We Drive Ford’s Interceptor, Airstream, MKR

July 11, 2007

You hear it well before you see it; the deep, throttling burble of a big V-8, barely at idle, like a startled stallion ready to run.


The metaphor is fitting for the Ford Interceptor, the striking, four-door concept vehicle that has been called “the four-door Mustang.” First unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit, last January, the Interceptor has been working its way across the country, but now, with auto show season winding down, Ford put it to pasture, so to speak, making it available – along with two other, recent concept vehicles – for TheCarConnection.com to drive.


It’s not uncommon for some manufacturers to make these show cars available, though it’s a bit more unusual for Ford, so we jumped at the chance to take a spin around the automaker’s Dearborn ( Michigan) Proving Grounds in not only the Interceptor, but also the strikingly stylish Lincoln MKR and Ford Airstream show cars.


“When you see a car outside and moving, it’s a completely different look from what you see on the show stand,” suggested Peter Horbury, Ford’s North American design director, who accompanied us as we checked out the one-of-a-kind machines.


Each of the three fills a different role for Ford, but collectively, they run from the probable to the highly unlikely. The bulbous Airstream fits the latter description. To borrow the words of former, longtime Ford design boss Jack Telnack, the RV-like van is little more than a “wet dream in chrome.”


“In the future, we have to go in a different direction,” cautioned Horbury, adding that “especially with tight budgets,” Ford can no longer afford many of these wild and wacky concepts. “We’re not going to waste time and money showing something that has no chance of being put into production.”


So, don’t be surprised the see both Interceptor and MKR resurface, even if it’s just the influence of their dramatic lines showing up on future Ford brand and Lincoln products.



Ford Interceptor


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This chopped four-door is designed to “celebrate the best of American muscle,” said Horbury. It also shows how you can take the iconic Mustang and make it just a bit more practical.


We could hear the roar of Interceptor’s 400-horsepower Ford Racing 5.0-liter Cammer V-8 – which is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox – even before it rounded the corner at the Dearborn track and emerged from behind a grassy knoll.


Yet it’s hard to prepare for the dramatic impact of the brutish sedan. Our first glimpse revealed an oversized version of the chromed, three-crossbar grille that has become a central element in Ford’s newest designs. Rigidly upright, the nose sharply angles into the hood, both opening, clamshell-style. The hood actually forms a massive V, wrapping around the fixed cladding atop Interceptor’s shaker-style powertrain.


Critics have compared the Interceptor to Chrysler’s popular 300 sedan and there’s a bit of truth to that. Interceptor also boasts a chopped, hotrod-style greenhouse that gives it a bit of a customized look – and enhances its menacing stance. The upper body is offset by unusually broad shoulders, another striking element we’d like to see in future Fords.


And we just may, according to Horbury, who says the approach is “entirely feasible,” though likely in less exaggerated form. “Even a shoulder two-thirds the size would look pretty dramatic.”


There’ve been plenty of rumors about Interceptor’s future, though with tough new, federal fuel economy rules a virtual certainty, is there any logic to building a car like this, the antithesis to what Horbury impish calls the Toyota Pious? There are still plenty of people who remain connected to the car as “more than just transport,” he argues.

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