The Ford Motor Company launched the Thunderbird line in 1954 as a 1955 model year. This marked the first generation of a car that would become an American icon. During an era when muscle cars were trending, Ford took a different marketing approach.
Rather than focusing on power and performance, the Thunderbird's greatest contributions were to provide a luxury alternative with curb appeal and driver and passenger comfort.
For your enjoyment here are the 10 best Ford Thunderbird models of all time.
10. 1955 Ford Thunderbird
The 1955 Ford Thunderbird kicked off the first generation of a model that became a historic episode in the history of the automaker. The 1955 model year was released late in 1954, competing against the likes of the Chev Corvette.
It became a popular model that those who preferred comfort over speed bought in large numbers. The visual appearance was pleasing but it also offered decent performance, equipped with a 4.8-liter V8 engine that generated 193 horsepower.
The performance was below that of the typical muscle car, but ample for the casual driver moving from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds with a top speed of 104 mph. Ford rolled 16,155 units of the model off its production lines.
9. 1967 Ford Thunderbird
The 1967 Ford Thunderbird was a part of the fifth generation of T-Birds. The model had undergone multiple changes by this time. This was the first year that the Landau 4-door variant was released, along with a 2-door hardtop as well as a Landau edition in this body style.
Although the more expensive T-Bird was in direct competition with Ford's Mustang, the restyling caught the attention of some drivers, however, sales saw a rapid decrease because of the price differential.
The solution for this was a larger car with 4-doors that found a new audience for the T-Bird. It was equipped with a more powerful 6.4-liter FE V8 engine that generated 315 horsepower. The performance was slightly improved moving from 0 to 60 mph 9n 8.8 seconds. The top speed was clocked at 129 mph. 77,976 units of this model were produced.
8. 2003 Ford Thunderbird
The 2003 Ford Thunderbird was a member of the 11th generation of the model. It became an instant success because of its enhanced curb appeal. It was a part of the last generation to be produced in the history of the model.
Sales were high and it appeared to give the Ford Motor Company a dominant position in the American vehicle market. The T-Bird for this year was available in a 20seat convertible with a retro look.
The car was powered by a 3.9-liter LJaguar AJ35 V8 engine that cranked 252 horsepower. The performance was significantly improved with acceleration that took the vehicle from a standstill to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds with a top speed of 154 mph. A total of 14,678 units were produced.
7. 1964 Ford Thunderbird
The 1964 Ford Thunderbird was a part of the fourth generation of the model. This was one of the more popular years for the luxury vehicle with three submodels available. You had your choice of the Landau, the hardtop, or the convertible.
Ford stepped up the luxury enhancements and performance was also a positive. It was powered by a 6.4-liter L FE V8 engine that generated 300 horsepower.
The acceleration wasn't great with a zero to sixty rating of 9.3 seconds, but the top speed was 127 mph. A total of 92,465 of the 1964 T-Bird models were produced. This is a series that was featured in several notable films including "Thunderball," "Goldfinger," "Murderers' Row," and "Highlander: The Series."
6. 1973 Ford Thunderbird
The 1973 Thunderbird was a popular model with a major revision to the front end and a new look. This vehicle was a part of the sixth generation which was a little past the middle part of the model's life cycle.
It was marketed as a large luxury coupe with the highest number of units produced than any other generation. This model year saw 87,269 units roll off production lines. The T-Bird for1973 was equipped with a 7.0-liter 385 V8 engine that cranked 211 horsepower. Acceleration was a bit delayed with a 0-60 mph rating of 10.7 seconds and a top speed of 121 mph.
5. 1958 Ford Thunderbird
The 1958 Ford Thunderbird became one of the best-selling models of its time with 37,892 units produced and sold. It more than doubled the previous year. It was nicknamed "the Squarebird" because of its new exterior design. The car was a unibody design with a luxury interior and a winged rear end with dual headlights and taillights that truly looked sharp.
4. 1959 Ford Thunderbird
The 1959 edition of the Ford Thunderbird was hard to distinguish from the previous model year, but that didn't deter sales to any degree. Sales soared in 1959 to a total of 67,456 units. There were a few changes that may not have been that observable to the casual viewer, but the new grille did give the front end a sassier appearance. A new option under the hood also sweetened the pot with an available 430 cu in 7.0-liter MEL V8 cranking 350 horsepower.
3. 1960 Ford Thunderbird
The 1960 Ford Thunderbird was the recipient of another facelift with a new grille and a few stylistic changes. Drivers who preferred luxury over performance loved the new option of a manually operated sunroof in the hardtop versions. The appearance of the head and taillights moved from dualies to triples, which imitated the styling of the popular Chev Impala. Sales soared to 92,843 for the 1960 T-Bird.
2. 1988 Ford Thunderbird
The 1988 Ford Thunderbird was a part of the ninth generation of the model. The T-Bird became even more luxurious during this era with additional features added for comfort and convenience.
Curb appeal was enhanced with dynamic styling in a dynamic and aerodynamic body styling with large horizontal headlights, the addition of small windows behind the doors for more natural lighting in the cabin, bucket seats, wood trims on the dash, doors and center console, and an auto-reverse stereo cassette player. It was powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four engine with a 5-speed manual transmission.
1. 2005 Ford Thunderbird
The 2005 Ford Thunderbird was the final production year for the model. The final edition was available in a V6 or V8 engine with the latter producing 284 horsepower, mated with a standard 5-peed automatic transmission.
The front received bucket seats with a bench in the back, all leather-wrapped. The T-Bird went out in style with a luxury interior and a new instrument cluster with LCD lettering near the bottom, every bit a personal luxury coupe.
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Written by Benjamin Smith
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