A new era in automotive design is slipping by unnoticed.  In a world where our technology changes on a daily basis, consumers and journalists alike have come to treat all advancements as ordinary.  In the automotive world, the days of poorly made, unsafe vehicles are over.  Even cars considered basic transportation have changed dramatically.  Now we live in a time of amazing automotive technology, creative design and unparalleled safety for even the most basic US model, and there is no company that embodies this change more than Ford.

Ford Concept Car 2014

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The Ford Motor Company started life in 1903.  The company sells a broad line of automobiles and trucks throughout the world, both under the Ford name, and its partnership labels. In this discussion, I will focus (pun intended) on only the Ford brand cars, and not the partner models.  Fords have always been good cars…never great, and certainly not the best.  A basic Ford car is geared towards the budget minded buyer and the average American family.  With the exception of the Mustang and some Thunderbirds, the cars have always been basic, simple and terribly average.

1978 Ford Fairmont

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I have been a Ford guy since I learned to drive.  I have owned many Fords over the years, including a ‘65 Mustang, ‘66 Ford Fairlane, ‘73 Galaxie 500 Interceptor, ‘81 Ford Escort, and even a ‘90 Ford Probe (not to mention other Ford partner brands like Mercury, Lincoln and Jaguar).  The Fords I remember from my youth were family cars like the Falcon, the Maverick, and the Torino.  They were massive “compact” cars with tons of cheap sheet metal, bad handling, and virtually nothing in the way of comfort or safety equipment.  Parts would randomly fall off, even when new and the paint came out of the factory with a dull sheen.  Seats were covered in a vinyl with the same texture as the rubber floor mats and portions of the interior were made from actual cardboard.  After a few weeks, the plastic chrome on the knobs and switches would flake into razor-like shards, jagged enough to slice you to pieces.  The cars were so bad that for the longest time, I though the “new car” smell was supposed to be gasoline.

1975 Ford Maverick

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One thing I remember most is that all of them couldn’t really handle a curve.  They would bob and weave like Muhammad Ali.  They would squeal, over steer, and roll like a carrier in high seas.  Fords were consistently average.  Think of the Fairmont with its paper thin doors, or the hideous little abomination called the EXP, the Aspire which never even tried to aspire, the Granada which was shamelessly plugged as a European car; or the Tempo which was the successor to the Fairmont and proved that shit didn’t have to be square.  These are the types of cars the American buyer could expect…basic, ugly and soul crushing.  Compared to European and Japanese cars of the same era, these were built with the quality of a Porta-Potty.

1984 Ford Tempo

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Skip forward to today and compare the offerings from Ford to the supercars of yesterday.  The cheapest car in the list is the Ford Fiesta.  Richard Hammond of UK Top Gear recently tested a ST model and commented “everything about the Fiesta, the steering, the handling, the responsiveness is peerless.”  Not bad from a guy who has driven everything from a Bugatti Veyron to a half-track mobility scooter.  The new Fiesta is stylish and very good looking for a tiny car.  It comes with the new Ford corporate grille, a one off borrowed from Aston Martin, which I think is the best thing about the new Fords.  It has an option for leather and heated seats, a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine that gets 39MPG with the new 6-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.  It can come with a new 6.5 inch MyFord Touch infotainment system, electrically assisted steering, Advance Trac with electronic stability control, SYNCH, perimeter alarm, ambient lighting, a rear view camera, intermittent wipers, cruise control, power doors and windows, defroster, CD/MP3 player, air conditioning with rear seat heat ducts, hill start assist, acoustic laminate windshield, seven airbags with side curtain and driver knee airbags, SOS post crash alert system, tire pressure monitoring system…the list goes on and on.  It even has a standard Personal Safety system that detects the severity of a crash, the front seat passenger safety belt usage, the driver’s proximity to the air bag, and then it analyzes the information and determines what restraints should be deployed.  SUV’s will have this with an added Safety Canopy that will detect imminent rollovers and deploy a side curtain airbag for 6 seconds preventing people from being ejected from the vehicle.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

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The next level up from the Fiesta is the Ford Focus.  Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear called it “the perfect hot hatch” and thought the handling and 150MPH top end had “immense grip” and was “unbelievable in a car this small…absolutely brilliant.”  The Focus comes with the same options as the Fiesta, but also is offered in an electric version, and comes in (my favorite) Tangerine Scream with a Tangerine Scream and Black leather interior.  The car is simply mad.

2014 Ford Focus RS

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All Ford cars are a quantum leap from the old models.  The Fusion is starting to look more and more like an Aston Martin Rapide, and comes in a hybrid (ion-lithium battery) and Energi (electric) models.  The C-Max (hybrid+electric) is a combination a Toyota Prius and an Aston Martin Cygnet.  The Taurus has available AWD and a cool color called the Dark Side.  Gone are the days of the old bubble Taurus, the new one is sleek, stylish and getting into it is like crawling inside a full size SUV.  The car is massive by any standard.

2014 Ford Taurus

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The world of automobiles has progressed so far in 20 short years that I cannot even understand some of the latest technology.  Back in the 1960’s, the best cars included Ferrari 250’s and Jaguar E-Types.  A stock basic Ford Fiesta can outrun both with ease, handle better, and be more reliable by miles.  Ford has transformed itself into a company that creates cars that rival, and even surpass the European manufacturers.  Remember, this is the one US automaker that never took any TARP bailout money.  Of course, Ford still has to eliminate its miserable corporate culture.  The days of the Pinto scandal and the Firestone cover-up and scandal are not that long ago, and the company needs to “do the right thing” regardless of cost…think Escape engine fires, MKZ and child lock recalls, Solyndra and C-Max MPG ratings.  They are on a roll, and managed properly, this could be a new golden age for Ford Motor Company.

2015 Ford Mustang

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Author’s note – New technology is everywhere.  Some of the latest includes self-parking system…one even allows you to get out of the car and go into your office while the car parks itself.  Rear end collision avoidance systems and OnStar type vehicle communication and monitoring.  Google is working on a system that learns and optimizes your car based on your driving habits, as well as the Ghost Vehicle, a self driving car.  Mercedes has auto tinting glass, and has the current technology to not only advise you when you cross over the lane markers, the technology exists for the car to drive itself within the lane…though it’s not being used in current cars.  They offer Airscarf, a neck heating system, Mbrace which is an iPhone app to control your car just like James Bond, blind spot assist, attention assist for the driver, active LED headlamps, Adaptive cruise control that controls distance between you and the car ahead, and even night vision.  Future tech includes a device (app?) that will take control of the car in case of a heart attack or stroke, stop the vehicle and even call the paramedics for you.  If you’re in traffic, and dead, the car will actually find a break to slowly pull the car over by detecting the other cars around you.  Ford is even working on driver health monitors for their cars that can display glucose levels, pollen counts or even detect heart issues and help predict heart attacks through the seat cushions.  These are the days of Tron and AI.

2015 Ford Evos Concept (Possibly new Capri)

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Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of Ford, Car & Driver, Autoexpress, AutoSpies, and Wikipedia

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