(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.