Here I am once again, late afternoon giving way to early evening, sitting out on the deck, a couple of cocktails in. And gawking at giant, thirsty, impractical yet satisfying ’70s cabin cruisers.
The Thunderbird has always been something special. And while some are more interesting, cool looking or collectible than others, they always were a cut above basic transportation. Not the usual Falcon, Torino, Fairmont or mini-me LTD.
When the aerodynamically styled 1983 Thunderbird appeared in Autumn ’82, it was a revelation. With rare exception, most 1982 domestic rolling stock were rectangular, with additional chrome edging along the 90 degree angles the higher the trim level you purchased.
This was certainly true for the 1980-82 T-Bird, which could almost have been the box the ’83 came in.
A turbocharged four-cylinder was likely the biggest surprise to traditional Thunderbird buyers. A four-cylinder engine in a Thunderbird? It was a shock to T-Bird customers used to wafting along in cool, air-conditioned V8 comfort and silence in their ’60s and ’70s Nimitz-class Flair Birds and Glamour Birds. But the Turbo Coupe was the new top of the line ‘Bird.
Today, we will be discussing Maximum Thunderbird. The extra value T-Bird, AKA the Thunderbrougham. Long, low and wide-and proud if it. Yes, that’s correct, the 1972-76 Thunderbird, which shared its ample figure with its FoMoCo sibling, the Continental Mark IV.
This was not the Thunderbird’s first drastic change, of course. Throughout the iconic premium Ford model’s life, it reinvented itself many times. The 1958 Thunderbird, nicknamed the Squarebird for obvious reasons, was totally redone. The trim two-seat luxury sportster was no more. The big news, of course, was the addition of a back seat. Although fans of the ‘Little Bird’ moaned and gnashed their teeth, sales improved drastically. And with its “cow belly” frame it was still substantially lower than contemporary Fairlanes. It ushered in a new type of car, a luxury Ford.
The Ford Thunderbird underwent multiple personality changes throughout its life. What started out as a two-seat convertible had, by the time the fifth-generation Thunderbird debuted in the autumn of 1966, become a much different automobile. Sure, it was still flashy and typically loaded with power gadgets, but one thing was missing for the first time since the first T-Birds appeared: A convertible top.
Well, the writing had been on the wall for some time, with topless T-Bird sales dropping across several previous years. Indeed, by the early ’70s nearly all the topless cars built in the Land of the Free were gone, or on borrowed time. But what to replace it with? The answer was — believe it or not — a four-door sedan.