Count me as one who likes the styling of the newest Thunderbird. I’m okay but not in love with the first generation, not a fan of the second, absolutely adore the third and fourth, then they pretty much lost me until I warmed up a bit to the ninth and generally liked the tenth. Whew, that’s a lot. Then when they realized they ran out of ideas and it had been a while without one and came up with the eleventh, the retro one for 2002, I was back on board. And until this summer every one I’d seen had been in very good shape, generally a weekend car, and probably polished and pampered way more than the average car. Then this July I came across this one.
Yes, it needs a bit of work. And yes, those are not one, but two ladders on top of it. Never mind those. What we have here is not just a Thunderbird, but a 50th Anniversary one from the 2005 model year, which was also the last year of production. I still don’t understand how it’s the 50th since if 1955 was the first year, that would make 2005 the 51st year, not the 50th, but that’s marketing math for you I suppose.
Obviously there was some sort of frontal impact, perhaps an animal strike, perhaps a fender bender in traffic, but enough to damage most of the front end sheetmetal and likely some substructure parts. The platform itself, though no body parts obviously, was shared with the Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-Type, and it was built at Ford’s Wixom plant.
If you’ve ever spent time in the Lincoln LS, then this instrument panel is familiar. Along with the steering wheel and some smaller trim pieces, it is shared which obviously helps to bring down the production costs of a fairly low volume model. I wouldn’t call this exactly opulent, but it is cleanly designed and relatively attractive, if perhaps lacking a little in the pizzazz aspect; it is a Thunderbird after all, and a little over-the-topness was part and parcel of that in the earlier days.
Behind this badge sits the engine which started out as a Jaguar designed 3.9l DOHC V8 known as the AJ-30, but as of 2003 was replaced by another Jaguar unit, the AJ-35, a modified unit of the AJ-30 now producing 280hp and 286lb-ft of torque backed by a 5-speed automatic transmission.
I find the taillight design to be excellent, not so much the porthole windows in the removable hardtop, but the overall proportions work for me, especially when viewed from this angle, and even better with the top down. The Thunderbird has gone through so many different sizes, styles, and personas over the decades that almost anything goes, there really is no “one” theme. But at day’s end it remains instantly recognizable as a Thunderbird.
The new front bumper is straddling the back, the hood is on the roof, the replacement fender’s already attached and the boxes probably hold a bunch of other necessary stuff. It doesn’t look like it needs all that much work to get back on the road, but probably needs more time than whoever’s car this is has at present. And thus, it sits here in the open behind a gas station a stone’s throw from I-80.
I believe this color is Platinum Silver (very much a pearl white) and while pretty, it isn’t my favorite color on this, I think a dark gray of all colors would look great here, or perhaps a blue, something to set off the very minimal brightwork. However in 2005 there were only five colors available – this one, a bluish-silver metallic, then bronze, red, and black. Curiously though there were SIX interior colors or color combinations available and the hardtop could in some cases be a contrasting color, i.e. not every color choice forced a matching hardtop color, for example a red car could have a red, black, or white top even though you could not have a white car. Only blue and bronze forced the same color top.
The turquoise inlay in the logo on the rear decklid is a great historical touch and looks perfect.
I certainly hope this one gets back on the road, I haven’t been by in a while to check if it’s still there. If it were mine, the hardtop would be in the garage rafters somewhere and this would be a wonderful ride to take across the interstate a long way away and then once arrived somewhere, perhaps a coast, drop the top and tootle around aimlessly just taking in the scenery. Of course the weather would be perfect. As would the companionship.
As it turned out, the new T-Bird had a great first year of just over 19,000 sales but still under Ford’s projected 25,000, then sales plummeted before they pulled the plug after the fourth year. The last one rolled off the line on July 1, 2005, over fourteen years ago. In all likelihood the pricing was a big factor starting at around $40,000 back in ’02 which was probably about $10,000 more than it should have been to be a bigger success. Not everybody was or is a fan, but I for one am glad Ford gave it another chance and did so with the style and grace it deserved.