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Thunderstruck

July 31, 2023

Celebrate classic Americana car culture with the iconic Ford Thunderbird.

The Ford Thunderbird was a full-sized luxury car produced by the Ford Motor Company. The first generation was introduced in 1955 as a sporty two-door hardtop and four-door sedan, which shared its underpinnings with the Lincoln Capri. In 1958, the Thunderbird became a stand-alone model line. The Thunderbird's second generation appeared in 1960 and the third generation arrived in 1964. The fourth generation, produced from 1977 to 1979, was larger than its predecessors and shared its platform with the Lincoln Continental Mark V; for this reason it is often referred to as the "Mark V Thunderbird."

The Evolution of an Americana Classic Icon.

The history of Ford Thunderbird cars is an interesting one, and while it's a brand that has been around since the early 1950s, it really didn't make its mark until the 1960s.

The first Thunderbird was actually a concept car called the "Ford X-7," which was shown at the 1953 Detroit Auto Show. The design featured a radical new look with curvy lines and a sleek profile that looked like nothing else on the road at the time. While it would take another decade before production began, Ford decided to name its new model after this original concept car.

1955 Ford Thunderbird

The First Generation: 1955-1957

The first generation Thunderbird was introduced in 1955 as an upscale version of Ford's then-flagship model, the Mercury Meteor. The Thunderbird quickly gained popularity due to its sporty styling and innovative features such as power steering and power brakes (these were optional). The T-Bird had seen steady sales until 1957 when sales dipped sharply due to competition from Chevrolet's new Corvette sports car (which cost less than $2,500). Sales plummeted further when Ford announced plans to discontinue Thunderbirds after 1957 due to low sales (the final car rolled off the assembly line on October 1st).

The Second Generation: 1958-1960

The second generation model was introduced in 1958 with very few changes from its predecessor save for some minor cosmetic ones such as new taillights, an optional V8 engine option, which became standard equipment in 1961 along with disc brakes up front.

The Fourth Generation: 1964-1966

The fourth generation of the Ford Thunderbird was produced by the Ford Motor Company from 1964 to 1966. The Thunderbird was restyled for 1964, becoming larger and more luxurious than previous models. This generation saw a return to a hardtop configuration after two years of convertibles only.

The Sixth Generation: 1972-1976

The sixth generation Thunderbird was introduced in 1972, and it continued the theme of emphasizing attractive styling over performance. It was available as a two-door hardtop, two-door convertible and four-door sedan. The convertible used a power top instead of a folding soft top. The big news for 1973 was the availability of a 351 cubic inch (5.8 liter) V8 engine, which replaced the 429 cubic inch model. The standard engine remained the 400 cubic inch (6.6 liter) V8 with 300 horsepower (224 kW).

The Ninth Generation: 1982-1988

The Thunderbird received two major facelifts during its production run. The first occurred in 1984 for the 1985 model year, when Ford redesigned the front end and added more standard equipment to make it more competitive with other luxury cars. The second facelift occurred in 1987, with minor changes to the interior.

The Tenth Generation: 1989-1997

The tenth-generation Thunderbird was introduced in 1988. It was a three-door hatchback coupe, which was based on the Fox platform. The Thunderbird was no longer sold as a convertible, but instead as a hardtop coupe only. The Thunderbird was also built on the Mazda MX-6 platform which shared many components with the Ford Probe and Mercury Mystique. The Thunderbird's engine was a 4.9L V8 producing 172 hp (128 kW). A minor facelift occurred in 1991, which included more aerodynamic headlamps, a new grille, and redone bumpers with integrated fog lights. In 1993, the car received another minor facelift with new headlamps and taillights similar to those found on the Lincoln Mark VIII (also based on the Fox platform).

The Eleventh and Final Generation: 2002-2005

The eleventh generation of the Ford Thunderbird was produced by Ford from 2002 to 2005. It was introduced in February 2002 as a 2003 model. The eleventh generation marked a return to the traditional two-door hardtop body style, which had been discontinued after the eighth generation, and the use of rear-wheel drive instead of front-wheel drive. It was also the first Thunderbird since 1979 not to be derived from any other vehicle in its class. The final generation of Thunderbirds sold nearly 25,000 units in its first year on sale, making it one of the most popular cars in America. However, sales declined sharply afterwards, leading Ford to kill off production after only three years.

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