CC Capsule: 1996-97 Thunderbird LX – Counterpoint

Thanks to Mr. Tactful’s recent post on the V8 1995 Cougar, I thought it appropriate to mention this Thunderbird LX I spotted in downtown Moline a couple of weeks ago.

For 1996, the Thunderbird (and Cougar) received a final refresh, which included new rocker trim, wheels, and front and rear fascias. The attractive new dashboard added for 1994 remained. Although the V8 was still available, the SC was gone, having been retired after 1995.

One detail was a return to cursive script, a neat retro touch. I believe this was applied to the Taurus and other Ford models as well. One aesthetic issue that had been with the MN12 Thunderbird (and Cougar) since its release in 1989 was that although the car had what appeared to be full width tail lamps, only the extreme edges actually lit up at night. In 1992, the entire tail lamp illuminated, with the large center section using LEDs. This continued for the 1996 model year. The 1995-97 Lincoln Town Cars also had lighted center sections, so I guess the cost accountants were ignored once in a while.

I had just started to drive in late 1997, about a year and a half later than planned due to some health issues. I was well aware that 1997 was the last year for the T-Bird and Cougar (not to mention the last of the square Town Cars), so I wasted no time driving down to the local Ford and L-M dealerships to get the brochures on them before they were gone.

By the late Nineties the coupe market was shrinking drastically, and more and more folks who used to buy these cars were suddenly batting their eyes at Explorers and Mountaineers. The related Mark VIII managed to last one more year, and that was the end of Ford’s luxury coupes. Survivors like this LX prove that once upon a time, coupes were in and many happily roamed the land.

Edit: I was incorrect about the LED tail lights being new for 1996. Text has been amended to reflect their addition in 1992.