The 1967-1971 generation of Thunderbird was the weakest in the family until the execrable 1980-1982 generation. It’s shortcomings were put forth very clearly and convincingly by Jim Cavenaugh in his CC titled “Who Am I. Why Am I Here?” I just reread it, and it speaks for my thoughts on this car quite perfectly.
This generation has been dubbed “Glamourbird” by, ah, presumably its fans. And of course it has them; rightfully so. But that name just isn’t working for me, as it’s anything but glamorous, so lets ponder the subject a bit more and then we’ll take your nominations.
So what’s wrong with it? It’s just not glamorous, for starters, or maybe that cover the whole issue. It lacks a clear and cohesive design, probably because it’s caught between two eras. The Thunderbird started life as a two-passenger semi-sports car, and evolved into a sporty personal car in 1958, essentially defining the genre.
European sports cars were the most glamorous and desirable in the 50s, and set the tenor for the decade stylistically. The Squarebird added a dash of luxury to bold American styling, and thus synthesizes the qualities for which ti came to be known, as well as defining the whole genre.
The Bulletbird (1961-1963) took that to its ultimate expression with the Sports Roadster, covering up the rear seats with a lift-off tonneau cover. of course it wasn’t genuinely sporty, but sporty was still the in thing.
Although the Sports Tonneau was still available on the 1964 Flairebird, the trend was moving more and more in favor of the luxury qualities, especially the Landau, which premiered already in 1962. But it had genuine flair, a crisp definition of luxury still keeping with the times. But those times were changing, quickly.
The Great Brougham Epoch came into full flower starting in 1965, with the Ford LTD. That era was defined by a new and much plusher definition of luxury. All pretenses of sporty were out, and materials and design focused on exaggerated aspects od “luxury” with lots of dark fake wood and deeply-cushioned seats. And of course padded vinyl tops, which the T-bird had been wearing for some time, but still with some flair. No more. This generation Thunderbird was lost between two great evolutionary epochs, the sporty one and the Brougham one. maybe we should call it the Lostbird?
Two years later, the new standard-bearer for the Brougham Epoch arrived, and knocked the T-Bird off its perch for good. In an era of rapidly rising real income and a strong economy, just about anyone who had been able to afford a T-Bird could (and would) soon make the move up to a Mark. These cars tended to sell well to successful up-and-comers, especially self-made business people, and the extra for a Mark was well worth it to show one had made their mark.
I know it’s not fair showing this somewhat worse-for-wear interior, but this whole approach, pioneered by the Squarebird, was essentially obsolete by 1967. Too light, too vinyly, too shiny, still trying to evoke an aircraft cabin rather than a wood-paneled old man’s club room.
Things changed lightning-quick in the 60s, and this was “Where the Boys Are”, not “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, despite the appearances. “Palebird?”
We haven’t even gotten to its front end. I was a bit shocked the first time I saw it in an ad in the fall of 1966.
It looked just like a whaleshark with its huge mouth open to hoover up plankton and suck it through its baleen. Not very attractive; never mind glamorous. The Whalesharkbird?
And nowadays it also reminds me of this. The Grimacebird?
Well, the odds of its hidden headlight still being hidden aren’t all so great these days, so it does look a wee bit less menacing. More like…Sadbird.