1961 Ford Thunderbird

1967 Ford Thunderbird

The Ford Thunderbird is a car manufactured in the USA by the Ford Motor Company. It was conceived as a response to the Chevrolet Corvette and entered production for the 1955 model year as a two-seater quasi sports car. Unlike the Corvette, the Thunderbird was never a full-blown sporting vehicle; Ford's description was personal luxury car.

Ironically, the Thunderbird is the reason the Corvette still survives; Chevrolet was planning to discontinue the Corvette, thanks to poorer than expected sales, until a Ford competitor came along.

The Thunderbird's evolution took it on a steadily diverging path from the Corvette. From the 1958 model year, Thunderbirds were four or five seaters, and they climbed steadily upmarket and further away from sportiness. Sales of the Thunderbird were hit badly by the advent of the much cheaper Ford Mustang in 1964, and the response was to hasten this trend towards luxury.

From the 1967 model year, Thunderbirds were much larger, and some fans of the classic Thunderbird consider 1966 to be the last year of interest. The convertible model was discontinued in this year, and 1967 also saw the introduction of a four-door model (with rear suicide doors), as pictured.

1969 saw the Lincoln Continental Mark III being based on the four-door Thunderbird chassis, and from that point until the late Nineties, Thunderbirds and Continental Marks were closely related cars, the Thunderbird following the Mark's growth to enormity in the 1972 model year.

1980 saw a new, shrunken Thunderbird that was little more than a sedan with nicer trim, but 1983 saw a much improved and aerodynamic car and the launch of the Turbo Coupe, and a much sportier image.

In 1989 the car was restyled again, becoming again somewhat larger, and this bodyshell lasted with minor styling changes and powerplant changes through the 1997 model year, which was the last for five years. The last Thunderbird rolled off the assembly line in Lorain, Ohio on September 4, 1997.

2002, however, saw a new Thunderbird launched; this Retro Bird was again a two-seater, and followed the recent trend for nostalgic recreations of oldfashioned styling (See VW New Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser), being a recreation of the 1955-1957 two-seat Thunderbird in a modern style. Available only as a convertible with a removable hardtop, the new Thunderbird certainly turns heads; but two seats do not make it a practicable car for many people, and rumors of the car's discontinuation after 2005 abound.