The original was introduced in 1955 as a response to the Chevrolet Corvette, which came into the market two-years earlier.
Unlike the Corvette however, the Thunderbird has been killed and brought back to life more times than Sheryl Crow has had a hit single.
The last time the T-bird (as its often called) was resurrected, was back in 2002, in response to the favorable impression made by its concept version.
Thankfully, the translation from concept to production lost none of its form. The car was and still is, beautiful.
The first year of production (2002) had a 3.9-liter, V8 producing 252 hp. In 2003 and beyond, that same engine produced 280 hp, thanks to variable valve timing.
All model years shared the same five-speed automatic transmission, which complimented the engine very well. Thus this is a quick car (0-100 km/h in about 6-seconds), and it can reach naughty speeds quite effortlessly. Just don’t go too fast, the chassis is not quite up to the task, neither is the suspension and nor are the brakes. So drive it sensibly fast and you’ll enjoy it a lot.
In the handling department, this car copes well, but don’t think its an out an out sports car. So while it handled well, its not the sort of car that attacks corners. The reason for its dynamic shortfall is due to the origin of its chassis. This has a shortened version of the Lincoln LS platform, and because it doesn’t have a solid metal roof, it is a bit wobblier (a detachable hard-top was available as an option).
But you can forgive Ford for using some components from its then production line to bring this car out in record time. What you cannot forgive them for, is for the complete lack of effort in designing the interior. The dashboard is lifted straight from the Lincoln LS, and they didn’t even dress it up. Thus it looked boring and didn’t reflect the imagination of its unique exterior. On the plus side, nothing rattled and it was very well equipped. All T-birds had a power roof – however it had a manual release from the windshield, and the roof didn’t disappear under a hard cover.
So, it wasn’t perfect, but that is not the end of the story. Despite its shortfalls, I had always enjoyed driving this car. I liked the responsiveness of the engine (it even sounded nice), I liked the spaciousness of its cabin, it had a useable trunk, and despite having a powerful V8, it was still quite fuel economical.
So, would I buy one? You might find this hard to understand, but I absolutely would. Yes, it isn’t perfect, not even close, but it has its charms and those charms seem to overshadow its faults.
The last Thunderbird was produced in July 2005. Ford doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to bring this icon back, but I certainly hope they do.