function for the 2005 Australian International Motor Show in Sydney when the Efijy was first seen by the masses. The reaction from the crowd that day was amazing, and in some way that car saved Holdens reputation that year as they had absolutely nothing else of significance to tell the media. The Australian motor public were gobsmacked at how good this car was as it toured the country extensively and then went on to be named the United States concept car of the year in 2007 and win numerous custom awards around the world.

Soon after its release I met with Holden’s chief designer at the time, Richard Ferlazzo, who headed up the Efijy project and he took us over this amazing car for the Channel Nine television series ‘The Car Show’.

Which leads me to the question, now that General Motors have left our shores, what is the future of the extensive collection of significant heritage cars that Holden had managed to amass over the years?

Bruce Newton from may have the most recent answer to this from October this year when he wrote:

But the definitive answer still remains unknown… where and when will we actually be able to see this priceless Australian Heritage Collection?

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