Aggressive plastic surgery to give one the appearance of youth often ends up looking just wrong. Like what you would get if you texted an alien instructions on what a pretty young person would look like. The elements are there– smooth, unwrinkled skin, prominent cheekbones, full lips– but the end result is usually pretty damn creepy. What's really amazing is that this rule applies to cars as well as people. They even call them "facelifts" on cars, too.
There's a car that demonstrates this incredibly well; when you look at it, you get the same, unsettled feeling you get when you look at Joan Rivers today. A sense of something not being right, some manner of unholiness lurking just under the surface, creeping your ass out. The car is the Argentinian market Ford Falcon, which was produced from 1962-1991.
Now, the early Falcons look pretty much like you'd expect a 1962 Ford Falcon would, which makes sense, since they were built from CKD kits sent right from Ford. As they aged, periodic updates and changes were made to the lights, grille, trim– pretty much everything you could update without changing the body itself. These were all fine up until 1982, when it was realized that the basic design of the car was getting pretty long in the tooth. After all, it's an early 60s design, and now it's the 80s, where a very different design vocabulary rules. The 80s, compared to the 60s, are a very rectilinear, no-nonsense, Bauhaus-kind of time, and the play of curve and crease that defined so many 60s designs clearly stood out as a relic of an earlier era.
Ford, despite their desire to update the look, wasn't willing to spring for a new body, so the gauchos over at Ford Argentina's design house did what they'd always done, but much, much more so. They took the unashamedly 60s Falcon body and grafted on a front so 80s it should be wearing a Walkman: rectangular lights, black plastic grille, big amber wraparound indicators. It's basically the front seen on almost every 80s car from the Rabbit to the Corolla to the Escort. The back got a similar treatment, with a large blacked-out center panel flanked by large, square, multicolor taillights.
The end result was, honestly, kind of alarming. I've never known any other car to look so obviously, ham-fistedly, updated. It's rare that a car's facelift would make the car look even older than before, but this one managed that as well. The contrast of the clean, plasticy front and rear just drew more attention to the incredible datedness of the body, which was pretty much the opposite of what Ford was trying for. Incredibly, this new Falcon (and a sister car, the Futura, renamed Falcon Ghia) lumbered on until 1991, losing all its chrome in the process, and, I'd suspect, what little dignity it had left.
All that said, I'd still love to have one. It's like an amazing train wreck you can cruise around town in. I'm still not sure about how I feel about Joan Rivers, though.
(photo credits: Todo Falcon)