Ford Was Once On The Cutting Edge Of Really Batshit Taillight Ideas

As you are no doubt aware, the worth of a carmaker is only as good as the amount of imagination and daring they are willing to put into taillight research and development. With this idea in mind, I think we can safely say that the Ford Motor Company peaked in 1965, with the development of the Video Pod. Look upon the Video Pod, ye mighty, and despair.

The Video Pod appears to have been fitted to one car, a fastback Mustang. It consists of two parts: the tall mast with the delta-wing mounted on it, and the raised roof unit below.

It’s the raised roof part that gives the Video Pod it’s name, as it’s a sort of periscope assembly designed to dramatically improve rearward vision beyond what a conventional rear-view mirror can do.

According to the March 1967 issue of Popular Mechanics, the periscope-roof feature was not a success, since the vibration from the mast appears to have made the reflected images from the rear useless.

The mast itself, though, with its big delta wing is where we get into the real taillight innovations. The wing featured, at the rear, three separate red lamps, the outermost ones acting as turn indicators, as well as brake lamps.

The centre lamp is described as a “deceleration indicator,” which I’m guessing means that it operates when the car slows, regardless of if the brakes are applied or not, such as what might happen when downshifting or coasting up an incline.

It also appears that the stop/brake/deceleration lights would flash, to better attract the attention of the huge line of cars behind that would be able to see that huge mast, towering over traffic.

The front central torpedo-like nose of the mast also seems to have had a white running light, perhaps to help warn low-flying birds.

It’s also noted that the mast could contain antennae for AM/FM radio and radio-telephones, and that the wing itself could provide some downforce at high speeds.

Though the Video Pod doesn’t appear to have caught on at all, it did enjoy a bit more attention than many of these sorts of internal experiments do, because it got a role in a movie.

That movie was the otherwise pretty gleefully crappy-sounding Dean Martin-Bond-parody 1967 sci-fi thriller The Ambushers, which this classic sci-fi reviews blog summarises as:

“I.C.E (Intelligence Counter Espionage) launches their experimental flying saucer, which uses electromagnetic levitation which is fatal to men. It flies off successfully, but is hijacked by a controlling ray from deep in the Mexican jungle. The pilot, Sheila Sommers, wanders out of the jungle in a catatonic state of shock. She was abused by the evil Leopold Caselius, pretending to be a beer company owner. He plans to sell the saucer to the highest bidder. Back at I.C.E. Sheila suddenly comes to, but thinks she’s married to Matt. (they were in the dim past). Mac sends Matt and Sheila, posing as honeymooners, to Acupulco to investigate Ortega and his beer company. Amid much scenery and shots of scantily clad women, Matt eventually gets a tour of the beer factory. Caselius is onto Matt. A fez-wearing baddie named Nassim and a pretty foreign agent named Francesca, are also following Matt. Through plot twists and turns, Matt finally learns that the saucer is hidden in one of Caselius’ remote haciendas. Matt sends Francesca in first, to play the loyal buyer. Matt lets himself get captured and brought in. Nassim captures Sheila and brings her in. Both Nassim and Francesca put in bids for the saucer, but it’s already sold. Caselius orders Matt shot by firing squad. He escapes this by blowing laughing gas from a specially tainted cigarette. Nassim and Francesca each escape murder too. Francesca finds the saucer first, but Nassim kills her. He goes inside to steal it, but the radiation it emits kills men. He emerges screaming. Sheila escapes being ravaged by Caselius via drugged lipstick. She gets to the saucer, but Caselius recovered and traps her inside, again attempting a ravage. Sheila kicks the power on and Caselius is radiated. Scream and die. The brakes on the railway flat car are released, so the saucer begins a long careen through the jungle. Matt chases it on a motorcycle. He catches up, lifts Sheila off the speeding flatcar with a levitation ray gun, and places her on the back of the motorcycle. The flatcar flies off the end of the obligatory cliff moments later. The saucer explodes, obligingly, at the bottom. Everyone returns stateside. Matt resumes his boozy playboy spy role. The End.”

Oh boy. That has, uh, everything. The Video Pod Mustang was apparently the car of Nassim, the bad guy with the fez.

Screenshot: IMCDB

It’s not clear how much Nassim’s enhanced ability to indicate turns and slowing down affected the plot.

I’ve reached out to Ford to see if there are any plans for a modernised Video pod with LED lighting on the mast and actual cameras for rearward vision are planned for the Mach-E, but I’ve yet to hear a response.

Oh, I didn’t really reach out. They’re already pissed at us about this.

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