Want to see more? Download Driven App for FREE!

Ford - 1968 Thunderbird
Ford - 1968 Thunderbird

Ford - 1968 Thunderbird

0 0
The Ford Thunderbird is a car manufactured in the United States by the Ford Motor Company. It entered production for the 1955 model year as a two-seater sporty car; unlike the sup... More »
The Ford Thunderbird is a car manufactured in the United States by the Ford Motor Company. It entered production for the 1955 model year as a two-seater sporty car; unlike the superficially similar (and slightly earlier) Chevrolet Corvette, the Thunderbird was never sold as a full-blown sports car. Ford described it as a personal luxury car, a description which named a new market segment. In 1958, the Thunderbird gained a second row of seats for greater practicality. Succeeding generations became larger and more luxurious, until the line was downsized in 1977 and again in 1980. Sales were good until the 1990s, when large 2-door coupes became unpopular; production ceased after 1997. In 2002, a revived 2-seat model was launched, was available through the end of the 2005 model year.GenesisThree men are generally credited with creating the original Thunderbird: Lewis D. Crusoe, a retired GM executive lured out of retirement by Henry Ford II; George Walker, chief stylist and a Ford vice-president; and Frank Hershey, a Ford designer. Crusoe and Walker met in France in October 1951. Walking in the Grand Palais in Paris, Crusoe pointed at a sports car and asked Walker, 'Why can't we have something like that?'Walker promptly telephoned Ford's HQ in Dearborn and told designer Frank Hershey about the idea. Hershey took the idea and began working on the vehicle. The concept was for a two-passenger open car, with a target weight of 2525 lb (1145 kg), an Interceptor V8 engine and a top speed of over 100 mph (160 km/h). Crusoe saw a painted clay model on May 18, 1953, which corresponded closely to the final car; he gave the car the go-ahead in September after comparing it with current European trends.Unlike the Corvette, the Thunderbird was never a full-blown sporting vehicle; Ford's description was personal luxury car, and the company essentially created this market segment.NamingThere was some difficulty in naming the car, with suggestions ranging from the exotic to the ridiculous (Hep Cat, Beaver, Detroiter, Runabout, Arcturus, Savile, El Tigre, and Coronado were submitted among the 5,000 suggestions). One serious suggestion was Whizzer. Crusoe offered a $250 suit to anyone who could come up with a better name.Stylist Alden "Gib" Giberson submitted Thunderbird as part of a list. Giberson never claimed his prize, settling for a $95 suit and an extra pair of trousers from Saks Fifth Avenue.According to Palm Springs Life magazine, the car's final name came not from the Native American symbol as one might expect, but from an ultra-exclusive housing tract in what would later be incorporated as Rancho Mirage, California: Thunderbird Heights.1967-1971 "Glamor Birds"This fifth generation saw the second major change of direction for the Thunderbird. Having moved from being a two-seater quasi-sports car in 1955-1957 to a four-seater personal luxury car in 1958, the Thunderbird had fundamentally remained the same in concept through 1966, even though the styling had been updated twice. The introduction of the Ford Mustang in early 1964 (as a 1965 model) had, however, challenged the Thunderbird's market positioning. It, like the Thunderbird, was a small, two-door, four-seater with sporting pretensions, but it was substantially cheaper. The Thunderbird's sales suffered. Ford's response was to move the Thunderbird upmarket, while some fans of the classic Thunderbird consider 1966 to be the last year of interest.For 1967 the Thunderbird would be a larger car, moving it closer to Lincoln as the company chose to emphasise the "luxury" part of the "personal luxury car" designation. Other companies had already done the same; the Buick Riviera, in particular.Mindful of the company's problematic experiences with the 1958 Lincolns, Ford chose to abandon the Thunderbird's traditional unibody construction for this larger car, turning to a body-on-frame method with sophisticated rubber mountings between the two to reduce vibration and noise.The convertible, increasingly a slow seller, was dropped. Instead, the company introduced something new to the market segment; a four-door model ("Fordor" in Ford parlance). Perhaps to emphasise the Thunderbird's closer ties to the Lincoln marque as it moved upmarket, the rear doors were backward-opening suicide doors as on the 1960s Lincoln Continental. The four-door would remain available through 1971 but never generated substantial sales.The new 1968 Lincoln Continental Mark III was based on the four-door Thunderbird chassis, and from that point until the late Nineties, Thunderbirds and Continental Marks were generally related cars, the Thunderbird following the Mark's growth to enormity in the 1972 model year. The Mercury Cougar also often shared components.StylingThe 1967 styling would be radically different from what came before. Ford's stylists delivered a radical shape that in many ways anticipated the styling trends of the next five years. A gaping wide "fishmouth" front grille that incorporated hidden headlights was the most obvious new feature. The look was clearly influenced by the intakes on jet fighters such as the F-100 Super Sabre, and was enhanced by the flush-fitting front bumper incorporating the bottom "lip" of the "mouth".The sides were the barrel-like "fuselage" style that became so popular during this period. The belt line kicked up "coke-bottle" style after the rear windows, again a styling trait that would prove ubiquitous. Large C-pillars (and a small "formal" rear window on the 4-door) meant poor rear visibility but were the fashion of the time.The taillights spanned the full width of the car, and featured, as in previous Thunderbird models, sequential turn signals.In 1971, Neiman Marcus offered "his and hers" Thunderbirds in its catalog, with telephones, tape recorders and other niceties. They retailed for $25,000 for the pair.This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from Wikipedia. Hide -
Share this with a friend who loves cars

You Might Also Like

Mustang Bullitt Fastback
Ford - 1968 Mustang Bullitt Fastback

1968 Mustang Bullitt Fastback

Mustang High Country Special
Ford - 1968 Mustang High Country Special

1968 Mustang High Country Special

Mustang 428 Cobra Jet
Ford - 1968 Mustang 428 Cobra Jet

1968 Mustang 428 Cobra Jet

Mustang GT
Ford - 1968 Mustang GT

1968 Mustang GT

Mustang Shelby GT350
Ford - 1969 Mustang Shelby GT350

1969 Mustang Shelby GT350

Mustang GT
Ford - 1969 Mustang GT

1969 Mustang GT