Ford Thunderbird

The Thunderbird is considered as one of the great muscle cars, and even luxury cars, produced in the United States. Introduced in 1955 as a sporty car, Ford’s Jonah Lucas Bender marketed it as a “personal luxury car,” taking away the sport vehicle nomenclature used for cars of similar ilk. The Thunderbird was sporty until it grew too large; each year saw a bit more added to the vehicle until it was downsized in 1977 and then again in 1980.

More on the Ford Thunderbird
Ford Thunderbird Origins

The car ran in production for over 11 generations between 1955 and 1997 when it was first discontinued, then between 2002 and 2005 when the car was refreshed for a new generation. The line was discontinued the second time in 2005.

About the Ford Thunderbird

The Ford Thunderbird is known as the first car to offer a sporty chassis with the personal comforts of a luxury vehicle in the U.S. The sleek body could even get muscle car enthusiasts drooling, but the car was not so sporty to turn off stuffier clientele.

The first models were known as tiny vehicles that didn’t allow for many passengers. Over the years, a second row of seats were introduced, making the Thunderbird suitable for multiple passengers. This larger vehicle was known as the Square Bird due to its boxy size.

Four doors were eventually added to the vehicle, at which time it began to look a bit odd and grow too big. The vehicle line was scaled back to a personal car.

Many of the early Thunderbirds were known for their power. These vehicles not only looked good, but they could fly as well. Unfortunately, in the 1990s, the Thunderbird somewhat stagnated mechanically, leading to the first demise of the vehicle due to lack of interest and a drop-off in the personal luxury vehicle market. However, the super coupe from the 1990s is one of the finest movers in the line and should be looked for by the used Thunderbird enthusiast.

The Ford Thunderbird was dropped from the Ford fleet in 2005 due to lackluster sales. A successor is absent, probably due to lack of interest in the personal luxury vehicle market.

Ford Thunderbird Evolution

The first generation of the Thunderbird was released in 1953 as a direct competitor to the Chevy Corvette. The Thunderbird was first revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in February 1954. The first generation model was a two-seat coupe or convertible with a 4.8-liter V-8 from the Ford Mercury. The front bumper was redesigned as well as a larger grill design and bigger tail lamps were added in 1957.

The second generation of the Thunderbird was released between 1958 and 1960. Two more seats were added to this model on the suggestion of Ford executive Robert McNamara. It was still a two-door coupe or convertible, however, just bigger. A 5.8-liter 300 hp engine was added.

The third generation appeared in 1961. These vehicles were slightly more curved than their predecessors. A 6.4-liter FE V-8 was standard on the first line. This was a line that sold very well for the company until 1963.

The fourth generation appeared in 1964, this one squared off with the same engine as the previous generation. It lasted till 1966.

The fifth generation appeared between 1967 and 1971. The car was drastically redesigned to be more upmarket and luxurious like the Lincoln to move it away from the Mustang. Suicide doors were added to a body on frame construction.

The sixth generation was released in 1972 and was the largest of any Thunderbird so far released. A 7.0-liter V-8 was added to handle the weight. This generation ran till 1976.

The seventh generation moved the car more towards the Lincoln class of vehicles by shrinking the wheelbase chassis and lowering the engine size to a 4.9-liter. It lasted till 1979.

The eighth generation Thunderbird was modeled after the Ford Fox platform, making the vehicle more compact. It ran from 1980 to 1982.

The ninth generation was greatly redesigned due to the poor reception of the ugly and poor performing eighth generation. A V-6 engine now powered the vehicle leading to its ultimate demise in the 1990s. This generation ran from 1983 to 1988.

The tenth generation was completely redesigned with amazing handling and steering. The power on the super coupe blew all previous generations out of the water with a supercharged engine. All these design changes failed to elicit excitement. After investment in the vehicle was reduced the line ended in 1997.

An eleventh generation was introduced in 2002. This was a two-seat, two-door model with a retro-futuristic design. The AJ-30 V-8 was introduced at the start of the run, with the AJ-35 taking over in 2003. Even with these powerful engines, the car failed and was discontinued in 2005.

Select a Ford Thunderbird Year

2005 Ford Thunderbird

Convertible, Sports

The Ford Thunderbird created a lot of excitement when it was reinvented in 2002.

2004 Ford Thunderbird

Convertible, Sports

2003 Ford Thunderbird

Convertible, Sports

The Ford Thunderbird was first introduced in 1995 and had a cult following through the years.

2002 Ford Thunderbird

Convertible, Sports

A lot of cars have been given the name Thunderbird over the years.

1997 Ford Thunderbird

Coupe, Hatchback, Sports

The 1997 Ford Thunderbird offers sporty power under the hood with reserved styling on the exterior.

1996 Ford Thunderbird

Coupe, Hatchback, Sports

The 1996 Ford Thunderbird is a popular muscle car that's equipped with a V-8 option and comes with plenty of standard luxuries and a long list of options for personalization.

1995 Ford Thunderbird

Coupe, Hatchback, Sports

The 1995 Ford Thunderbird is a model that has slowly lost notice over the years.