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According to legend, the Ford Thunderbird was conceived in a conversation between Ford Division General Manager Louis Crusoe and stylist George Walker at the Paris Salon in October 1951. Crusoe gestured toward one of the sportier automobiles and asked, "Why can't we have something like that?" Walker quickly replied, "We have a job just like that in the works right now." Later, Walker telephoned his aides back in Dearborn, and by the time Crusoe returned to the United States, there was indeed a "job just like that" in the works.
The Thunderbird was introduced on October 22, 1954, and quickly outsold the Corvette. While Ford projected it might sell about 10,000 Thunderbirds for 1955, total production actually reached 16,155 units, and in the process, Ford effectively created the personal luxury car market.