1990 Ford ShocccWave ConceptProbing the future

To clear any confusion, I did not hit the “c” key two too many times in this title. The concept’s name is actually spelled correctly. And I now know the reason (i.e., two references) behind its spelling.

Ford was kind enough to furnish me with some pictures and a bit of information about the ShocccWave from its release. So, how about we take a closer look at the sleek concept that arguably foreshadowed the 1993 Probe.

“…a two-door, performance-oriented car for the mid- to late-‘90s.”
1990 Ford ShocccWave Concept rear left

That’s how Ford described their vision for the ShocccWave when it officially premiered on February 23, 1990. An uncomplicated list of demands.

Likewise, I see this design as uncomplicated and certainly iconic of the era it comes from. By around the mid 1980s a new epoch in car styling was underway, first showing up in concepts. It was as if streamlining had been rediscovered as a lost art. The wind was allowed to carve at will. All but crucial surface interruptions were eradicated. Crisp corners and linear planes were eroded to edgeless bevels. And the overall shapes appeared more natural than machined.

1990 Ford ShocccWave concept right frontConsistent with those times, the ShocccWave is uncluttered, devoid of gingerbread trimming. Nothing looks jagged and there are no whimsical features. (The spoiler attached to the base of the “semi-notch” rear window is functional and computer controlled.) There are depressions and bulges where they need to be, and a tightly girdled midsection. The result is a nimble shape that looks anxious to confront the wind, and one that would be a delight to wax. (Incidentally, see the guy in the cowboy hat and gloves in some of these pictures? Do you know who he is? If so, let me know because I don’t.)

The sense that I get from the limited material that was published at the time is that the interior received as much or more attention than the exterior. Its interior space utilization was described as, “entirely within the realm of possibility” by Fritz Mayhew, chief design executive, North American Design. Considering cupholders didn’t go mainstream in cars until the 1980s, the buzzword going into the 1990s was “ergonomics.” Interiors started looking less designed to merely cover clockworks and more designed with an occupant experience in mind.

In fact, the ShocccWave’s instrument panel was divided into modules so that the driver could adjust the positioning of various controls (e.g., knee bolster, hand levers, steering); the foot pedals were also designed to be adjustable. These features have shown up on various production models throughout the years.

(Below is an interior shot and, on the right, an enlargement of the dash area.)

1990 Ford ShocccWave concept interior right 1990 Ford ShocccWave concept interior right close-up

An interesting design element is the absence of front seat tracks. Instead of attaching to the floorboards, where rear-seat foot room is valuable, the front seats were cantilevered over the center console. To take advantage of that feature, Ford included a convenience lighting package to illuminate the floor.

Interior spacing was maximized with a couple of new techniques. One involved molded seats that were made thinner than standard seats and, peculiarly noted, used a minimum of stitching. Another was Ford’s new door construction technique which located door mechanicals in the arm rest module, resulting in four inches of gained space.
1990 Ford ShocccWave concept front right

On the technological front, the concept’s structure was made from plastics and composites. Both head and tail lamps utilized “new” fiberoptic technology. And, inside, a cathode ray tube (CRT) and camera were used to replace the rearview mirror. This was done to “improve visibility both through the windshield and below the trunk lid.”

I gotta say, the ShocccWave is a knockout, almost as good as Pontiac’s Sunfire, of the same year. Ford never made a production version of this concept but it certainly appears to have affected the design of the 1993 production Probe and conceivably even the 1998 production Escort ZX2. In any event, this concept’s shock waves were felt for years. What exactly is a shock wave?

A shock wave is defined in part by Random House Dictionary as “a region of abrupt change of pressure and density moving as a wave front at or above the velocity of sound, caused by an intense explosion or supersonic flow over a body.” We just saw how Ford defines it, but why did they spell it “ShocccWave”? I’m glad you asked.

Based on the phraseology used (or not used) in the literature, I’m surmising it was unpowered at introduction. However, Ford’s press literature did state, “A new configuration will allow the designers to achieve full-time four-wheel drive using the production 24-valve V-6 SHO engine.” Mr. Mayhew went on to say it was the engine “that we would expect would be installed in this design.” So, now you know where the first three letters originate, the Ford Taurus SHO. Why is the letter “c” used three times? Another great question.

Unfortunately, the answer is rather anticlimactic. The “ccc” credits Ford’s Concept Center California, Inc. with creating the design.