(First published 1/8/2014) I was going through my photo stream and found pictures I took of this Ford Thunderbird four-door early last spring. I completely forgot I took these, but remember the car vividly. In fact, I’ve seen this exact car several times in my neck of the woods, most recently last August at a nearby mechanic’s garage. From the grille, I instantly recognized this formal-looking T-Bird as a 1967, the first year of both the model’s fifth generation and the sedan body style.
Ford had been gradually moving the Thunderbird upmarket since its 1955 introduction, and the 1967 continued the trend. Restyled with even more formal looks, the ’67 T-Bird could have easily been sold as a Lincoln. Switching to body-on-frame construction, it was larger, more comfortable, and more luxurious than prior versions.
From a styling standpoint, these ’67s introduced many features that would become increasingly popular during both the “Great Brougham Epoch” and the late ’60s/early ’70s in general. These included hidden headlights, curved lines, convex body sides, a “formal” roof line with landau roof, tufted seats, and vast amounts of interior wood grain trim.
The most radical change for 1967 however, was that for the first time, the Thunderbird was available as a four-door sedan. In a further nod to Ford’s upmarket ambitions, rear hinged “suicide doors,” similar to those on the Lincoln Continental, prominently featured. All sedans came standard with the vinyl roof and landau bars, resulting in the model’s official name of “Landau Sedan”. The Thunderbird’s traditional convertible model was concurrently dropped with the introduction of the sedan.
With numerous standard features and luxury options, the 1967 Thunderbird was the most expensive vehicle in Ford’s lineup. In fact, its prices were higher than that of any Ford or Mercury vehicle, and the Landau Sedan was priced within $730 (about $5,000 adjusted for inflation) of the least expensive Lincoln Continental.
1967s were powered by a standard 390 cubic inch (6.4L) V8, or an available 428 cu in (7.0L) V8, making 315 and 345 horsepower, respectively. The car I found was equipped with bucket seats, covered in genuine leather hide – a T-Bird exclusive in the Ford lineup (’68 interior pictured directly above). Among the more interesting features was the “Convenience Control Panel”. Located between the two front visors, the CCP comprised of four circular warning lights for seat belt reminder, door-ajar, low-fuel, and emergency blinker light use. Speed-activated power door looks, a safety feature common on many of today’s vehicles, were also new for 1967.
On a personal note, I happen to really appreciate this feature on my current car. When I was about 5, my cousin accidentally opened the rear door as we were going around a highway off ramp at significant speed. It was on the outboard side of the vehicle going around the turn, causing it to swing open fully. I was rather traumatized by the experience, and needless to say, I like all doors locked when I drive.
While it was certainly a departure from the model’s initial concept, and condemned by many loyalists, I happen to really like these four-door T-Birds. The two-door ’67s didn’t wear the styling as well, with the formal roof line appearing too tall, and the sedan did a better job accentuating the car’s seductive curves. The four-door also did a better job of hiding the landau roof’s choppiness.
The four-door T-bird was dropped after a few years after slow sales, but was, in reality, was ahead of its time. While two-door coupes would remain popular, the early ’80s would see four-door sedans increasingly accounting for the bulk of luxury car sales. This trend would continue, eventually leading to the extinction of the “personal luxury car” segment which the Thunderbird largely created.
While 4 doors are not inherently better than 2 in the case of a suicide door Thunderbird, 4 doors is MORE INTERESTING than 2.
Another example of Iaccoca stomping all over Mercury and Lincoln territory with a Ford.
“Another example of Iaccoca stomping all over Mercury and Lincoln territory with a Ford.”
Agreed, but there appeared to be some business logic to this move, albeit from the opposite end of the model hierarchy: Lido wanted less competition for well equipped Mustangs, which had higher profit margins.
In the end the stomping appears to have been all over the T-Bird. ’67 sales were marginally better than ’66, but by ’71 sales were less than half of those in ’67 (to be fair, by this point the T-Bird was in its fifth model year of this generation).
I don’t think the Mustang factored into it. Keep in mind that at that point there was a spread of close to a thousand dollars between a loaded Mustang and the cheapest Thunderbird (and of course the likelihood of finding a Thunderbird for less than about five grand was pretty low).
The T-Bird was also considerably more profitable on a unit basis than the Mustang, which was itself a lucrative product. The Thunderbird was easily the most profitable car Ford Division (and possibly Ford) made in those days; for a while they were making something close to $2K per car.
The business case had to do with plant capacity. The T-Bird and Continental had the Wixom assembly plant to themselves, but they weren’t using all its capacity. Ford needed to add some other profitable Thunderbird/Continental-based niche products to keep Wixom in the black and the convertibles weren’t doing it. Hence, the Thunderbird four-door Landau and the Mark III.
I guess by 1971, the T-bird faced more competition with Pontiac who had put the Grand Prix in a G-body variant of the A-body intermediate chassis for 1969 and the introduction of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo for 1970 and to a latter extend, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme besides the Toronado and it was the first year for the boat-tail Buick Riviera. Chrysler tried some attempts with a brougham-ized Dodge Charger SE and Plymouth Satellite Sebring until the arrival of the Cordoba.
Although by the time these were in production, Iacocca was group VP of the Car and Truck Group, so all three became his responsibility.
while I pretty much love all vintage American cars, as far as newer cars go, I absolutely loathe 4 door sedans. The only use I can see for them are as taxicabs. Out of 20+ cars I have owned only one was a 4 door. A 1973 Chevelle Laguna woodgrain station wagon. I bought it more out of necessity than anything else. I absolutely loved the mid ’70s Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, Cutlass, Regal, Granada and Monarch 2 doors, the Gran Torino Elite, and a number of other such cars. They had beautiful styling with their landau roofs and opera windows. People claim the ’70s were a stagnant period for the auto industry, and as far as power went, they were. But the ’70s produced some of the most beautiful designs ever. Other than the ’55-’57, The ’77-’79 was my favorite year for the Thunderbird.
I’m with you all the way!!
Ah, a black Thunderbird. It’s amazing how a few paint pigments can totally change the demeanor of a car.
So this triggers a memory here….Back in the mid- to late-’90’s, there was an old Ford dealer building in Murphysboro, Illinois. The gentleman who owned it at the time had a true affinity for the fifth generation Thunderbird, having a red sedan and a coupe in the showroom. While driving by one day, the overhead doors along the side of the building were open. The shop area was full of more 5th Gen Birds, at least 25 from what I could see.
I drove by this building over the weekend; the same name is on the front window, but there are no cars visible.
these always look sharp in dark colors. the bright colors don’t do it justice.
60s Fords were great looking cars,the Thunderbird however took a step back styling wise.I prefer the previous 4 seater T-birds(all of them were among the best looking American cars).It reminds me of a middle aged playboy,I’d take a 67 Cougar over a 67 T-bird anyday
To me, the last real T-Birds were the ’66 models. From that point on, they became less and less special. I like the ’83-’88, but even they weren’t in a stratum of their own like the earlier ones.
This is a really nice example, but I always felt like the sedan diluted the brand.
I agree. The ’64-66 ‘Birds are the best looking. I like them even more than the ’55-57’s
My favourites are the 61-63 “bullet” ‘Birds, but I like the 64-66’s as well. The ’67 restyle never did anything for me, and I agree about the 4-door being a misstep.
Another vote here for the “bullet birds.” I love them almost as much as I loathe the “square birds.”
Agreed…A ’61-’63 ‘Bird is on my list of 30.
Back in the day we had a 65 T-Bird, my favorite of the four-seaters. I didn’t much like the changes made to the 66 as I thought they corrupted the design a bit. Besides the Flair Birds, I also love the 61-63 models.
I’ve never liked the 67’s, not from the first day that I saw one in the showroom. For me Thunderbird as a symbol of a something “unique in all the world” died the day the 67 was introduced. I’ll never get over the horror of good friends (an elderly couple) who traded in their pristine 64 (silver, black interior) and 65 (baby blue, white interior) T-Birds for a new 67 T-Bird and Mustang in matching colors (a pale green body with what I recall was a dark green or black vinyl top -ugh). Both were factory-ordered and the Mustang had the 390!
Oh my god, that ’68 interior… Wow
This car is much more handsome than my 67 Lincoln. Yes, these cars are handsome in 2 or 4 door models.
Heresy!!! You’d better take that back, before you’re haunted by the angry spirits of the late Elwood Engel… 🙂
I personally prefer ’67 Lincoln styling over the ’67 Thunderbird, either 2 or 4 door. I don’t know if Engel would have cared either way. 🙂 His baby was the ’61 Lincoln, which was considerably changed in the details by ’67. After the Lincoln, Engel thankfully jumped ship to work at Chrysler.
I’m sorry but my mind is made up, this car is much more handsome than my 67 Lincoln. Perhaps my car gets a few points for being a convertible. I do have a 65 Imperial LeBaron that Mr. Engel had a hand in that I love, but the Thunderbird in this article is just awesome!
I almost bought a 68 T-bird 4 door, in navy blue with black top. Sharp looking car, sadly I had to pass.
Not fast with the 429 I clocked it to 60 in about 9-10 seconds, but even for today’s standards, it was a well equipped and nicely trimmed car. It was quiet, and rode nice, even with 50,000 mile suspension under it.
Love the looks of these cars, and wouldn’t mind owning one, though Dad says the last of the T-birds was 57.
This car is in amazing condition, and the black really does it justice. While I prefer earlier T-birds, I do still admire this design, at least before Bunkie Knudsen slapped the snout on it for 1970. There is a 1968 2-door coupe (non-Landau) that I’ve seen driving around my town. It’s light blue with a white top and interior, and I find it very striking. The cleaner roofline of the 2-door coupe is better looking to me than the Landau 2-door, and I agree that the best expression of the “Landau look” is the 4-door, especially the way the rear door opening on the c-pillar aligns with the landau bar.
Also, perhaps this car is a very early precursor to the current crop of 4-door “coupes” like the Mercedes CLS and BMW Gran Coupe (never thought I’d write BMW “Gran” anything–reminds me more of a Plymouth than the Autobahn).
Wow, I had to check this with google. BMW really DOES make a current model called the Gran Coupe. It’s available with a carbon fiber roof. So carbon fiber is the new vinyl? 🙂
Not only is carbon fiber the new vinyl, it’s the new cheesy fake wood too!
I’m sure that the car shown here doesn’t see much Massachusetts winter driving – it looks to be in beautiful shape.
There was no marketing reason to continue the 4 door Thunderbird for ’72, but IMO there was no excuse not to bring it back for ’77 – it would’ve been a matter of putting different front clip and taillights on an LTD II sedan. Same with the ’80-82, and by the ’83’s development cycle the writing would be on the wall.
If there had been a four door T-bird in the ’90s there’d be one now.
That would have been a mistake in my opinion, then again once the Thunderbird shared its body with the Cougar it lost something too. Perhaps its style was compromised, perhaps it was the way things were going, but the 1970’s T-birds don’t “look like” what a T-bird should be to me.
In the parking lot of Whole (paycheck) Foods….shocking!
About six weeks ago I documented finds from a Whole Foods. It was enlightening; there were more Subarus than anything, but there were a few surprises.
Watch what you say about Whole Foods – I work there.
And yes you can find ways to spend your whole paycheck there (on imported cheeses, olive oils, Belgian chocolate, and prepared foods), trust me if you’re just buying the basics, you can easily stay in budget. Many of the foods I buy at Whole Foods are actually more expensive in other supermarkets.
Love the 2-door and 4-door equally well but don’t like them in black. Makes it hard to see/appreciate the complex body forms. The 67-69 T-bird, along with the Continental and Mark, look nice with aftermarket rims. I prefer the front side markers and cornering lamps on the 68-69. On the 67s it looks like something is missing.
This would be perfect except for the RWL tires.
I never liked the 67 T-bird 4 door sedan but the 2 door looks a whole lot better.I’ve never seen a 2 door in the metal but have seen plenty 4 doors.
That looks like the EXACT car I saw a few weeks ago, where did you find that pic?
I loved the look of that car, especially with the muscle car spec wheels and tires on the more formal looking T-bird. I’d definitely drive one…
I found it on the internet. Was looking for an example of the way I like to see these cars, lighter lower color, landau roof line with black top and performance wheels. Leaner and younger than a contemporary Riv.
The torq thrusts make that car!
Even though these have nowhere near the classic & collectible status of ’66 and earlier, I like them anyway. Must be the Quinn-Martin effect.
WRT the Speed Activated Locks, they were a short lived option that was also offered in big Fords and Mercurys. Controlled by a Rube Goldbergian network of vacuum lines, valves and actuators, a litany of issues led to their discontinuance part way thru ’67. Among the problems were the doors locking themselves in car washes, locking sporadically on their own while the vehicle was parked, and refusing to unlock when the car was stopped. My dad’s ’67 LTD displayed the latter 2 problems. And that vacuum was strong. It was difficult to pull up the lock plunger while pulling the door handle. And once, the doors locked at gas station with the keys in the car.
These are the first Tbirds I remember as a boy, and the first or second car that ever captivated me. That landau bar just seemed so outlandish, and it drew me in every time.
Love that car. I spent many hours just staring at the 68 T Bird in the brochure parked in front of the Learjet in the brochure back in the day. Thought it was just so beautiful. If only Dad could afford such a car. I know many would disagree but my favorite 4 dr. may be the 70-71 with the beak. It is so unique and the styling of all 4 door T-Birds whispers 57-58 Cadilac Eldorado Brougham at a much more affordable price.
Looks like I’m in the minority, but I always thought these 4-door ‘Birds looked absurd. The black paint job masks some of the ugliness a bit, but the ungainly proportions and the way the rear door opening slices into the already preposterous landau roof makes this one of the ugliest cars of the 60s in my eyes.
We had a neighbor who owned one of these. It was white with a black top. It looked like something a schoolboy doodled onto the back his notebook during math class.
I’m with you. I think it’s kind of an aesthetic horror, albeit fascinating in a perverse sort of way.
See, I think this is the ONLY way to do a 4-door sedan. Suicide doors, coupled with the thick C-pillar and the longer front windows than quarter windows make it look coupe-like. Instead of stodgy and boring, this actually looks classy and interesting.
Now, if only someone would do a suicide door/modified C-pillar kit for the Chrysler 300C….
c5karl: “It looked like something a schoolboy doodled onto the back his notebook during math class.”
This brought me a big smile. My wife and I refer to awkward designs–whether the factory’s or the owner/modifier’s–as “study hall cars.”
I think that my thoughts about this car are best summed up here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/uncategorized/curbside-classic-1968-thunderbird-who-am-i-why-am-i-here/
That said, this black 4 door is about as attractive as these get. I could live with this car. But never one of the 2 doors.
The Thunderbird, like the Dodge Charger, is a great nameplate in search of a car. While many decried Chrysler for bringing back the Charger name on a four-door sedan in 2006, it’s definitely worked for them in sales. So, too, would a resurrected Thunderbird four-door sedan and, unlike the Charger, there would actually be precedence for it with the original ’67-’71 four-door.
Frankly, with brand recognition associating Ford with Thunderbird being very nearly that of Mustang, it’s unfathomable that Ford let the Thunderbird nameplate go after the lame ’02-’05 retro ‘Bird.
Lido gone wild, but still kind of ugly. I was impressed at the time these came out about how Ford tried to disguise the rear doors with an abundance of padded vinyl landau roof treatment, which I did find kind of cool – not the roof, but how the doors were treated so the car would appear as a coupe.
Clearly, the latest from Ford with the fish-maw grille take its inspiration from these.
It’s amazing what a color can do for a car. These cars were never favorites of mine, but the black four door would make me look twice, maybe three times. And the interior is beautiful. Several years ago, “Hemmings Classic Car” featured a ’68 two door in red with black upholstery. That car was a honey, too.
One of our Photoshoppers should chop the dumb roof off this thing. I think it would be a really handsome convertible sedan.
I think the four-door, particularly in black, disguises the awkward proportions of this car that make it look like it was cobbled up from something else…or maybe like a test mule for next year’s model.
By the way, THANK YOU for the proper non-apostrophe-adorned “1967s” with which the sixth paragraph of your essay opens. Improper apostrophication, even endorsed by spell-checkers on some modern devices (just because Apple says so doesn’t make it right) is further evidence of how the language is in decline, even more so (and more commonly) than absurd misuse such as the “means exactly opposite” of “I could care less.”
The sedan was on a longer wheelbase, which seems to have helped the proportions quite a lot. The Mark III used the sedan’s longer wheelbase and looked much better because of it.
Thank you for standing up for proper use of apostrophes. It’s good to see them in their rightful place. Good to know I’m not the only apostrophe fan.
Thanks G. Poon! I make an effort to proofread posts I’ve written several times before I schedule them.
I definitely agree with you. Just the other day I was reading an article online and the writer said that their grandmother “past away”. I noticed it immediately.
I dislike the anteater snout. IMO it;’s easily Ford’s most unattractive front end of the 60’s. Now compared to something from the 70s, it’s a jewel. If I were buying luxury that year I would have looked at it and gone to Chevy for a leftover ’66 Caprice SS 396.
The front of these birds always reminded me of an electric shaver.
On the contrary, the clean modern grille thrusting forward from the fenders is clean and unique. I prefer it to the ponderous chrome creations of the previous generation.
It’s odd and a shame they didn’t offer a console shifter on these ‘birds.
+1…especially on the console-shifter!
Hate to say it but I prefer the Bunkie Beak facelift on these. Though I do wonder how the sleeker 70 Coupe body would look with the 67 front end.
Something like this I guess.
Nice looking front end styling. It’s too bad Ford didn’t use it for the 1970 Thunderbird. It would’ve been more attractive than the pointed beak of a nose that graced the 1970 Thunderbird.
something like this
I missed this the first time round, that looks great!
This generation of T-bird looms large in my memory, because as a 10 year old I saw one burn.
Us kids were cycling along a country road, and came across a smoking car in the middle of the road and stuck around to see what happened. It was fully engulfed by the time the FD showed up, pretty exciting stuff for a country kid.
When it was towed away there was an incredible amount of pot metal melted onto the pavement, and the scorch mark remained for years.
’67 wins….for the more beautiful dashboard. 1968 marks the year that the TBird (and most other cars) received blander, “safer” dash designs….
I remember this pic from Collectible Automobile, about July 1999. Why did the owner put a Plymouth steering wheel on it? And why did CA use this example to photograph?
Why did the owner put a Plymouth steering wheel on it?
Probably because it looked better. The actual 67 wheel was an old style deep dish design, with a huge padded hub. The 68 has a much cleaner, flatter style of wheel.
and here, 1968…
Thanks for the comparison: that’s interesting. I’d be giddy with any ’67-’71 Thunderbird Sportsroof or Fordor. These cars, especially the ’70-’71 years are my favorite Thunderbirds of them all.
I really shouldn’t like this, as that Landau top with the bars is rather awkward. But for some reason I do.
So, we have Ford winning with an upscale Galaxie selling as the LTD, and an upscale Falcon selling as the Mustang. Why wouldn’t Iacocca try an upscale Thunderbird? His marketing sniffer was on track, just not in this configuration. Within another generation, Lee found more marketing gold on the new Mark III, then Broughamified the entire Ford lineup. Within a decade you could get a four-door Broughamified Maverick and a Broughamified Pinto selling as the Bobcat.
We don’t know what would have happened if this four door succeeded, but it didn’t fail because the market signals weren’t pointing in a different direction – that is for sure!
BTW – I don’t like it. The roofline and four door cutout is ghastly. The landau bar goes from an non-functional embarrassment to a non-functional embarrassment trying to hide a design wart of a roof. The snout of this car is too heavy, especially with that grille. The front overhang is not a plus. To think that it looks like that just to give the car a long hood turns my stomach.
In my opinion, the four-door Thunderbird shouldn’t have ever seen the light of day. It looks move like an embarrassing show car mock-up than a real product.
I think it would look right at home in a funeral procession. Which I suppose would be rather awkward as a daily driver.
’67 wins….for the more beautiful dashboard.
I had a 67 Landau, first car I owned. Really hated that chromy dash because of the glare. imho the government ban on chrome dashs, which produced the fake woodgrain dash in 68 was a good move. Wonder what happened to that ban as my Taurus X had huge chrome bezels on the insturments and vents and the glare takes me back to 1972 and not in a good way.
The Bird was pretty tired by the time I had it. If I shut the 390 off for a few minutes, the oil would drain down and the starter could barely turn it. Let it sit and cool for another 15 minutes and it would start fine. Talked with the owner of a 63 Bird at a car show last summer. His does the same thing. He also said he has a tranny fluid leak that he can’t find. I suggested he check the front pump seal, as that is where mine leaked.
Other oddities; the turn signal sequencer was mechanical. I could hear the electric motor’s rrrr..rrr…..rrrr..rrr as I sat at a light, and the sparking of the contacts would produce static in the AM radio. By the time they made my 70 Cougar, the sequencer was transistorized and all I heard was a faint clicking of the relays that the sequencer switched on and off.
Had some grief with the hidden headlights. A vacuum leak rendered them nonfunctional one night. Fortunately, I could open them by hand and they stayed open until I got home. Found the split vacuum hose the next day. This issue was also resolved in the 70 Cougar as the doors would open automatically, and stay open, if vacuum was lost.
Those Ford starters of that era would fail fairly soon, also. My 67 Galaxie 390 would barely turn over when hot (it was fine when cold), but then I replaced the starter and all was well again. An older friend who worked at the parts store told me that this particular Ford starter design had a notoriously short life.
Somewhere, a Hummingbird is laughing. 🙂
Those Ford starters of that era would fail fairly soon, also. My 67 Galaxie 390 would barely turn over when hot (it was fine when cold), but then I replaced the starter and all was well again.
Heh. And besides your 67, my 67, and the 63 at the car show, a friend of mine in high school had a 62 Bird with the same thing, barely turn over when hot.
Then there was the issue with the Ford bendix. Before I bought the 67, I looked at a 68 4 door, but the bendix was failing, took two or three tries before the starter would engage and wind up the 429. Replaced the bendix on my 70 Cougar twice. About fell off of the sofa when I saw the mid 70s Ford ad with Bill Cosby, touting a bendix with 5 cams “because it will last longer than a starter drive with only 4 cams”, so I guess Ford finally surrendered and solved their long standing bendix issues.
The Cougar had another starter trick: everything would be fine until one day, I turned the key and only heard the click of the solenoid. Learned that the cable attaches to a stud on the starter case, but the stud is only held by a couple threads, which strip after a few years, the cable comes lose and not enough current flows to spin the starter. I could get a new Ford starter, with the same design flaws for $60…had the stud welded in place on the old starter for $15 and never had another problem with it.
Wow…I didn’t know these were a known problem. On my ’66 Galaxie (390 2-bbl), I went through three starters in short order…the original died soon after I got the car roadworthy again (it had been sitting for two years and also abused by my pal’s ex…don’t ask), then I put in a cheapie rebuild, which failed, got it exchanged, and then in that one apparently there was a short – it wouldn’t stop trying to start, but there was always so much valve clatter I didn’t realize… and it eventually burned up the entire sparkplug wire set and starter wiring…while I was driving it (when you’re 17 that’s pretty damned scary, when tons of smoke start pouring out of your hood and you have NO idea why…) Bought a top-end rebuild, badass Champion plugs and wires, never happened again…
To make the openings large enough for people to get through them, the rear doors had to incorporate a portion of the sail panels. Looked really weird. Interesting, too, how no one since even tried to incorporate suicide doors until the current Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.
Er, and the Mazda RX-8 and the unlamented Saturn Ion coupe, inter alia.
Mazda pickups use suicide rear doors they also come in black and look much better than this, Once Ford decided the Thunderbird was a fat four seater rather than a sporty looking model 4 doors was a natural progression never mind how ugly it is.
Landau bars on the inside too! Illuminated, yet!
The Derby Street Shops… A CC in my home town.
I was wondering which WF that is… I live in Medford and I’m not very familiar with the South Shore.
Regarding the car: I don’t consider myself a huge FoMoCo fan, but I’ve always liked these. I accept the compromises needed to integrate the rear doors into the overall design; I like it mainly because it’s distinctive and different. Great wheel covers too.
I love these! Only lately have I appreciated the coupes. I had a 71 Mark III and a 64 Thunderbird convertible. I think the sail panels are ingenious. If you didn’t buy into the “formal roof” starting with the 58 T-Bird, it wouldn’t make sense I suppose. Buyers liked the luxury look. It carried over to the entire Ford line. At least until the aero 1963 1/2 fastback debuted. If anything the roof looks more like the 55-57 hardtop. Note that the crisp lines of the coupe roof are abandoned for a more rounded look with a very similar rear window opening.
I still don’t think the 70-71 body meshed with this roof. Here I prefer the sportsroof.
Lincoln did make a 4 door Mark III, one for Mrs. Ford!
Perfect for an auto magnate’s wife, but it would have spoiled the Mark III image if it had been mass produced. Part of the prestige of coupe only cars was that they were coupe only, and the message was that the owner was not so saddled with kids and other responsibilities that they could still drive a coupe.
I’m not so convinced it’d have spoiled the image by mass production (“mass” being a relative term here!). I see it as more of an image-enhancer and a precursor to the Merc CLS et al of recent years.
I agree. I thought the Mark III looked way better as a 2 door coupe than a 4 door sedan.
While it was certainly a departure from the model’s initial concept…
It sure was. Has any model ever suffered more mission drift/mission creep than Ford’s beloved Thunderbird? Lots of cars (d)evolve over time; it’s to be expected. My wiry, spartan Datsun 240Z of the early ’70s was a far cry from the plusher, softer, turnpike-cruising 280Z 2+2 it became before the decade was out. But can anyone point to a vehicle that more completely strayed from its original vision than the T-Bird?
Consider the massive and fundamental changes from the Gen1 to the Gen5 — in the space of only 12 years:
* 2-door only
* 2-seater only
* Convertible only
* Floor-mounted manual or automatic
* 2-door or 4-door
* 4-seater only
* Fixed-roofs only
* Column-shifted automatic only
* Less sporty than Broughamy
After all that mucking around with the original concept, is it really “the same car” anymore? Whatever their faults or merits, did the 1967-onward Thunderbirds still deserve to be called Thunderbirds? As someone who prefers the earlier generations — all of them — Gen5 feels less like a progression than a betrayal.
The matching tufted-leather sofas are nice, though.
It’s a T-bird Jim but not as we know it.It’s incredible to think how far apart the 55 and 67 T birds were in just 12 years.It’s like going to a school reunion and finding the star athlete is now a fat balding middle aged man
With an open collar and gold neck chain.
He probably wears half a bottle of aftershave also
That happened to more than one jock as school faded into the past…
Not that Carmine has commented here, but I imagine he, like me, would take a ’67 Riv or Toro over these any day.
A little late response here, but, no. I would have taken a ’67 Grand Prix 🙂 .
My opinions on this car are all over the place, kind of like the Thunderbird name has been all over the marketplace.
When I was about eight in 1972, our neighbor was picked up by his car pool in one of these 4 doors. It looked unique and important with that Landau Bar on the sail panel. I didn’t know what kind of car it was.
At some point I built a model of a ’70 or so coupe. I can recall seeing the 4 doors occasionally through the ’70s.
The ’67 – ’71 Birds never really tripped my trigger. The few pics I’ve seen in modern times left me mostly negative. Some of the trim and styling features are quite delicate and tend to not age well.
But, the subject car and some of the promotional pics seem surprisingly attractive to me at this point. Overall, the car really looks like it should be a “mid-size” Lincoln as it is just beyond anything else that was in a Ford showroom at the time.
The 4 door was a mistake in the long run. Coupes were so popular at the time, and “exclusive” luxury coupes were big profit centers for many brands. Being offered as a coupe only was part of the cachet. Thunderbird was the only model to go against the logic at the time and it didn’t go well for the nameplate.
Enjoyable write-up there Brendan, thank you!
Growing up in my small rural New Zealand hometown, a neighbour of one of the local Churches owned a bronze 4-door ’67 ‘Bird (He also owned a Borgward Isabella and a DKW of some description, all three being very eclectic choices in late 70s/80s small town NZ!). The ‘Bird was imprinted on my mind from about the age of 5 (in 1979!), and is one of my earliest car memories. Seeing it around for the next 15+ years helped keep it fresh in my mind.
Maybe it’s my lifelong familiarity with that bronze one, but I love both the concept and the finished result of the 4-door Thunderbird – to me it represents the stylish exclusivity so espoused by the Merc CLS etc today (although the CLS doesn’t have suicide doors of course). Considering the more mass-market underpinings of such cars means they can be cost effective profit factories for their manufacturers too.
Final note: speed-activated door-locks are indeed great, until you pull up curbside and your passengers can’t get out until you pop the switch! The Ford Sierras I drove through the 90s were great in that pulling the internal door handle automatically unlocked the door, but in the Nissans I’ve driven since, pulling the handle does nothing except irritate my trapped passengers. Can’t win ’em all! 😉
Great write-up…lots of info I had no idea about! I’m shocked at how much I absolutely love this car (and its 1968 brother)…never dug ’em before, but in this dark, sinister black (and I’ll take mine with that tan leather interior) it’s simply one bad mutha (shut your mouth) of a machine. I want it…now….
The original Abercrombie and Fitch ordered 5 special 1967 “Apollo” Edition Landau coupes for display in their 5 stores in New York, San Francisco, Palm Beach, Chicago and Miami. All had custom blue paint and a dark blue leather interior.
Details here: http://automotivemileposts.com/tbird1967apollo.html
Really glad you wrote this up. I have an odd affection for these cars, at least the 4 doors – the coupes were pretty ghastly, especially the roof lines. It’s funny that they switched to body on frame but kept the suicide doors, while Lincoln did the opposite a couple of years later…
I think this generation is very underrated. They’re also quite scarce these days. In all the car shows I went to last year, I saw only one, a 1968 hardtop.
They are out there! But less and less as any car model that is 40+ years old. I was Fab Fords at Knottsberry Farm two years ago, and a gentleman was kind enough to let me sit in the back seat of his suicide door 69 T-Bird. (NOT to missed if you are a Ford fan!)
Reminds me of my favourite Crown.
@ Robert Swartz. Some of my National Geo t-bird ads describe the sunroof as the ‘moonroof’, was that the name given on the Apollo edition?
It may have just been a marketing buzzword on the T-bird, but I thought that the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof is that a moonroof is an opaque panel that doesn’t let in any light when closed.
EDIT: After searching google, the consensus is that I had it somewhat backwards. A sunroof may be glass or an opaque panel when closed. A moonroof is specifically a sunroof that is glass so light still enters the vehicle when it is closed.
I’ve always loved the Toyota Crown. I’ve never seen one in person, but I’ve seen pics of the car, and I’ve always wondered why Toyota never sold them in the same numbers in the USA as the other cars Toyota sold.
My uncle and aunt had a dark-blue ’69 four-door in the mid-1970s.
As an adolescent who was into European cars, I remember noticing that (1) the turbine wheel covers weighed a ton – they weren’t just sheet metal – and (2) the suspension bottomed out at the slightest provocation.
But the suicide doors were really cool 🙂
I see the tilt-a-way steering wheel still works on the photographed car.
In 1974, my brother-in-law showed up at a family gathering with a ’68 or ’69 Thunderbird 2-door. I thought, Hmmm. Found a ’69 Thunderbird for $1,000 at a Ford dealer in Glendale (CA). For sale- ‘As-Is’. Had a few electrical issues. I picked it up anyway. Loved driving it. UNfortunately, then the gas crisis hit, and our combined income didn’t allow enough $$ to put gas into it.
When I was a kid, the neighbors had a T-Bird like the one in this great piece – theirs was maroon with a black top, IIRC. Fast-forward to summer, 2013 – My 76 year-old Father, down in Southern Indiana, bought a ’67 coupe from a friend a couple of farms over. His was an authentic “barn car”, as it had been sitting in the same building for 26 years. It’s a dark metallic green one with black top and interior – and the 428. I’d seen it, years before, in the barn – damn, it’s big. He spent the last half of the summer getting it running, and it now goes pretty well. I’m looking forward to driving it some time later this year . . .
The sedan was a complete misstep. Maybe I’m in the minority, but yeah, it’s ugly.
What a great debate. The thing is most of your cars of the 50s 60s and early 70 were truly amazing. They obviously had their faults, but you could seldom argue that not much thought went into the design. Growing up in New Zealand in the 60s and 70s most of our cars were plain-Jane English, Australian and Japanese sedans. American cars were nearly always private imports and they drew enormous attention. In the late 60s when I saw my first Mercury Cougar with the sequential indicators I was hooked. I’m lucky enough to own one now. Also been eyeing up a ’67 T-bird coupe with the 429 motor. Possibly not as nice as the ’66 but to these aging eyes still pretty damned handsome. When it came to automotive offerings the USA gave the biggest bang for the buck, by a country mile. Unfortunatly you are starting to realise it and the prices are climbing steadily, and rightly so.
Also been eyeing up a ’67 T-bird coupe with the 429 motor.
Might do a double check on the engine. iirc, the standard engine in 67 (mine was a 67) was the 390, with the 428 optional.
The 429, an engine with a vastly better reputation, replaced the 390 and 428 in 68. I also prefer the 68 dash and steering wheel, to the mass of chrome and brushed aluminum on the dash of my 67. The 67s also had a bizzare huge padded thing on the steering wheel hub. The 68s had a flat faced wheel, see the pix above, though the 67 pic above does not show the padding on the 67 wheel.
This pic is of a 67 Mustang, but it shows the bizzare padded wheel hub Ford used across the line that year.
This is one of my favourite car designs of all time. I love how the rear window joins to meet the “Landau” iron, truly a unique treatment! The 1971 model strikes me even more, due to it’s Bunkie Beak” pointed front end grill. Why can’t cars today have interesting design details like these?
I’ve always liked the 1967-69 Ford Thunderbird. If I could find one in nice original condition, I’d buy a 4 door version.
Call me weird but my favorite of this generation is the seldom seen ’70-’71 Landau. The long front window / short rear window of the four doors reminds me a bit of the upscale Chrysler ‘R’ bodies of the late ’70s / early ’80s of which I apparently also am the only fan.
I’ve always liked 1967-69 4 door version over the 2 door version. The two door is nice, but I find the four door more attractive.
I guess I’m that fat balding guy with the open collar shirt the Cuban link silver chain (I don’t like gold)around my neck and drenched in Dolce&Cabana Light Blue driving that custom dark grey 4 door 68 Thunderbird with the cowl hood 67 GT 500 rear lights front and rear spoilers front Recaro bucket power leather seats Ultra 454 rims wrapped in Perreli P zeros so it can handle the 635 HP when I pop the clutch of it’s 6 speed transmission you’ll know it’s me because all you’ll see is the phrase “You’ve Been Thunder Struck” on either the right or left of the quarter panels!!!! LMAO ? But I really enjoyed reading all the opinions!
These were quite the polarizing cars right from introduction, Square-Bird, Bullet-Bird and Flair-Bird had established a design language that was expected to continue. This series was a nearly total departure and shock for a segment that prized continuity.
Lamenting the demise of the Thunderbird convertible and grousing about the Landau Sedan as replacement was common. The rear-hinged doors, necessary for entry-egress, did assuage some of the unhappiness being associated the Lincoln Continental.
In planning the Thunderbird four door to fill out Wixom plant capacity, there was an additional car being developed to utilized the 117″ wheelbase chassis: Continental Mark III. It also shares the coupe substructure with the Thunderbird, albeit reskinned to that unique Mark Continental styling. Considering how much was shared and what little required new tooling, the Mark III had to be a cash cow non-pareil that made even the Thunderbird pale by comparison. Iacocca strikes again!
I hear what the folks lamenting the direction the T-Bird took in 1967 are saying.
To me the pre-67 T-Birds personify (for lack of a better word) the gestalt of their eras. The pre-Bullet Birds say Rock-n-Roll, bobby socks and poodle skirts. The Bullet Birds and the Flare Birds say Space Age.
Maybe the problem with the 1967’s is not the cars. Maybe the problem is that the promise of the 1950’s and early 1960’s devolved into the confusion of the later 1960’s, and the T-birds continued to mirror that…
Part of the issue the Thunderbird is it wasn’t the golden child in the Ford family anymore. The Mustang, while a damn sight cheaper and less luxurious was as exciting and recognizable as the Thunderbird, and the same year LM dealers got the Cougar, a Mustang with all the Thunderbird gimmicks. Once the Lincoln Mark III debuted it was game over for the Tbird. So I don’t know if it mirrored the confusion of the times so much as it was just confused about its purpose in life.
Yes, demographics had changed drastically since 1958 when the Thunderbird aura really got going. In 1967 the people who had loved the 58 were a decade older. The car either had to change to stay relevant to a new cohort in a fixed age range, or it had to keep serving the same folks who were getting older. By 1967 it was hard to do both as those two age groups had increasingly divergent tastes. And, as you note, the younger group had the Mustang.
According to people who worked at Ford during that era, the rationale behind the 1967 Thunderbird was that the buyers who were looking for something with a touch of sportiness could buy a Mustang. The Thunderbird could therefore abandon any pretenses of sport and pursue people interested in luxury and comfort.
The problem, as others have noted, was that in mid-1968 the Lincoln Continental Mark III debuted. It was an immediate hit. There was no confusion about its role, or its place in the Ford Motor Company pecking order.
As a kid at the time, I remember thinking that these Thunderbirds were interesting, but the Mark III seemed very unique and prestigious – even more so than a Cadillac Eldorado.
I think the 1967 4dr T-Bird made perfect marketing sense at the time, it was in search of sales when convertible sales were drying up,. The 4dr Bird was successful for the first couple years. What I think is a shame is that Ford followed GM’s 1966 personal luxury trend by making bench seats standard starting with the 1968 T-Birds.
I like the ’67-’71 suicide door Birds (especially with console & bucket seats), “it’s unique in all the world”.
In 1980, I owned a ’67 Thunderbird almost exactly like the one in the photos, except mine was dark green (Ivy Green metallic) with a black interior. It also had the same steering wheel, AM/FM radio, rolling door locks, but no A/C. I absolutely loved the four door when I first saw them brand new in the fall of 1966, and eventually just had to own one. The eventual purchase of a house forced me to sell it, but someday, I will own another one!!
I owned a ’68 for 20 years. I preferred the ’67 interior with the center console for looks, but not having the center console was definitely better for making right hand turns when on a date with that special gal.
A bright black car with a tasteful amount of trim (like on the featured Bird) enhances its looks and is truly hard to beat.
Today’s “mono-chromatic color” cars that look like they’ve been totally dipped in a vat of, say, flat black (excuse me, matte black) or even shiny black, make them look blase…and alike. If the shiny ones only had some well placed bright they could look really good. But that’s a discussion for a different day.
IMO: The creation of the ’65 Ford LTD (2 or 4 door) made these Thunderbirds superfluous.
The only saving grace on the 4 door ‘Blunderbirds’ was the panty cloth interior, if so equipped.
I still think T-Birds should be two doors only.
I’m not sure, but since this car has Mass plates, was it spotted somewhere near Newburyport?
My Dad had one of these in the mid-late 80s that he sold to my Uncle who lived near Newburyport in 1987.
Might be the same car. I don’t recall if it had bucket seats or not, but was a black landau.
After seeing this 1967 Thunderbird in all white exterior, I plan on having my black vinyl top painted white to match the white exterior color. Maybe even installing the real wire wheels. Gorgeous car! Now that the 1967 Thunderbirds are almost all gone due to not being collectible for ever – the ones that are in perfect condition are sure beginning to look sharp – although I have always loved them. BTW, they are only 1.5″ longer than the 1966 models, but about 300 lbs lighter! So, they are not much larger, as is always stated.
The T Bird was ahead of its time: Speed activated auto doorlocks, tilt/ telly steering wheel, low fuel gauge light yada yada. It was not a poor mans car but they were beautiful cars. My favorite was the forest green with tan leather. The 65/66 T Birds also had the coolest tail-lights of all time. 5 decades before the popular LED lights it was already done by T Bird.