Today, concept cars like the Lincoln Continental seem pretty close to production, and only need the approval of J. Pierpont Moneybaggs in the finance department to get the green light for production. The point of a concept car in the 1970s was a little different. They were supposed to showcase a new styling direction for the brand that would filter through the entire company. That was the mission of the Ford Tridon, a car that never made it to production, but features of which showed up on a lot of Ford and Mercury products that year.
The most obvious styling cue is the hawk-like nose. Buick had laid claim to an exaggerated beak with the Buick Riviera in 1967 and the Skylark in 1968, but the beak on the Tridon took it to a whole new level.
The Tridon featured a three-piece nosepiece with a prominent center section jutting into the wind. The headlights were hidden behind grilles split by the center section, and the parking lamps and turn indicators were at the outer edges of the grilles. Horizontal ducts under each grille provided cool air to the engine.
At the front, the bumpers and nose were constructed of a similar material as Pontiac’s Endura bumper, designed to absorb minor abrasions and impacts.
Production versions of the 1971 Ford Thunderbird and the 1971 Mercury Cyclone were both direct descendants of the Tridon concept. On Cyclones that featured 429-cu.in. V-8s, the very center of the nose was styled to look like a gun sight, cranking the cool up one more notch.
The Tridon also had a tinted skylight roof strip panel tinted the same amber shade as the rest of the glass, stretching across the roof from side to side, allowing rear seat passengers a more open feel. The glass roof never made it to production, but Automotive Mileposts noted that designers did use the Tridon’s skylight roof as inspiration for the 1977 to 1979 Thunderbird Town Landau, which featured a Brushed Aluminum Wrapover Tiara that mimics the Tridon’s design.
Beneath the rear window, an exhaust vent moved air out of the cabin, and featured stop and turn indicators tucked inside. The design was an early interpretation of the Center High Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL), required by FMVSS 108 since 1993.
Twenty coats of Moongold Mist coated the Tridon’s sheetmetal. Ginger synthetic lamb’s wool upholstery covered the inside, and it’s a crying shame that no color interior photos exist. The high-back buckets inside were separated by a full-length console.
The wheels were turned aluminum and held on to the brake rotors with bolts around the perimeter of the wheel surface, rather than toward the center. Firestone provided unique tires for the Tridon that never made it to production.
The Tridon was on the show floor at the 1971 Chicago Auto Show.
(Images Courtesy Chicago Auto Show, Automotive Mileposts)