The Ford Thunderbird Saturn I was a show car built in 1968.
The car started as a design exercise at the Ford Design Center in Dearborn, Michigan, and when approved for assembly, began its life as an ordinary 1968 Thunderbird Tudor Hardtop. The modifications to the stock car were done in California, and the car was kept under lock and key until it debuted at the 45th Annual Southern California Automobile Show, which was held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles.
The changes it underwent from stock to show car were fairly simple, especially when compared to other show cars. Ford lowered the roof two inches, and in a preview of things to come, added a sloping fastback roof line which would appear on the 1970 Thunderbird two door models in a slightly toned down form. The hood was extended four inches to emphasize the long, low look of the car. The grille section remained mostly stock, but the head lights were concealed behind clear covers, which gave them a European look. Door handles were removed and concealed up near the belt line. To open the door, pressing on one side of the panel that concealed the handle allowed the panel to open, revealing the handle.
One of the most unique features of the show car was the concealed back up lights. When not in use, they were flush with the rear quarter panels. When the transmission selector lever was moved to "Reverse," the light assemblies popped out from their housings to illuminate the area behind and to the side of the car. When the transmission lever was moved out of "Reverse" the lights swung back to a concealed position in the rear quarter panels. These lights were mounted just below the mid-body line, under the stock 1965-1967 Thunderbird script, which was mounted just above the mid-body line. A Saturn nameplate was also affixed to each rear quarter panel, next to the Thunderbird script. Up front, the slender front turn indicators wrapped around the outboard edges of the hood. The exterior was finished in an iridescent Candy Apple Red finish.
Inside, individually contoured front bucket seats with built-in head rests appeared, another preview of things to come in 1970. The interior was upholstered in a red knitted vinyl, sewn in a wide waffle pattern. This same vinyl material was also used in some production Mustangs at the time. The custom center console between the front seats contained a Trip Programmer.
Although many show cars are doomed to destruction when they've served their duty, it is believed that the Saturn may have actually survived. Ford released the 1969 Thunderbird Saturn II for the 1969 season.