The designers in Elwood Engel's Lincoln design studio completed two full-sized 1961 Thunderbird proposals in clay, and they were both ready by late June 1958.
On the more conservative proposal (the one eventually selected to become the 1961 Continental), designer Colin Neale designed a rear end with large Ford-like round taillights.
John Najjar suggested a grille he asked John Orfe to design for the car. The grille Najjar proposed had been incorporated on several prior design proposals and was commonly referred to as a "Schick razor front end." Najjar also suggested a horizontal bar in the middle of the grille to make it distinctive, and grille blocks inside the grille to lessen the electric shaver look.
At Engel's suggestion, the beltline and fender edges on the more conservative proposal were capped by a narrow band of brightwork. Engel told Orfe he got the idea from the Quicksilver, which had been completed several months earlier in the Ford Preproduction Studio.
Orfe felt the bodysides should come to a point at the front of the car rather than end bluntly, which he thought made the car look chopped off and unfinished. While he was drawing new front ends for Engel's proposed Thunderbird, design chief George Walker came in looking for ideas for the Ford Studio's Thunderbird proposal.
He liked one of Orfe's renderings with a distinctive grille and pointed fenders, so he took the drawing; it became the Ford Studio's Thunderbird front end and grille proposal. Engel, meanwhile, vetoed all of Orfe's pointed-fender ideas for his alternate 1961 Thunderbird in favor of the squared-off front fenders that became a part of the production 1961 Continental.
Before the competing 1961 Thunderbird proposals were presented to the Product Planning Committee, Walker asked designer Joe Oros to support Engel's proposal over that of his own studio designers.
Oros knew Walker favored Engel to succeed him when he retired, and although he wanted to support his friend, he told Walker he couldn't back Engel's Thunderbird because he honestly believed the Ford Studio proposal was the better of the two.
Under continued pressure, Oros told Walker the best he could do was remain silent when the planning committee reviewed the competing designs. Which design would the Product Planning Committee choose? The answer is in the next section.
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