|The 1968 Thunderbird Saturn Show Car started as a design exercise at the
Ford Design Center in Dearborn, Michigan, and when approved for assembly,
began its life as an ordinary 1968 Thunderbird Tudor Hardtop. The modifications
to the stock car were done in California, and the car was kept under lock
and key until it debuted at the 45th Annual Southern California Automobile
Show, which was held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. The
changes it underwent from stock to show car were fairly simple, especially
when compared to other show cars. Ford lowered the roof two inches, and
in a preview of things to come, added a sloping fastback roofline which
would appear on the 1970 Thunderbird two door models in a slightly toned
down form. The hood was extended four inches to emphasize the long, low
look of the car. The grille section remained mostly stock, but the head
lights were concealed behind clear covers, which gave them a European look.
Door handles were removed and concealed up near the beltline. To open the
door, pressing on one side of the panel that concealed the handle allowed
the panel to open, revealing the handle.
One of the most unique features of the show car was the concealed back
up lights. When not in use, they were flush with the rear quarter panels.
When the transmission selector lever was moved to "Reverse,"
the light assemblies popped out from their housings to illuminate the area
behind and to the side of the car. When the tranny lever was moved out
of "Reverse" the lights swung back to a concealed position in
the rear quarter panels. These lights were mounted just below the mid-body
line, under the stock 1965-1967 Thunderbird script, which was mounted just
above the mid-body line. A Saturn nameplate was also affixed to each rear
quarter panel, next to the Thunderbird script. Up front, the slender front
turn indicators wrapped around the outboard edges of the hood. The exterior
was finished in an iridescent Candy Apple Red finish.
Inside, individually contoured front bucket seats with built-in head rests
appeared, another preview of things to come in 1970. The interior was upholstered
in a red knitted vinyl, sewn in a wide waffle pattern. This same vinyl
material was also used in some production Mustangs at the time. The custom
center console between the front seats contained a Trip Programmer, another
peek into the future!
Although many show cars are doomed to destruction when they've served their
duty, it is believed that the Saturn may have actually survived. Ford released
the 1969 Thunderbird Saturn II for the 1969 season.