Curbside Capsule: 1969 Ford Thunderbird

It’s been a busy week out on the farm, with not much time for CC-spotting. I recently missed my chance at a ’68 LTD four-door in the small town where I’ve been shooting a lot of my recent finds – it had been in someone’s driveway for three or four days; I made it a point to go shoot it this morning, but it was gone. Nevertheless, I took a different route home and was rewarded with this ’69 Thunderbird, which sat at a garage just off my exit from the interstate…

From the nose-high attitude, I suspect it’s awaiting an engine.

Here’s what normally would have been found under the hood: the 429 cu in Thunder Jet V8, which made 360 (gross) hp, and the only engine choice available for 1969. With a four-barrel carb, dual exhaust and 10.5:1 compression ratio, this mill must have really motivated the 4,360 lb (that’s 1,978 kg, or 2.8 VW Beetles) car, albeit at sub-10 mpg (presumably premium) fuel consumption.

The nose on the fifth-gen T-bird changed several times, which is how I was able to ID the model year. Yes, Virginia, those are hidden headlights exposed for the moment. I personally like this grille design more than those sported by the other fifth-generation ‘Birds.

I’m still batting .000 on interior shots so again, this one has been lifted from the Interweb. For some reason, that horn ring looks a bit antiquated to my eye, but of course this might be an earlier model T-bird interior. There were 49,272 Thunderbirds produced in 1969, and about a third of those were equipped with the optional front bucket seats and center console. Front bench seats had become standard in 1968 and remained the most popular seating choice regardless of trim level.

While not of my subject car, I included this photo to demonstrate the “Fordor” model’s suicide doors–yet another “better idea” from Ford!” And did you notice the fake roof supports on the inside of the C-pillar?

My subject car is the two-door Landau. There was also a Tudor Hardtop model available which wasn’t very popular. (Incidentally, the Landau roof added 12 lb. (5.4kg) to the car, and–incredibly– you could also get the Fordor in Landau trim!) Many of the significant changes to the fifth-gen Thunderbirds were made to move the car further into the luxury car segment since the Mustang was really starting to encroach on Thunderbird sales.

A new Thunderbird purchased after January 1, 1969 would set you back a cool $4,964 ($29,183 in 2010 dollars), making it (at least by today’s standards) a solid mid-level luxury/sport car. Just remember, the purchase price is the cheapest part of owning one!

Behind that highly stylized “thunder bird” lies a solid-state controller for the sequential turn signals—prior to October 1968, the sequential blinking was mechanically performed by a motor-and-cam.

And so we leave our friend for now, hopefully to be seen again out on the open road—“Unique in all the world!”