The Ford Thunderbird is one of the most famous models ever created in the Blue Oval family.
The T-Bird was also one of the most fabulous members of the Blue Oval family. Thunderbirds had an interesting build history over the years because they evolved from a sports model into a luxury sports model as the core market target changed over the years.
The first reason is a numbers game because the Ford Thunderbird debuted as a two-seater sports cars in 1955, a year that could best be described as an explosive moment in the Baby Boom. An overabundance of kids meant two-seater domestic sports cars were not on the shopping list for most North American buyers. Most-but not all of them.
A 1955 Thunderbird was Ford’s response to General Motors’ Corvette model because it was also a two-seater sports car. Both car companies wanted to provide a car choice for customers who were either child-free or financially able to own an extra car with fewer passenger seats and no roof.
Enter the 1955-57 Thunderbird, a car designed for the footless and fancy-free buyer who did not need a people-hauler and wanted to flaunt their carefree lifestyle.
The second reason for the fabulous Thunderbird argument occurred when Ford stretched the car to four seats and decided to camouflage the back seat with a very stylish tonneau cover. The sporty design of the Thunderbird’s tonneau cover on their convertible models really enhanced the car’s overall style.
The unique tonneau covers gave the Thunderbird a jet age vibe, the exact intention of Ford’s creativity department at the time.
MyStarCollectorCar’s third reason for a fabulous Thunderbird debate was its use of suicide doors (hinged backwards) on the rear passenger doors of T-Birds during the late 1960s and early ‘70s.
This door concept was already available on Lincoln Continentals prior to its introduction to the 1967 Thunderbirds, so it marked the evolution of the T-Bird into a full-on luxury class model in the Ford family, a promotion that also spelled the end of a Thunderbird convertible in the Blue Oval game plan.
Hidden headlights were our fourth addition to the fabulous Thunderbird argument. Hideaway headlights were very popular on many domestic cars built during the back nine of the 1960s and debuted on the 1967 Ford Thunderbird during their transition to a luxury model.
The radical style changes on the T-Bird from 1966 to 1967 were intentionally dramatic because of Ford’s desire to offer an elegant Thunderbird (instead of a sporty T-Bird) to its buying public. One would guess that Ford’s research department read the tea leaves and discovered their customer base had shifted from sporty to luxury and comfort in terms of taste over the years, but still wanted to be loyal to the Thunderbird brand.
The fifth and final component of MyStarCollectorCar’s fabulous Thunderbird list are the taillights on the cars after the cars grew in overall size. For example, the 1958 Thunderbird sports one of the coolest tail-light designs ever created for a T-bird.
The same could be said about the 1961 Thunderbird with its round taillights wrapped in chrome and modest fins.
However, the 1964 Thunderbird may have topped them all with its sequential taillights. The lights were an innovative and cool design that helped Thunderbird retain its fabulous status for another model year, one of several for the iconic Ford over the years in our opinion here at MyStarCollectorCar.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.