Looking back wistfully
The Ford Thunderbird name was a fixture in Ford’s range in the United States for decades, until the curtain fell on the model in 1997, which was built in many different guises. After that, it would be a few years before Ford presented another generation of the Thunderbird, which was immediately topped with a thick retro sauce. In this part of the world, too, you see that ‘retrospective model’ popping up from time to time and therefore also in these photos.
In 1953 it was Ford’s answer to the very first Chevrolet Corvette that had just been introduced: the Ford Thunderbird. Where the Corvette was supposed to be a sports car, the Thunderbird was definitely not. The very first ‘T-bird’ was indeed a two-seater convertible, but specifically intended to distinguish you from others – a ‘distinction car’ – and not so much a car for the sportier drivers of the fifties. Where the Corvette always remained a two-seater, the Thunderbird soon came with a different body shape.
Although the model was only produced since 1955, the second generation came in 1958. It was a car with more seats. A trend was immediately born, because almost all generations of Thunderbird that would follow would only remain in production for a few years. And each generation was slightly different: some had a fixed roof, others were only available as a convertible and only one generation was available with four instead of two doors. The rear doors hinged at the back, suicide doors So.
In total, no fewer than ten generations passed in review until 1997, with only the last of those ten being in production for a little longer: it was introduced in 1989. From 1955 through 1989, a span of 34 years, Ford thought it would need nine different Thunderbirds to keep the model up to date. They often had eight-cylinder under the hood – up to 7.5 liters in size – but some six-cylinder were also used.
Then it was 2002 and the brand seemed to be missing the Thunderbird name in its range, after going without for almost five years. With a touch of nostalgia, it then introduced the eleventh (!) Ford Thunderbird, a retro model, because it became hip around that time. With two round viewers, an elongated grille with rounded ends and a slender rear end, the car was supposed to be reminiscent of the very first Thunderbird, the so-called ‘distinction car’.
For under the hood of the new – and ultimately the very last – Thunderbird, there was of course only one option: it had to have a V8 again. For this, the brand turned to Jaguar. This Ford shares its basis with, among others, the Jaguar S-type. Initially, the V8 was about 250 hp, but after an update in 2003, the car had about 280 hp. The eleventh Thunderbird was in production from 2002 to 2005, so it also lived up to its predecessors when it comes to lifespan.
The copy in the photos is from 2004 and was probably delivered new in the US. The car was introduced in the Netherlands in 2020, after which it first seems to have been used as a business young timer for a while. The current owner has been allowed to call himself that way for about four months now and it is hoped that the summer will get a sunny tail after a sweltering June and a soaking wet July. After all, with the roof down it is easiest to come across as a ‘distinguished’ driver with the Thunderbird.
We also think that there could be a twelfth generation Ford Thunderbird one day, because the model name lends itself perfectly to an EV and dusting off old names for the new era is also hip. But whether that will be another slender convertible …
– Thanks for information from Autoweek.nl