The reissued 2002-vintage box and cover art for the '58 Thunderbird scale model I had as a child. Something is missing from the original cover art though!
The original 1964 box cover art for the very same Monogram scale model. What a dreamboat, and the car ain't bad either! I don't have this box anymore, but was able to find the image online, and with a little artandcolour cleaning up, it was suitable for publishing... Images clickable as always.
R E M E M B R A N C E — This is the third copy I've owned of the same Monogram scale model kit of the 1958 Thunderbird.
The first time I set eyes on this model I was seven or eight years old. It was 1964-65 and my aunt Hoohoo, who drove a '58 T-bird, the first car I ever fell in love with, and in '64 had just bought a new one, bought the scale model for me on a shopping trip to New Haven. We were shopping for new school clothes, and a new pencil and lunch box and looseleaf notebooks. Hoohoo always wanted all of my school supplies to match, and to have something artistic on them, and as I positively adored her, I didn't care what she bought me. I knew she would pick out something nice! On trips like that, if I behaved properly, saying Thank You, and Excuse Me, and You're Welcome, at the appropriate times to everyone we came in contact with, and she really meant EVERYONE, I was allowed a 'special' gift that had nothing to do with school. It was ALWAYS a model car for me to build, or a Matchbox car or a Corgi or a Dinky Toy.
This particular day we were in Grant's Department Store, a much larger store than anything we had in Guilford where we lived. There were two floors and the toys were in the basement. Of course I was a good boy, I always was, so after we had gotten my supplies and some shirts, pants and sweaters, we went downstairs so I could pick out a model car. There on the shelf was HER THUNDERBIRD! Her car was Silver Mink, and the car on the box was black, but it was the same year. It was the same car I would sit in the driver's seat and pretend to drive, the same car I would help her wash from top to bottom (I was on the bottom of course, being so young and short, lol) and I had eyes for nothing else on the shelves that day. I remember it was a bit more expensive than the other models. I'm not sure if Monogram was more expensive than AMT or the other model makers, or if it was because it could be built in four different ways, and the box was larger than the normal scale model, too. I really didn't know if I could pick that one out, I was always conscious of not being presumptuous! She said yes, and the gorgeous model kit was mine. I'm sure you could have seen my smile on the Moon that afternoon. Gosh I wish she had lived to a ripe old age so I could treat her as specially as she treated me, but that's another story for another post!
What I didn't know how to articulate at that young age, and something I remember so clearly I could be seven years old right now, was how drawn I was to the box cover art. They had placed the Thunderbird in a college scene, with a Varsity College Boy and his girlfriend standing outside of the car, and another attractive couple inside the car. They reminded me of the older kids I would see on the Patty Duke Show, Dobie Gillis, The Donna Reed Show, or any number of early sixties TV. I always had crushes on high-school or college boys, even at that young age, although I didn't realize what I was feeling. I liked their 'Letter Sweaters' their chinos, their crewcuts or 'butch' haircuts, their unwavering, smiling good looks. When I hear some TV commentator or political hack talking about gay being a 'choice' or a 'lifestyle' I get mad or laugh, depending on how my day went. I was gay the minute I was born, probably before that, and by the age of seven or eight, though I had no idea what those feelings were, I knew that the Varsity Boy was as intriguing to me as the car he was standing next to. Long story short, I really don't know what happened to that actual scale model. I have a feeling I assembled it poorly, lacking painting and gluing skills, and I also have a feeling the "demon seed" brother probably destroyed it at some point. But I never forgot the model or the box art.
The second time I purchased that model, in the same box, with the same cover art, was in 1981 or so, just after I found out that Hoohoo had been diagnosed with cancer and probably wasn't going to recover. I was 24 years old, and searched all over for the kit so I could recreate her coupe for her. In those pre-Internet days, that involved a lot of driving, but I managed to find one. My modeling skills had improved quite a bit by young adulthood, and I really put everything I could into detailing it for her. I painted the interior black with white pleated inserts like her original, the exterior color was as close as I could get to Silver Mink, and I painted the engine and undercarriage in realistic colors. She loved it, and kept it where she could see it whether she was at home, or in the hospital or eventually, the hospice. A couple of years after she died, her husband, my Uncle Bill (also my father's brother) killed himself, and when we had to clean out the house, I found the T-bird model in many pieces in the back of a drawer. I'm not sure what happened to it, maybe my uncle smashed it in frustration or something. I still have it in a baggie so all the parts won't get lost, but I've never had the heart to put it back together again, and that was 25 years ago.
So in 2002, on a regular "scouting mission" for my now-vast model collection, I found this re-issue of the model at Toys R Us. The actual kit is exactly the same, although it's advertised on the front as a convertible. There is clearly a hardtop option visible on the boxsides, and the original had a separate hardtop too, but the box it came in is totally different. Now it's the same shoebox-shape as 99% of all 1:24 scale models, rather than the oversized box of the original. The box art is generic too, lacking the college kids and the rest of the painted artwork. I haven't put this T-bird together, but I enjoy having my kits in unbuilt condition these days. I have enough dust-collectors to stare at and watch disintegrate from what life throws at them. Now I like my kits to remain fresh and clean in their plastic wrapped boxes, unbuilt, but also perfect and unblemished—much like my memories of Hoohoo, her low and sleek '58 Thunderbird and a certain Letter-Sweatered Varsity Boy.
Here's a link describing the original kit and its box graphics.