Tuesday 25 July 2017
The Ford Thunderbird is a rear wheel drive automobile which was manufactured by Ford in the United States over eleven model generations from 1955 through 2005. The Thunderbird created a market niche that eventually became known as the personal luxury car.
The Thunderbird entered production for the 1955 model year as a sporty two-seat convertible. Unlike the Chevrolet Corvette, it was not marketed as a sports car. Ford positioned the Thunderbird as an upscale model and is credited in developing a new market segment, the personal luxury car. In 1958, the Thunderbird gained a second row of seats. Succeeding generations became larger until the line was downsized in 1977, again in 1980, and once again in 1983. Sales were good until the 1990s, when large 2-door coupes became unpopular; production ceased at the end of 1997. In 2002 production of the Thunderbird started again, a revived 2-seat model was launched, which was available through the end of the 2005 model year. From its introduction in 1955 to its phaseout in 2005, Ford produced over 4.4 million Thunderbirds.
The Second to Fourth Generation Thunderbird convertibles were similar in design to the Lincoln convertible of the time and borrowed from earlier Ford hardtop/convertible designs. While these Thunderbird models had a true convertible soft top, the top was lowered to stow in the forward trunk area. This design reduced available trunk space when the top was down.
The trunk lid was rear-hinged; raised and lowered via hydraulic cylinders during the top raising or lowering cycle. The forward end of the trunk lid contained a metal plate that extended upward to cover the area that the top is stowed in. With the top down and the trunk lid lowered, there is no sight of the soft top.
The overall appearance was a sleek look with no trace of a convertible top at all. No cover boot was needed.
However, this design could present a challenge to one who is troubleshooting a convertible top malfunction. The system consists of a spiderweb of solenoids, relays, limit switches, electric motors, a hydraulic pump/reservoir, hydraulic directional valves and cylinders. While the hydraulics are not often a cause for trouble, the electrical relays are known to fail. Failure of any of the relays, motors or limit switches will prevent the convertible system from completing the cycle.
Unlike hardtop models that utilized a conventional key-secured, forward hinged design, the convertibles combined the trunk opening and closing within the convertible top operating system. As a result of this design, the trunks of convertible models were notorious for leaking.
Although the 1955-57 Thunderbird was a success, Ford executives—particularly Robert McNamara – were concerned that the car's position as a two-seater limited its sales potential. As a result, the car was redesigned as a four-seater for 1958.
The new Thunderbird began a sales momentum previously unseen with the car, selling 200,000 units in three years, four times the result of the two seat model. This success spawned a new market segment, the personal luxury car. It was the first individual model line (as opposed to an entire company) to earn Motor Trend "Car of the Year" honors.
It was offered in both hardtop and convertible body styles, although the latter was not introduced until June 1958, five months after the release of the hardtop. The new Thunderbird was considerably larger than the previous generation, with a longer 113.0 inches (2,870 mm) wheelbase to accommodate the new back seat. The increased size also increased the car's weight significantly by close to 1,000 pounds (454 kg). Along with a new, more rigid unibody construction was new styling, including dual headlights (for a total of four), more prominent tailfins, a bolder chrome grille, and a larger, though non-functional, hood scoop. Powering the Thunderbird was a new, 300 horsepower (220 kW) 352 cu in (5.8 L) FE V8, available with a 3-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
In the part of model year 1958 that the car was available, sales were 37,892 units, outselling the previous model year 16,000 units.
For 1959, the car received a new grille and a newly optional, 350 horsepower (260 kW) 430 cu in (7.0 L) MEL V8 for 1959, sales climbed even higher to 67,456.
For 1960, the Thunderbird was given another new grille and other minor stylistic changes along with a newly optional manually operated sunroof for hardtop models. Dual-unit round taillights from 1958 to 1959 were changed to triple-units after the fashion of the Chevrolet Impala. Customers continued to approve of the car as it broke sales records yet again with 92,843 sold for 1960. Ford went ahead with a redesign for the Thunderbird to debut in 1961.
- engine: V8
- capacity: 5700 cc
- horsepower: 180 HP
- gearbox: 5+1
- top speed: 170 km/h