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Thread: Ford returns the Thunderbird to the Future Product vault

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    Oct 2002

    Ford returns the Thunderbird to the Future Product vault

    2005-model year Thunderbird to be the last of the current generation.
    Production of the roadster at Ford's Wixom Assembly Plant will end in
    Wixom Assembly Plant will continue to produce the Lincoln LS and Town
    Car and be the final assembly point for the Ford GT supercar.

    DEARBORN, Mich., March 10, 2005 - Ford Motor Company will put the legendary
    Thunderbird nameplate back into the company's future-product vault after
    this model year, the company confirmed today with employees.

    Production of the current generation vehicle will end in July at the
    company's Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, Mich. Since the launch of the
    roadster as a 2002 model, more than 55,000 Thunderbirds have been sold.

    "We promised all along that this Thunderbird would have a limited
    production run, and we're being true to our word," explains Steve Lyons,
    Ford Division president. "Thunderbird was a terrific image builder for the
    Ford brand showroom at a time when we needed it. Now, we're in the midst of
    a major product onslaught, including more news on the Mustang at this
    month's New York Auto Show."

    A Storied History
    Ford Thunderbird first went on sale Oct. 22, 1954, marking the birth of a
    new legend that would grow with each generation. During five decades,
    Thunderbird went through several design changes with coupes, sedans,
    convertibles, hardtops, mid-size and large-size configurations. It went on
    hiatus after the 1997 model year. Thunderbird returned in 2001 as a
    retro-styled roadster to serve a similar role to its 1955 forebear - create
    excitement for the Ford brand.

    This year, Ford Thunderbird celebrates its golden anniversary with a 50th
    anniversary limited-edition 2005 model. As the anniversary coincides with
    the end of the current generation, the special-edition models are expected
    to become collector's items.

    "There's a place for a dream car in any car company," says Lyons. "At Ford,
    we're fortunate to have several dream cars, including the new Ford GT and
    Ford Mustang. For now, the Thunderbird nameplate will be placed on our
    shelf. But we'll keep it polished for future use."

    The Wixom Assembly Plant will continue to produce the Lincoln LS and Town
    Car and remain the final assembly point for the Ford GT supercar.



    DEARBORN, Mich., March 10, 2005 - The Ford Thunderbird nameplate lives on in the hearts of
    enthusiasts, in the garages of collectors and in the memories of millions.

    It started in Paris nearly a half-century ago. Since then, the flight of the Thunderbird has
    included classic two-seaters, cherished roadsters, convertibles and four-door models, as well
    as exciting hardtops and sedans -- more than 4 million of them. There has been the "square"
    look, the "projectile" look, the jet aircraft look and the luxury look. Yet, through the years,
    through the many changes and near extinction, Thunderbird's uniqueness, individuality and
    engineering innovations have been retained.

    The First Thunderbird
    Two men, Louis D. Crusoe and George Walker, were primarily responsible for the birth of the
    Thunderbird. Both were devoted to the automobile and its constant development and refinement.

    Crusoe, a millionaire lured out of retirement by Henry Ford II, was a businessman with a solid
    "feel" for the automobile market. As a Ford vice president and Ford Division general manager,
    it was his responsibility to strengthen a young Ford Division . His goal was to give it a car
    that breathed excitement, a car that would add prestige to the Ford name.

    Walker, later a Ford vice president and chief stylist, is described by contemporaries as a
    "stylist with the soul of an artist burning in his heart."

    It was October 1951. With their mission in mind, the two men were walking along the aisles of
    the Grand Palais in Paris when Crusoe gestured toward one of the sportier automobiles on
    display, turned to Walker and asked: "Why can't we have something like that?"

    "We have a job just like that in the works right now," was Walker's quick response. It was not
    quite so, until Walker found it convenient to get to a telephone and talk with his aides back
    in Dearborn. But, by the time Crusoe returned to the United States, there was indeed a "job
    just like that" in the works.

    In the months that followed, there was a lot of talk about a "true Ford sports car." Some
    preparations were made. "Paper sports cars" took shape in the design studios. All hands had
    been instructed to go to work on a completely new Ford car for the 1955 model year.

    Official approval of a crash program to develop the Ford sports car came in a product letter
    dated Feb. 9, 1953. In it, May 1, 1953, was set as the target date for a full-size clay model.
    The letter also authorized parallel work by the engineers on a suitable chassis. The initial
    guidelines called for a two-passenger, canvas-topped open car that "would make maximum use of
    standard production components." Design objectives included a weight of 2,525 pounds, an
    Interceptor V-8 engine, a balanced weight distribution, acceleration better than the
    competition, and a top speed of more than 100 miles per hour.

    The new Ford sports car also was "to retain Ford product characteristics and identification to
    the extent necessary for a ready association with the standard production car." The Ford Design
    Studio was given basic styling responsibilities. With no time for scale-model studies and the
    like, the first sports car styling suggestions were full-profile, full-sized air-brush
    renderings on paper of five different cars, cut out and mounted so they could be viewed like
    automobiles on the highway. It was an effective, if unorthodox, technique. None of these
    proposals led directly to a final car, but each provided ideas for the full-size clay model
    that was taking shape.

    While the clay model was being developed, other decisions were being made:
    The grille design would be a combination of the typically Ford arched upper shape and a
    Ferrari-style, egg-crate mesh.
    For cost reasons, the new car would use the same taillights and headlamp bezels as the 1955
    A handsome hood scoop was executed to cover a bulge that was created to house the air
    "Bullet-shaped" insets at the end of the bumpers carried twin exhaust tips, then the latest
    in styling and, hence, a must for the new Ford.

    On May 18, 1953 - 17 days after his deadline - Crusoe saw a complete, painted clay model for
    the first time. It closely corresponded to the shape of the final first Thunderbird.

    Meanwhile, Chief Engineer Bill Burnett had cut a Ford two-door sedan to the 102-inch wheelbase
    of the sports car in order to test some ideas about problems such as handling and brake

    By the summer of 1953, the car was far enough along for a decision to be made about building
    it. The decision came in September when Crusoe - in Paris to view the renowned sports cars of
    the world and measure them against the clay models back in Dearborn - decided the Ford car was

    Although production wouldn't begin until the fall of 1954, making the new car a 1955 model,
    Ford was anxious to tell the world about it. Only one small detail remained - a name for the

    There were 5,000 names considered. Hep Cat, Beaver and Detroiter were early, yet
    undistinguished, front-runners. Also suggested were Runabout, Arcturus, Savile, El Tigre and

    Crusoe was unimpressed and offered a $250 suit to anyone who could do better. A young Ford
    stylist, Alden "Gib" Giberson, submitted the name that would quickly earn approval and
    eventually acclaim - Thunderbird. He thought of the name because he had once lived in the
    southwest, where the legend of the Thunderbird was well-known.

    Chief Stylist Frank Hersey, also a southwesterner and an enthusiast, spotted the name on
    Giberson's list and picked it for the new car. When it came time for Giberson to claim his
    prize, the modest young designer passed on what would have been the equivalent of a $800-$1000
    suit today and settled for $95 and an extra pair of trousers from Saks Fifth Avenue.

    The name Thunderbird comes from the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, where, according to
    Indian legend, the Thunderbird was a divine helper of man. Its great flapping wings, invisible
    to the eyes of mortal man, created the winds and the thunder, and gave the Indians water to
    live on in the dry wilderness where fate had flung them.

    With the name settled and a couple of last-minute appearance changes made, the Ford Thunderbird
    was ready to go to market;
    Its first public appearance was Feb. 20, 1954, at Detroit's first post-war auto show.
    The first 1955 Thunderbird came off the line at Ford Motor Company's Dearborn (Mich.)
    Assembly Plant on Sept. 9, 1954.
    The press announcement of the new Ford sports car was on Sept. 23, 1954.
    Thunderbird went on sale Oct. 22, 1954 - starting a legend that would grow with each new
    generation of Thunderbird cars.

    The 1955 Thunderbird was more of a personal car concept than a sports car, the result of a
    decision Crusoe made during the winter of 1953-54. The more luxurious direction created the
    personal luxury car segment of the automotive market, and Thunderbird would enjoy almost
    uninterrupted leadership in this segment for decades.

    The original Thunderbird was a racy two-seater with clean, crisp lines on a 102-inch wheel
    base. Overall length was 175 inches, height was a low 52 inches, and the car was 70 inches
    wide. Standard curb weight was 3,180 pounds.

    The base sticker price of $2,695, included the removable hardtop, but not the soft top. Clock,
    tachometer, power-operated seats and a 292 CID V-8 engine also were standard equipment.
    However, practically none of the early Thunderbirds left the dealership without either
    overdrive or automatic transmission and most of the power options. Prices of the 1955 models
    ranged from $3,000 to $4,000.

    The car was an immediate smash hit. Buyers of all ages, from all walks of life described the
    car in terms such as "wonderful," a "masterpiece," "advanced automobile" and a "morale builder
    that is real fun and sport to drive."

    One letter even revealed that, after having viewed a magazine illustration, the admirer
    instructed an American relative to buy the 1955 Thunderbird and ship it to him in Europe.

    The magic of the name and the impact of the car made it a natural merchandising tie-in for
    manufacturers of a wide range of goods - coats, jackets, shirts, shoes, rugs, furniture and
    toys, to name a few. Magazines also featured the Thunderbird in promotional campaigns. Some of
    the more prominent activities included:
    The Powercar Company of Connecticut offered a Thunderbird Junior, a mechanically operated
    scale model car youngsters could drive.
    Mechanix Illustrated offered Thunderbird as the first prize in their 1955 Build Words
    Cluett-Peabody used the Thunderbird to promote and sell Arrow shirts.
    Worsted-Tex marketed Thunderbird-inspired coats, and many other clothiers used the car in

    The public went for the Thunderbird in a big way, placing more than 3,500 orders in the first
    10-day selling period. The planning volume for the entire model year was only 10,000 units.
    Ford had explored an uncharted market for unique transportation and came up with a winner.

    Evolution of Thunderbird
    With all of its popularity, the flight of the two-seater Thunderbird would be a short one.
    There were changes almost immediately after the car was introduced. The original design
    presented some problems. The cockpit needed better ventilation. Rear-quarter vision had to be
    improved. More trunk space was a necessity.

    Design changes on 1956 models corrected these deficiencies. Flip-out side vents provided better
    ventilation, porthole windows enhanced rear vision and an outside tire carrier added trunk
    space. In addition, the 1956 Thunderbird featured Ford's new safety concept of "packaging the

    Standard equipment included energy-absorbing instrument panel padding, a concave safety
    steering wheel, safety door latches and a shatter-resistant mirror. Safety belts were optional.

    Last-minute improvements, including the addition of the optional 312 CID V-8 engine, gave the
    second edition of the Thunderbird better handling and increased performance.

    The 1957 Thunderbird was the first to have a fully padded dash surface. It featured optional
    Dial-O-Matic power seats and a radio that automatically adjusted the volume in proportion to
    the speed of the engine.

    It would be the last of the two-seaters. With production of 1958 models delayed, 1957
    Thunderbird production continued for three extra months. The last one rolled off the assembly
    line December 13, 1957. An era had ended.

    The Classic Thunderbirds
    Seldom in the history of the automobile industry has a company achieved the success Ford
    reached in creating the Thunderbird. The car stunned the automotive world and the effect was a
    lasting one.

    It gave to America and the world a handsome car that was entirely in the American idiom -- a
    practical and enjoyable car for daily transportation and long trips, and a stylish, yet unique
    sporting machine with excellent performance and intriguing pedigree.

    Absolute evidence of the two-seat Thunderbird's impact on the motoring world came just four
    years after the last one was built when Today Show host Dave Garroway referred to it as "an
    American classic." Generally, it takes decades for a car to receive such recognition. Vic Take
    of Clayton, Mo., heard the Garroway comment and took the first steps toward establishing the
    Thunderbird Club International. He was the club's first president. Today, Thunderbird clubs
    worldwide boast memberships in the thousands. Thunderbird acolytes long ago exhausted the
    search in garages, barns and junkyards all over North America and elsewhere for original
    two-seat T'birds to rebuild and refurbish. The remaining 1955-1957 two-seaters are in the hands
    collectors and restorers and on the pages of automotive history.

    The Square Bird Thunderbird's future for the next four decades belonged to the four-seaters.
    Certainly, the two-seater had given Ford Division the prestigious car it needed, and sales
    exceeded planning volumes in each of the three years it was on the market.

    But, the economic realities of the times, the public's motoring needs and Ford's market share
    inhibited the potential of the car. Even as the two-seater was being designed, plans for a
    four-passenger personal car were on Ford's drawing board.

    The decision to build a bigger 'bird was justified by subsequent marketing research that
    showed, among other things, that:
    Two-seaters were not being purchased by families with children, unless as a second car.
    Seating capacity and price restricted Thunderbird ownership to multi-car, upper income
    A four-passenger car would broaden the market to include the upper income single car owner
    Significant numbers of two-seater owners were interested in a four-passenger model so long
    as Thunderbird styling was maintained.
    Five percent of all car buyers interviewed said they would purchase a Thunderbird if seating
    capacity were increased.

    Armed with this rationale, Ford Division ushered in the new 1958 year by unveiling the
    four-passenger Thunderbird before a group of prominent Americans at a New Year's Eve Party at
    the exclusive Thunderbird Golf Club in Palm Springs, Calif. The public introduction was later
    in January.

    The 1958 Thunderbird retained the classic lines of the original Thunderbird, plus some classic
    styling touches of its own, including the one-piece grille and bumper and clean contemporary
    roof lines that would set new styling standards for the industry.

    It was on a 113-inch wheelbase - 11 inches longer than the original - and overall length was
    205.4 inches, 30.4 inches longer. With an overall height of 52.5 inches, it still had a
    low-slung, relaxed, reverse wedge stance. Shipping weight was 3,799 pounds.

    Another leading feature of the 1958 Thunderbird was unit frame construction, and the car
    boasted "more room per passenger that any luxury car." Front and rear headroom, according to
    the press releases, were "within a fraction of an inch of America's other prestige

    Horsepower also was close to that of the significantly bigger luxury cars. The 1958 Thunderbird
    engine was a 352 CID V-8 with an h.p. rating of 300. Other 1958 styling features included an
    anodized aluminum honeycomb-pattern grille, twin headlights deeply browed, with the brow line
    extending into the hood. A flat roof line dropped off to a novel rear window but retained the
    characteristic Thunderbird treatment in the rear quarter and twin taillights set over a
    honeycomb-pattern design.

    Inside, there were individual bucket seats, and a console that housed controls for the heater,
    air conditioner and power windows, as well as a radio speaker and ash trays for front and rear

    Classified as a "semi-luxury" car, the 1958 Thunderbird was square in design, with few
    concessions to rounded corners, front or aft. It solidly established Ford Division in the
    luxury car market and was a sensation from the time it was introduced.

    The standard two-door hardtop carried a suggested retail price of $3,330, but $5,200 was
    considered an average delivery price. The car lived up to all of its pre-introduction plaudits,
    and was named Motor Trend Magazine's "Car of the Year." Sales totaled 48,482, almost matching
    two-seater deliveries for all of the three years the model was on the market. Ford management's
    decision to drop the smaller car was almost immediately vindicated.

    Fittingly, Thunderbird production, starting with the 1958 model, was moved to the company's
    Wixom (Mich.) Assembly Plant, where Ford Motor Company's Lincoln luxury cars are built. As with
    the two-seaters, the bodies were built by the Budd Company in Philadelphia and shipped to
    Michigan for assembly.

    Two models, a hardtop and a convertible, were offered in 1958. The "little Bird's" tachometer
    and adjustable steering wheel were among the deleted items. Gone too was the semi-sports car
    ride of the two-seater.

    The unitized construction of the 1958 Thunderbird was a forerunner of this type construction in
    the industry, and the 1960 Thunderbird - last of the "Square Bird" designs - was the first
    American-built car to offer an optional sunroof.

    Collector's Item
    The 1958-60 "Square Birds" became sought by collectors in ever-growing numbers. Despite the
    popularity of the two-seaters, "Square Bird" enthusiasts have as strong a following as
    two-seater worshipers. Certainly, there are more 1958-60 models to collect. Ford produced a
    total of 198,191 of the convertible and two-door Landau models. The Landau models with sunroofs
    are especially valuable since only a limited number - less than 500 - were built.

    A Three-Year Cycle
    In keeping with a three-year planning cycle, Thunderbird styling was again changed in 1961.
    This time, the now-established Ford Division flagship introduced the "projectile" look, a
    design featuring full-length body sculpturing and an even thinner roof than previous models.

    Standard equipment included automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes, and a
    unique swing-away steering wheel - ordered by nearly 77 percent of all Thunderbird buyers - was

    The "projectile" styling continued through 1963, with the 1962 model offering more than 100
    improvements and two exciting new models, a two-seater sports roadster and a vinyl-covered
    hardtop Landau coupe. Among the improvements:
    A swing-away steering wheel was made standard equipment.
    Lighting and instrument pointer visibility improvements added safety and convenience.
    Under-the-hood and body refinements provided better riding characteristics.
    All critical parts of the muffler were made of stainless steel for longer life.
    A new 30,000-mile disposable fuel filter incorporated 15 improvements, and oil change
    intervals were extended from 4,000 to 6,000 miles.
    A new factory-installed coolant need changing only once every two years or 6,000 miles,
    eliminating the need for regular fall and spring cooling system changes.
    A new, larger master brake cylinder reduced pedal effort, but increased braking power, and a
    new type brake lining - more durable and highly fade-resistant - was introduced.
    Some 45 pounds of sound-deadening materials were added under the Thunderbird's hood and to
    the wheelhouse, dash, instrument panel, passenger and trunk floors, roof panels and rails
    and quarter panels.

    A Cherished Roadster
    It's practically impossible to pinpoint the origin of the 1962 sports roadster. It was just
    "there" when the model year lineup was announced. It was a grand experiment, and the cult of
    Thunderbird sports roadster collectors quickly grew as the years passed.

    It was an unusual car with a molded fiberglass tonneau and padded headrests that transformed
    the four-seat convertible into a two-seater car.

    Special features included wire wheels with chrome-plated spokes and rims, simulated knock-off
    hub caps and an assist bar for passenger comfort during cornering. Interestingly, the roadster
    had a special emblem - a gull-like bird, not a Thunderbird - superimposed over a red, white and
    blue crest that was mounted on the front fenders below the Thunderbird script.

    The base roadster retail price was $5,439. Some fully equipped models sold for more than
    $7,000. After two years and a total production of 1,882, the sports roadster was discontinued.

    The 1964 Thunderbird
    The 1964 Thunderbird reverted partially to the square design theme. It was more angular than
    the 1961-63 models, yet not as square as the 1958-60 models. The new styling featured a longer
    hood, a shorter roof line and sculptured side panels.

    With the bumper and grille designed to provide a faster, more aerodynamic look, the overall
    styling continued Thunderbird's by-now traditional image of "swift-lined sleekness."

    Interior design also reflected the space-age styling of the early and mid-1960s. Featured were
    luxuriously padded, high, thin shell, contoured individual seats, "pistol grip" door handles
    and a full-width, safety-padded instrument panel. Radio, clock and retractable seat belts also
    were standard. New options included individual reclining seats and trailer towing equipment.
    And, insulation and sound-proofing were improved to the point that they were described as

    Though the design for the 4,760-pound car was essentially the same as 1964-65 models, the 1966
    Thunderbird became a collector's favorite because it is regarded as the best of the
    four-seaters of the era.

    The 1966 edition offered Town Hardtop and Town Landau models with a unique appearance gained
    from a bold new roof line extending forward into the quarter area of the door windows and
    without the conventional quarter windows.

    Windshield washers and vacuum door locks were added to the standard equipment, and power
    six-way seats and a power antenna were new options. All Thunderbird convertibles, but
    especially the 1966 convertibles, are collectors' items. The reasons are obvious: First, they
    are Thunderbirds, second, they are convertibles.

    Ford discontinued the Thunderbird convertible after the 1966 model year. Not counting the
    two-seaters, 70,234 were produced.

    The 1967 Thunderbird
    The Thunderbird grew a little more when the 1967 models were designed. The wheelbase for the
    two-door hardtop was extended to 115 inches (up two inches), overall length was 206.9 inches
    (1.9 inches more), and passenger capacity was increased to six. The 1967 Thunderbird
    represented one of the most dramatic styling changes in industry history. It was a jet
    aircraft-like design featuring a long, thrusting hood and a short rear deck.

    The front-end highlight was a crisp lattice-work grille deeply inset and outlined with thin,
    bright metal moldings on the top and sides. The grille was framed at the bottom by a new
    deep-sectioned bumper that blended into the sheet metal, and the headlights were concealed by
    doors at the outboard edges of the grille.

    Inside were newly sculptured twin bucket seats, a full-length console, all-vinyl door panels
    with full-length arm rests trimmed in bright metal, and the all-new Tilt-Away steering wheel -
    an exceptionally popular Thunderbird comfort/convenience feature.

    Also, for the 1967-model year, a four-door model was added. It was discontinued after the
    1969-model year. The four-door didn't help sales much - only 70,988 were built during the two
    years it was on the market - but today they are collectors' cars and are rapidly gaining in

    The 1970 Thunderbird introduced new styling featuring a long hood treatment and a unique
    bumper/grille treatment that made the bumper almost invisible.

    Other exterior design features included a new extruded-aluminum grille (the "poke-thru nose")
    flanked by dual headlights. A concealed radio antenna provided a non-cluttered look and
    eliminated antenna noise. Concealed windshield wipers and cowl air vents provided a clean,
    "sweeping" line from the hood to the roof, and back-up lights were "concealed" in the center
    rear panel.

    Ultra-luxurious appointments were on the inside. Included were a standard full-width front
    bench seat with attractive, re-designed head restraints, individual bucket-style seat backs and
    a fold-down center armrest. Thick padded armrests extended the full-length of the front door
    panels. Safety innovations included a "Uni-Lock" three-point safety-belt and shoulder harness

    The power team for the 4,551-pound car was the 429 four-valve V-8 engine and Ford's
    Select-Shift Cruise-O-Matic transmission.

    His-and-Hers Thunderbirds
    By 1971, Thunderbird - the name and the car - were so popular that the famed department store,
    Nieman-Marcus, offered "His and Her" Thunderbirds in their catalog which lists "gifts for the
    person who has everything" The twin Thunderbirds were equipped with telephones, tape recorders
    and other special equipment, and carried a price tag of $25,000 for the pair.

    A New Generation of Luxury
    A new generation of even more luxurious Thunderbirds started with the 1972 model. Only a
    two-door model was offered. The emphasis was on styling and comfort.

    The 1972 Thunderbird was on a 120.4 wheelbase (5.4 inches longer) and overall length was 216
    inches. The car weighed 4,596 pounds.

    Strikingly handsome and formal in appearance, it achieved new levels of luxury and comfort,
    even for the Thunderbird. Michelin radial-ply steel-belted tires and bodyside protection
    molding were standard.

    The standard power front disc brakes were re-designed to provide more positive braking and
    longer brake life than previous systems. The number of parts in the all-new braking system was
    reduced from 26 to 12 for even greater reliability and quicker service. The Sure-Track Brake
    Control System was added as optional equipment.

    The Epitome of Personal Luxury
    The Ford Thunderbird reached its pinnacle as a personal luxury car with the 1975 model.
    Skipping the traditional three-year styling change for the first time, the 1975 design was
    basically the same as the previous model, except that the car was longer and heavier. Overall
    length was 223.9 inches, and the weight was 5,101.

    The added length was to accommodate Ford's most powerful engine, the 460 CID V-8, and much of
    the added weight was accounted for by the addition of air conditioning - and the bigger engine
    - as standard equipment.

    Other standard refinements were concealed windshield wipers, a distinctive opera window,
    dense-grain vinyl roof, solid-state ignition, power side windows, automatic seat-back release,
    spare tire lock and white sidewall, steel-belted, radial tires.

    Available for the first time were power four-wheel disc brakes, making Thunderbird one of the
    few American-built cars to offer this safety-enhancing feature. The four-wheel disc brakes were
    more consistent when hot or wet and stopped the vehicle in shorter distances than conventional
    front disc/rear drum braking systems. Other options were power mini-vent windows, quick-defrost
    windshield and rear window and moon roof.

    End of an Era
    With the exception of three new luxury groups, the 1976 Thunderbird was basically the same as
    the 1975 version in terms of luxury, convenience, appearance and standard equipment levels.

    New as optional equipment were a power lumbar seat and an AM/FM quadrasonic eight-track tape
    player. The greatest significance of the 1976 Thunderbird was that it marked the end of another
    Thunderbird era. After this, the flight of the Thunderbird would change directions.

    New Directions
    The new direction of the Thunderbird was into the high-volume mid-size specialty car market.

    Built on a 114-inch wheelbase, it was a slimmer and sleeker automobile that retained many of
    the traditional Thunderbird styling touches that millions of owners and admirers had come to

    The appearance of the 1977 Thunderbird was spotlighted by a unique wrapover roof treatment,
    featuring beveled glass opera windows in the center pillars. Other distinctive features
    included a chrome-plated grille, hidden headlamps and "wall-to-wall" taillamps.

    Mid-Size Market Niche
    The early 1980s saw a completely different direction for Thunderbird - it was smaller, more
    angular in styling and targeted to a more conservative, fuel-economy concious customer. Not
    destined to be a favorite of collectors, it was not long for the cycle-plan.

    Aero-Style...Racing History
    In 1983, Ford took Thunderbird into a new design phase introducing the "aero-style" Thunderbird
    that would lead Ford Motor Company and the industry in a new direction. The bold styling would
    next find its way into the car that changed the industry for years to come beginning in 1986 -
    the Ford Taurus.

    Thunderbird was all-new from the ground up in 1989, featuring an exterior design destined to
    further reshape the aero-styling trends of the '80s. It was a leader in technology transfer
    from racing to production and was among the first vehicles outfitted with Ford's next
    generation electronic engine control module developed by Ford's Formula One racing program.

    Thunderbird first appeared in NASCAR in 1959 winning six races in the top division. The
    mid-sized Thunderbird is one of the most successful cars in racing history, attracting a legion
    of fans to Ford. The restyled Thunderbird burst onto the NASCAR circuit in 1982, and went on to
    win more than 150 races in NASCAR's top division, including four victories in the Daytona 500.

    Closing the Books...Temporarily
    But as the 20th century grew to a close, customer's tastes again shifted away from Thunderbird,
    as they had in the late 1950s. Continuing sales declines led Ford to announce the 1997 model
    would be the last - for a time.

    Ford soon announced that although the old platform was going away, the Thunderbird nameplate
    would see a bright future in a very familiar form.

    A new two-seat Thunderbird concept car was unveiled at the 1999 North American International
    Auto Show in Detroit. The sunmist-yellow roadster included key styling cues from its classic
    1955-1957 forebears. The concept car is a design exercise intended to revitalize excitement in
    the car market and gauge consumer reaction. The car was wildly popular with showgoers. Two
    years later, Ford announced Thunderbird's return and unveiled a production version of the
    concept at the 2001 Detroit show.

    The 2002 Thunderbird came to market in the summer of 2001 as a limited niche production model
    aimed at 20-25,000 units of annual production. It won critical acclaim for its modern
    interpretation of the classic original roadster styling and was named Motor Trend Magazine's
    "Car of the Year."

    Thunderbird received improvements in the 2003 model year including an upgraded 280-horsepower
    V-8. In 2005, Ford marked the 50th anniversary of the Thunderbird with a special edition
    package including a nameplate commemorating the occasion.

    On March 10, 2005, Ford announced that the Thunderbird would be discontinued after the 2005
    model year and the nameplate would go back into hiatus.


    Key Points
    Introduced in September 1954 as a 1955 model
    two seat convertible
    total original two seat production 53,166
    Total sales - 4.3 million units
    Peak sales year 1977 - 322,517 units
    Built at Lorain assembly, Lorain, Ohio
    Last redesign in 2002
    2005 sales

    Product Highlights
    Introduced in September 1954 as a 1955 model
    two seat convertible
    total two seat production 53,166
    Redesigned in 1958
    Motor Trend Car of the Year 1958
    four seat model
    dubbed "the square 'bird"
    sales increased from 21,380 in 1957 to 91,058
    Redesigned in 1961
    the "projectile" look
    Redesigned in 1964
    discontinued convertible after 1966
    Redesigned on 1967
    four-door model added to lineup
    Redesigned in 1970
    Redesigned in 1972
    two-door model only
    Redesigned in 1975
    personal luxury car
    Redesigned in 1977
    peak sales year was 1977 with 322,517 units
    Redesigned in 1980
    Redesigned in 1983 with Aero look
    Motor Trend Car of the Year 1987
    Redesigned in 1989 Motor Trend Car of the Year
    Discontinued in 1997
    Redesigned in 2002
    two-passenger roadster
    Discontinued in 2005

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Columbus, Ohio
    That sure was a good read. Very informative.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Oceanside, California
    Thanks, nice read. Too bad the SC didn't even get a paragraph.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Massillon, OH


    Yeah, it's too bad that the best birds ever weren't even mentioned.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Syracuse NY
    You know whats sad, is people love the 300C, but not alot of Tbirds around. I personally love it alot more, and think its more classy.

    hell of a car, almost as if no one knows it exsists or pays attention.

    they were supposed to make a cobra powered one too for the 50th ann.
    Last edited by Thunder427; 11-01-2005 at 09:47 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    They were never supposed to make a Cobra-Powered Thunderbird-that was a rumour started in 2003 when they had a 390HP supercharged concept. That concept still used the 3.9L V8-the car was engineered in such a way that a 4.6L DOHC V8 would NEVER fit.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2005


    So..uh...does this mean they are going to make another?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Madison, Ohio
    I find it funny that the T-bird was once again "used" to create enthusiasm but they immediately go off about the new Mustang instead. Once again the T-Bird is an excellent example of a car that promised so much (even if only in the minds of the public) and failed to produce anything exciting.

    I suppose the day will come when guys like us will look back on the 200x Birds and say "hey that would make a good hot rod" or something like that but too bad during it's actual production run it garners little more than a passing glance.

    Seriously. Anyone notice all the tricked out 200x Birds at Carlisle this year?

    Oh ya, I forgot, there weren't any.
    Quote Originally Posted by Miller View Post
    Ya thats why i tape mine down. People think its bc i dont have a moonroof seal (which is true) but its really to keep my roof from ripping off .
    Email me here.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Sorry for the rant,XJ220 replay

    So they skip the fact that the THUNDERBIRD almost killed the vett . They totaly gloss over the in-fighting at Ford that killed the 70 THUNDERBIRD and got a real THUNDERBIRD lover fired, and blocked a muscle car from being done.The fact that it sold more then any car in it's market and or class til 97 just flies by the waistside. And just for kicks they take a car that from the begining was a future-hi-tech-peformence car , let some stupid chic and a typical mustang yes man, CRAP all over the THUNDERBIRD , turn it retro with the uglest body you could do ,give it no performence and wounder why the sales where DEAD . If a guy from FORD gave you that or if a FORD board guy reads this...YOU SUCK,everybody and there mother makes a two door, four seater, rear drive ,V-8 now that THUNDERBIRD is gone .That's why I'm about to go to BENZ . At least they dont punk there fans out. And to any body who's a FORD fan like me who thanks I'm being hard on those pony loving punks, wheres a little fact . That stupid skank and the butt kisser tuned down a VANQUISH styled body with a cobra engine for that 2000 PEICE OF CRAP. But don't worry , I feel in love with SUPERCOUPE because of the ride, so I'm not gonna sell it .And yes , going over the SUPERCOUPE stuff will make me go off the deep end.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    By the way ....

    Those jerk off's that did that to the THUNDERBIRD,they drive mustangs and navigators, don't figure. And the head guy's never liked the the THUNDERBIRD any way.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Channahon Il
    Quote Originally Posted by 90SC BIG BLOCK
    So they skip the fact that the THUNDERBIRD almost killed the vett . They totaly gloss over the in-fighting at Ford that killed the 70 THUNDERBIRD and got a real THUNDERBIRD lover fired, and blocked a muscle car from being done.The fact that it sold more then any car in it's market and or class til 97 just flies by the waistside. And just for kicks they take a car that from the begining was a future-hi-tech-peformence car , let some stupid chic and a typical mustang yes man, CRAP all over the THUNDERBIRD , turn it retro with the uglest body you could do ,give it no performence and wounder why the sales where DEAD . If a guy from FORD gave you that or if a FORD board guy reads this...YOU SUCK,everybody and there mother makes a two door, four seater, rear drive ,V-8 now that THUNDERBIRD is gone .That's why I'm about to go to BENZ . At least they dont punk there fans out. And to any body who's a FORD fan like me who thanks I'm being hard on those pony loving punks, wheres a little fact . That stupid skank and the butt kisser tuned down a VANQUISH styled body with a cobra engine for that 2000 PEICE OF CRAP. But don't worry , I feel in love with SUPERCOUPE because of the ride, so I'm not gonna sell it .And yes , going over the SUPERCOUPE stuff will make me go off the deep end.
    Quote Originally Posted by 90SC BIG BLOCK
    Those jerk off's that did that to the THUNDERBIRD,they drive mustangs and navigators, don't figure. And the head guy's never liked the the THUNDERBIRD any way.
    geezzzz get a grip dude, some of us happen to like the new bird. hell i like it better than anything from 83-97. so ha!
    the tbird stopped competing with the vette in 1958, let it go, its not going to compete with the vette now just cause you want it to.
    now, please GO, GO buy you that BENZ and dont let the door hit ya on the way out.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Macedon, n.y.


    What ford did to Mustang, should have also done to Thunderbird. The last tbird they made sucked. Had a 1953 vet front end almost with VW taillights. And Low HP engine. They let the young kids create it. Stupid. Like Mustang, should of made it more Original. more hp. O well. Hope they bring it back. I had a new 1967, 1969, 1978 Diamond Jubilee. They always had their own design.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
    I have owned a few thunderbirds during my life time, my favorite was the nm12. but after owning a 90sc thunderbird and fixing it up. It turned out to be the most expensive thunderbird I had ever fix up. After this 1990 bird I will never own another one. I could not find anyone to tune this car. my local dealer wanted nothing to do with this bird. it was a nicest car and the worst car I had ever owned.I would never buy anther one because there simply was and is no back up as far as getting this car tuned.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Macedon, n.y.


    That's why I do all the work myself. All. Your right.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Orem, UT
    Way to dig up a 9 year old post.

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