Bowing for the 1955 model year, the Ford Thunderbird was the personal luxury car answer to the Chevrolet Corvette. The Thunderbird, or T-Bird, was produced continuously from 1955 through the 1997 model year, and again from 2002 to 2005, and through 11 different generations.
Luxury and performance were not mutually exclusive in the Ford Thunderbird. The 1957 Thunderbird’s 312 cubic-inch Y-Block V8 could be optioned with twin four-barrel carbs or a McCullough supercharger. The second generation T-Bird would offer a 430 cube, 350 horsepower V8 for the now four-passenger car. The fourth gen Thunderbird would offer 428 horsepower as an option.
As the Ford Thunderbird entered the 1990s with its tenth generation, another performance package was offered in the guise of the Thunderbird Super Coupe. The SC was powered by a supercharged 3.8-liter V6 that produced 210 horsepower (remember, this was the end of the Malaise Era, and 210 ponies was a pretty big deal).
The Thunderbird Super Coupe was well equipped with standard electronically-controlled speed-sensitive power steering, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Traction-Lok differential, and 16 x 7-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle tires, and an Adjustable Ride Control System.
A magnum opus is an artist’s most important work. It is the work that truly defines that artist’s sensibilities and demonstrates his or her skill and craftsmanship at its best. This 1957 Ford Thunderbird F-code is Don Antilla’s magnum opus. It may be the most perfectly restored ’57 Thunderbird in existence.Don, who lives in Southbury, Connecticut, is truly an artist.
He has perfected his vision and craft for decades, with a string of immaculately restored Fords to show for it. For much of that time, Don’s been holding on to this car, waiting for when he could do it justice.It was not too distant (geographically and temporally) from the Three Mile Island incident, back in 1979, where and when Don acquired this car. It had already lived an eventful life as a hot rod and harbored a Corvette 283 in the engine bay.
Don knew his T-Birds, however, and recognized that the serial number, beginning with the letter F, indicated a car that had come from the factory equipped with the 300-hp, supercharged, 312-cu.in. Y-block V-8. (The other letters, incidentally, were C, for the base, 212-hp 292; D, for the 245-hp 312; and E, for the 270-hp, dual-quad 312. Ford also supplied racing kits for the E- and F-code engines, which would boost their power to 285 and 340 hp, respectively.)
That F in the serial number is actually how Don found the car to begin with. You see, back in those days, it was still possible to track down cars through various states’ departments of motor vehicles. Don spent a lot of time doing just that and, in the process, he says he also took the opportunity to document many F-code Thunderbirds “before they got taken apart for restoration.”
Ford’s Thunderbird spans 11 generations and several thematic and mechanical variations. Keeping them straight, though, isn’t that hard because the collective Thunderbird enthusiast community has given each one a nickname. Yes, it’s part of the general habit we all have of delving into jargon, which acts as a conversational shorthand (which is good) but also makes it harder for newbies to understand what the heck everyone is talking about (which is bad).
Classic Bird (aka Early Bird, Little Bird, Baby Bird): 1955-’57
Thunderbird nicknames, however, are much easier than many other codewords, like the endless alphanumerics of BMW and Mercedes-Benz model generations. If, like me, you’re relatively uninformed on the full history of Ford’s personal-luxury legend, these appellations give context clues as to what each one generally looks like and what era it hails from. And with that easy entry point, you can then dive deeper into the details. So let’s take a quick tour of all 11 Thunderbird names and how they got that way.
We’ve seen some wild custom rides over the years, and some are surprising in the level of detail they provide. The car you see here doesn’t look like it, but it’s a run-of-the-mill 1994 Ford Thunderbird. The upside is that the Thunderbird was one of the more enjoyable to drive versions with the 4.6-liter V8 under the hood.
The seller of the car took the front and rear from a 1950 Ford and grafted it onto the frame of the Thunderbird. This car is a very nicely done conversion, and the parts for the 1950 Ford fit very nicely on the frame of the Thunderbird and match up well.
Some fans of classic iron might not like seeing 1950 parts on a 1994 Thunderbird, but it’s much better than the Mustang we saw with the front of a Camaro and an LS V8 under the hood. The seller of the 1994 Ford Thunderbird says that the car has new disc brakes and rotors and four new Sumitomo tires.
There were a lot of Ford Thunderbird fans who weren’t happy when the car moved from the sleek two-seater sports car to a larger luxury ride with a back seat. The original first-gen Thunderbird cars are small and sporty and are very popular with collectors. The larger Thunderbirds don’t have the same love from collectors. This 1960 Ford Thunderbird is an excellent example of the year
1968 Ford Thunderbird Has Suicide Doors And A 450 V8
Since most engine sizes today are expressed as litres, sometimes it’s fun to do the conversions for these vintage V8’s:
390 = 6.4 L
429 = 7.0 L
460 = 7.5 L
500 = 8.2 L (Cadillac)
The early Ford Thunderbird cars were very small two-seaters, but within a decade or so they had grown much larger. This 1968 Ford Thunderbird is a perfect example of the larger generation of the car. While the early cars were two-seat convertibles, by 1968 the Ford Thunderbird was a bigger four-door beast that combined luxury and muscle for someone not wanting to rough it in a Mustang.
When Kevin Mark bought his Ford Thunderbird in 2010, he wanted what he calls “a modern-day classic.” Drawn to its horsepower and fuel efficiency, Kevin expected to make full use of what he remarked were the car’s “modern-day conveniences and classic retro style.” But what he didn’t expect was that with his new purchase would come an entirely new community of friends.
While doing some pre-purchase research, Kevin came across the Thunderbird Nest, an online forum for enthusiasts of the iconic car. After clicking around, he began to feel the thrill of discovery for what proved to be not only an indispensable information resource but also an active social group.
At the base of the sunken windshield the resulting gap had me in a quandary. Honestly I was kind of nervous that I wouldn’t able to make these precise pieces, but with new confidence in my sheet metal skills after doing my son’s wagon, I set to it. I made some fancy cardboard patterns from […]
Sometimes the best ideas don’t come from inside a company but rather spring forth as a reaction to external forces. When Chevrolet brought its two-seat Corvette to the New York Auto Show in 1953, it couldn’t have known that it was about to inspire Ford to punch back with one of the most storied nameplates in the Blue Oval’s history: the Thunderbird.