I didn’t uncover this Big Bird in some far-flung Norwegian woods, but tucked besides a few old houses by a country road in the middle of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost and least densely-populated island. So this is not a “junkyard” find per se (that’s for a future post), but I guess the car’s overall condition qualifies. And it’s big enough in acreage to qualify as a yard in Japan, so…
I’m not 100% sure of the model year on this one. I have had very little exposure to these cars and I understand the differences between the 1974, 1975 and 1976 vintages are extremely minor and mostly mechanical or trim-related, so I picked the middle one. But given the readership here, I have no doubt someone will be able to correct me if I guessed this one wrong.
The size of these T-Birds is both overwhelming and underwhelming. It boggles the mind to see a two-door car take up so much space, yet to offer so little accommodation inside. The rear seats are positively tiny. Legroom seems fine up front, but the roof is quite low on this car, so there isn’t all that much headroom. Compared to contemporary GM products though, I must say Ford’s interior styling was pretty good. In true local fashion, the owner of this car had the seats meticulously covered in white fabric. Not the usual lace doilies, but close.
One of the signs that this T-Bird was most probably sold new in Japan is the tacked-on amber turn signals on the rear end, as well as the ones added to the front fenders. The very idea of having a vehicle this big in the country of the kei is ludicrous, yet here we are. Someone saw this gargantuan Ford, looked at the thirsty yet underpowered 7.5 litre V8 under the hood, saw the 4800 lbs (almost 2200kg) weight and thought: “Yes, I think I’ll pay the substantial import tax on top of the US$7,000-odd pricetag right when gas prices are going through the roof.”
Never mind the financial outlay – the amount of commitment it would have taken anybody driving around Japan in the mid-‘70s to go for a full-size American car borders on sheer contrarianism. For whatever reason, its original hood ornament is missing. The replacement item, coming from the successor T-Bird generation, is barely holding on.
Cars like this Thunderbird are very context-dependent. In places like North America, Australia or the Middle-East, these look perfectly at home – although even there, they would now be grossly outsized compared to contemporary traffic. In Japan (and even in Hokkaido, where streets are wider and population density quite low), owning an 80-inch-wide monster like this makes zero practical sense. But since when were T-Birds, sumo or otherwise, ever about practicality anyway?
COAL: 1975 Ford Thunderbird – Preparing for Flight, by Jason Shafer
Curbside Classic: 1974 Thunderbird – A Mark By Any Other Name…, by Tom Klockau