Top 10 Obscure Special Editions and Forgotten Limited-Run Models: Ford Edition, Part II

1992FordF-150Nite

With such a rich history and a comprehensive lineup, Ford was bound to have an assortment of special editions and limited-run models. In Part II of the Ford edition, we take a look at five such cars between 1956 and 2009. 

1956 ford parklane

Ford Parklane

Years produced: 1956

Total production: 15,186

The first Chevrolet Nomad was a curious anomaly. Sold from 1955-57 and inspired by a daring, Corvette-based Motorama concept, the production Nomad was a highly-specified, two-door wagon based on the Chevy Bel Air and was one of the most expensive Chevys available. Even accounting for the common perception a two-door car was safer for families as children couldn’t open a door in motion, the Nomad was a marginal seller at best. Nevertheless, Ford rushed a competitor to the market: the one-year-only Parklane. 

1956 ford wagons

Much like the ’57 Chevy has become an icon of its era despite being outsold by the ’57 Ford, the Parklane today lives in the shadow of the slower-selling Nomad. Could it be a matter of aesthetics? After all, the Parklane did not receive any unique sheetmetal like the Nomad. Instead, it used the basic Ranch Wagon body – Ford’s cheapest wagon – and added Fairlane trim inside and out.

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Despite besting the ’56 Nomad in sales, the Parklane was retired after one year. For 1957, Ford launched the Del Rio Ranch Wagon. It was a two-door wagon with fancier trimmings than the humble Ranch Wagon, but it now corresponded with the Custom 300 instead of the more upscale Fairlane. Again, it outsold the Nomad but it lasted only two years. The upscale two-door wagon fad died out by the end of the decade, and the bodystyle was relegated to entry-level status once more.

1991 ford f150 nite

Ford F-150 Nite & Bronco Nite

Years produced: 1991-92

Total production: ?

A big truck painted in black, with blackout trim and deep-dish forged aluminum wheels sounds like it would be a rather menacing sight to behold. And yet, the Nite’s most unique feature, its flamboyantly colorful decals that transition from blue to magenta, make the Nite so quaintly fitting of their era. The Nite editions of the F-150 and Bronco are as 1990s as scrunchies and floral dress-and-boots ensembles.

1992 ford bronco nite 2

For 1991, the Nite package was only available on the regular-cab F-150. The F-Series and Bronco received an aerodynamic redesign for ’92 that brought with it a new interior, and the Nite package could now be selected on the Bronco and all F-Series bodystyles including the new Flareside trucks. All Nite trucks came with either the 302 or the 351 V8; the inline six and diesel engines were not available.

1992 ford f150 nite

Although the availability of the Nite had been expanded dramatically for 1992, this would prove to be its final year. This generation of F-Series was scant with special editions, something Ford would rectify with its stylish ’97 F-150.

ford thunderbird 35th anniversary 2

Ford Thunderbird 35th Anniversary

Years produced: 1990

Total production: 3,371

Once the venerable Thunderbird nameplate reached 25 years of age, Ford made sure to never miss another milestone. Special anniversary editions were released at 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 years.

1980 ford thunderbird silver anniversary

As it was the nameplate’s 25th anniversary in 1980, Ford went with a simple, silver theme. This was a good idea, as the ’80 T-Bird was fussy and overstyled enough as it was. The rising popularity of silver paint, though, makes this special edition a little bit less special to look at today.

ford thunderbird 30th

The 30th anniversary ‘Bird was nothing too exciting: unique blue paint, but Turbo Coupe wheels and instruments.

ford thunderbird 40th anniversary

Photo courtesy of Shawn40th

For the big 4-0, the anniversary edition was available in a range of colors but with a mandatory two-tone paint job with a silver bottom half. It looks rather dated now.

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The Thunderbird nameplate took a break from 1998 until 2002. The eleventh generation lasted just 4 model years. Its final year coincided with the Thunderbird name’s 50th anniversary, so a special edition was launched. Painted in elegant cashmere metallic with a light stone interior, the 50th anniversary was perhaps the most elegant of its generation of ‘Birds. Still, its appearance wasn’t markedly different from other 2005 Thunderbirds.

ford thunderbird 35th anniversary

You will notice one edition was skipped there: the 35th. This was the Thunderbird’s most exciting anniversary edition. Based on the range-topping Super Coupe, the 35th Anniversary package cost $1,863. 5,000 copies were planned, albeit only 3,371 were produced. Each featured a two-tone black/titanium exterior with blue accent striping and black road wheels with blue Thunderbird logos, as well as the usual commemorative badging.

ford thunderbird 35th anniversary interior

Inside was also unique, with bucket seats trimmed in black leather and titanium suede with blue piping.

ford thunderbird 35th anniversary 3

The 35th Anniversary was not only based on the sportiest T-Bird, it also received as standard the special handling suspension option with automatic ride control, a Traction-Lok rear axle and performance tires. The supercharged 3.8 V6 had 210 hp and 315 ft-lbs and came standard with a five-speed manual, although a four-speed automatic was optional; that torque, still impressive by today’s standards, was available nice and low in the rev range and without the lag of a turbocharged engine. However, the T-Bird weighed almost 3,900 pounds.

The anniversary edition also came with a special anniversary gift package that included a pen, car cover, key chain and other knick-knacks. The 35th was well-equipped, but it wasn’t fully-loaded: items like a moonroof, alarm and CD player were options. It’s not clear why Ford didn’t produce a full 5,000 units, but the 35th was certainly the most distinctive anniversary edition of the T-Bird.

ford taurus x eddie bauer 1

Ford Taurus X Eddie Bauer

Years produced: 2008-09

Total production: ?

With the 2004 Freestyle, Ford had produced a family crossover that was extremely spacious and versatile, had best-in-class safety scores and rode and handled competently. Unfortunately, they sabotaged it with an underpowered engine, a whiny CVT and a confusing name. For 2008, Alan Mulally decreed the revised Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego, the Freestyle’s platform-mates, would receive the resurrected Taurus/Sable names. As the Freestyle was basically a Taurus wagon, it became the Taurus X. However, Ford also wanted to pitch their wagon as more of a butch, SUV-esque offering and launched the Taurus X Eddie Bauer.

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The Eddie Bauer was the mid-range Taurus X, and was the only crossover to bear the name of the clothing retailer; previously, it had only been used on the Explorer, Expedition, Bronco and Excursion. Distinguished visually by Pueblo Gold exterior cladding and two-tone leather seating, the Eddie Bauer also added myriad convenience and luxury features over the already well-equipped base SEL. The few features the monochromatic Limited added could be selected as part of an option package on the Eddie Bauer, which was good news for buyers who liked the Eddie Bauer look but wanted features like parking sensors.

ford taurus x interior

The Eddie Bauer was the most butch-looking of the Taurus X line but its wagon proportions could not be disguised, and anything that looked too much like a station wagon was anathema to the American buying public. Taurus X sales actually plummeted from the Freestyle’s already declining volumes. This was despite the Taurus X boasting both a command seating position for the driver and yet a fairly low ride-height for easy accessibility, as well as a new six-speed automatic, 60 more horsepower, 42 more pound-feet of torque, bolder styling and the new Eddie Bauer trim.

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Blame abysmal marketing, or blame Ford’s abundance of crossovers and SUVs, which only got worse for the Taurus X’s sophomore season when Ford introduced a new, hipper, wagon-esque crossover, the Flex. The Taurus X was quietly dropped after a dismal 2009 and although the Flex would never sell as well as the Freestyle had initially, it has sold consistently and not reached the crushing lows of the Taurus X. And it has managed this without offering an “outdoorsy” trim like the Eddie Bauer.

1984 ford thunderbird fila 1

Ford Thunderbird FILA

Years produced: 1984-85

Total production: 2,532 (1984)

Ford may not have invented the luxury brand cross-promotion, but they enjoyed success with their Designer Edition Lincolns. With the Thunderbird atop the Ford division totem pole, it had received some very plush, expensive and Lincoln-esque special editions like the Diamond Jubilee. However, it had never received a designer special edition. This would change for 1984, the sophomore season of the alluring new “Aero Bird”, when Ford launched the FILA edition that would be the Thunderbird’s first and last designer edition.

1984 ford thunderbird fila 2

The Italian fashion company was becoming a popular and trendy brand of sportswear, endorsing athletes like tennis player Björn Borg. This modern, youthful image lent itself well to the aerodynamic new Thunderbird, surely one of the most dramatic and successful makeovers in automotive history. The FILA Thunderbird was the most expensive ‘Bird in the coop, even priced almost $2k above the more powerful Turbo Coupe.

84 ford thunderbird fila 1

Currently for sale on eBay

For the $15,646 asking price, a FILA T-Bird buyer received Oxford White leather bucket seats or optional suede-style seats in “Pastel Charcoal”. Woodgrain trim was replaced with brushed black appliqué, and the rest of the interior was charcoal. All FILAs came with bucket seats but a column shifter, as well as digital instruments. There was even a special FILA accessories pack with a leather portfolio, beach towel, headband and other accessories.

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All FILAs came with a choice of 3.8 V6 (120 hp, 205 ft-lbs) or 5.0 V8 (140 hp, 250 ft-lbs) with the AOD automatic transmission; the turbo four was not available.

1985 Ford Thunderbird-16

For 1985, the FILA option returned and all Thunderbirds received a redesigned dashboard. The brushed black interior appliqués were replaced with silver trim, and exterior colors also included the signature “Pastel Charcoal” as well as charcoal, red and black, all with red and blue pinstriping. Standard equipment included power windows, mirrors and driver’s seat; the FILA was the only T-Bird to feature all as standard fitment, thus justifying its price premium.

84 ford thunderbird fila 3

The following year, the FILA was dropped, leaving the base model, Elan and Turbo Coupe. As stylish and modern as the T-Bird was, it never received another designer edition. 


And thus concludes the Ford edition of this series. So far, we have covered AMC, Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Plymouth. What will next week bring?

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