With the pitiful eight generation (1980-1982) Ford Thunderbird failing miserably in comparison to the success of the seventh generation, Ford wasted no time in rolling out a substantially redesigned ninth generation T-Bird for 1983. While still riding on the Fox platform, this new Thunderbird was a total-180 in terms of styling, and with sales more than doubling over the previous year, the buying public seemed to approve.
Ditching the stand-up radiator grille, hidden headlights, and opera windows, the 1983 Ford Thunderbird helped usher in the Aero Revolution with its wind-tunneled front and rear ends, rakish roofline, and sleek wedge-shaped profile. Although this ninth generation Thunderbird had decidedly modern and international aspirations, buyers accustomed to the very Broughamy T-birds of the past decade were not completely alienated.
For starters, the instrument panel was largely carryover, as nearly all the project’s budget was used for the extensive exterior redesign. While there were no vinyl tops and opera lights, the luxury-oriented 1983-only Thunderbird Heritage sought to appeal to these buyers with a few familiar touches. Whereas the Turbo Coupe and even the base model were available with articulated sports seats, the Heritage featured standard velour bucket seats, with the Thunderbird logo embossed into their backs. A bench seat was not available, but its lovers probably found appreciation in the buckets’ lack of much bolstering, for an easy entry/exit slide.
Externally, Heritage models provided further tributes to the Thunderbird’s historic past with touches including all-chrome mirrors and available wire wheels. While this was all well and good, some dealers unfortunately chose to pay further homage to a less pleasant aspect of past T-birds in the form of horrendous aftermarket Continental kits. It’s a shame this otherwise beautiful expression of past and present is marred with one such feature that should have remained in the past.