It’s been a very full week, in more ways than one. We’ve covered every generation of Thunderbird, thanks to all of our superb Contributors. The content exceeded my expectations in both quality and quantity. As a result, we set some site traffic records this week, which was possibly the cause of our site crashing on Wednesday. And now that your memory banks have been duly refreshed, it’s time to take a T-Bird home. Which one will it be?
For me, it’s a tough call, especially after finding that 6 AM Thunderbird Time rendering. I’ve always had a soft spot for the original 1955 version, and that artist captured it perfectly. It rather does have to be black, too. But I’ve sat inside them, and not unlike the early Corvettes, these low sportster bodies sitting on tall frames, with their limited seat adjustment, low headroom and a big steering wheel pointing into ones chest make for a pretty uncomfortable fit, especially if you’re tall like me. I can’t imagine spending a longer ride in one.
So it’s down to between a 1961 coupe in white, or a 1983 Turbo Coupe in red, with a 5.0 HO V8 in place of the buzzy turbo four. The Bullet Bird’s design, although not perfect, was the most original and cohesive of the earlier generations. The Flair Bird’s interior is the ultimate, but its exterior design is a bit lacking in imagination, and not really cohesive. And from 1967 on, things really started to go downhill stylistically, for me, anyway.
The ’61 T-Bird, like the ’61 Continental, captures the zeitgeist perfectly; by then the somewhat goofy Sputnik mid-late ’50s era as embodied in the busy Squarebird was over, and the Kennedy era ushered in a more restrained, elegant and internationally-aware era. It didn’t last long, and the ’61’- ’63 weren’t exactly all that restrained, but it’s a car upper-class Europeans would still have been impressed by. That would end very soon, especially when Mercedes offered up it’s own “Thunderbird”, the elegant W111 Coupe.
The Aero Bird was a drastic change in direction. Given how expedient it was, sitting on the modest Fox chassis, it was a huge change from the classic ’60s Birds. It was the first truly athletic Thunderbird, and could dice it up with some of the best sporty cars of its era. The 2.3 Liter turbo four was a bold step, and a fairly effective one, if one could put up with its NVH.
I could then, but not anymore. It would have to be a V8-swap Turbo Coupe for me, along with a few other upgrades. But as expensive as those TRX tires are now, I’m not sure I could give up those TRX-exclusive wheels. They were the biggest wheels at the time, over 15″ in diameter, the closest thing to donks in 1983.
But most of all, it was my first new car, and you know how we all long to relive the past, real or imagined. But I’d like to revisit it with some V8 burble this time.