Chatter about a T-Bird, Corvette Thunderbird or Corvette? What would fans of each have to say about Ford's retro design
Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away
"Sixty grand, for THAT!?" "Including the removable hard-top, yeah, give or take …" "Geez — that's Corvette money!" "Trust you to draw that comparison. Of course, the Thunderbird and Corvette have been pretty much linked for much of their history — they both started off as two-seat crusin' cars, rather than pure sports cars." "Looks good though — really '50s." "Ford's v-p of design, J Mays tries to say the car isn't retro, but nobody believes him." "Neither do I." "The thing I find interesting is that old farts like us like it, but so do young kids. I get waved at and hear 'nice-car!' shouted out all the time. It's kind of like the Volkswagen New Beetle — kids who maybe never rode in an original Beetle love that thing." "What's with those round plastic circles in the front bumper?" "In the States, those are fog lights. Apparently, they don't meet Canadian crash standards, so we get plastic circles. I hate fog lights, so I love that idea." "I like fog lights!" "Sadly, your friendly local Ford dealer's parts department is waiting. Ford just can't sell them to you as original equipment." "The interior looks cool." "Yes, very retro, too, with those flat seats, and sew patterns for the leather that look just like the mid-'50s cars. They're comfortable, though, and Lady Leadfoot said she could adjust them so even she could get a good driving position. The '50s T-Bird didn't have power eight-way seats with power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel!" "Hey, it's even got the little round hump on the dash with the instruments inside it." "No translucent green plastic back-light panel in the back of it, though. Just as well — my Dad's 1954 Meteor had that too, and it never did work very well." "Love the turquoise pointers on the gauges." "Yeah, that ties in to the south-west American Indian Thunderbird thing — turquoise jewellery and all that." "I'm not sure about some of those plastic bits on the dash — they look pretty cheap." "I agree — again, Ford should look at the New Beetle. Mays used to work for VW, so maybe he should contact some of his old suppliers." "That radio looks familiar … Doesn't our band's bass player's Windstar have the same one?" "Hey, you can't complain; GM uses corporate parts for the Corvette too. It's the only way to keep costs down these days." "Sure, but the cell phone people offer cheap faceplates so the phones look different even if the insides are the same." "Good point. Maybe you've got a future in automotive product planning." "What's the engine?" "A 3.9-litre V8, twin-cam, four-valve, same as the Lincoln LS sedan, and similar to the V8 in the Jaguar S-Type — the Lincoln and S-Type are both built on this same platform." "Horsepower?" "It's rated at 252, at 6,100 rpm, and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm." "Not bad. Transmission?" "Five-speed automatic. No manual offered." "I can't complain; my old Corvette is automatic too — but you CAN get a stick if you want, a six-speed, on the current C5 car." "You can get a five-speed manual on the Lincoln LS, but only with the V6 engine option, which the T-Bird does not offer.
Absolutely correctly, in my view — the Thunderbird should always be a V8.
"I do think though that the new T-Bird should offer the manually-shifted version of the automatic. Not that I use them very much, but the T-Bird should offer the most modern technology available — you can get it on the Lincoln." "How does the T-Bird handle?" "Very well, actually. This is one aspect of the car that is definitely NOT retro. You know, I drove a '55 T-Bird a bunch of years ago. It was at the launch of the last Ford two-seater, the deservedly-forgotten Escort-based EXP. Anyway, they brought out some ancient 'Birds too, and we got to drive them." "What were they Like?" "Hate to say it, but it was one of the great disappointments of my car-writing career. As the Brits would say: nice face, shame about the legs … It drove just like my Dad's old Meteor — flaccid steering, no handling to speak of, lousy ride. Nice engine, though — I had forgotten how responsive non-emission-controlled engines were." "But the new one?" "Excellent, really. The body is stiff and stable, given that it's a large convertible — it's hard to keep a big open box like this from flexing and twisting, but apart from a bit of steering wheel and mirror shake on certain types of bumps, they've done a good job with it.
"Fully independent suspension, nicely balanced, light, quick steering. Smooth ride too — better than any Corvette, it must be said." "Those doors are huge …" "Yep, you gotta be careful in shopping mall parking lots — better find a double space and park in the middle." "No back seat?" "Nope. Again, for most people, a T-Bird means two seats." "But weren't the four-seat cars more popular?" "Absolutely.
No-one wanted to admit it at the time — the purists howled when the T-Bird went four-seat in 1958. But sales soared. Ford isn't in the business of building museum pieces; they're in the business of selling cars." "So, why a two seater now?" "Geez — for a Corvette guy, you ask a lot of good questions about Thunderbirds. I think it's a combination of things — a general retro trend, and something of a concern about what people will buy when — if — they ever give up on SUVs. You know, once the kids are gone, Mom and Dad don't go up to the cottage or ski chalet every weekend, they want something to cruise around town." "Still, even my old '85 'Vette will blow this thing away." "True. But not everybody wants to go hair-assing around the countryside.
"Think of the new Thunderbird as sort of a domestic equivalent to a Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster, a stylish, look-at-me car that you and your favourite squeeze can go to dinner, the golf course …" "Golf? You can get golf clubs in that thing?" "Are you kidding? Wide and long trunk, if not very deep.
You'll have to leave the cover for the folded top at home, but it can handle two sets of golf clubs.
"Try THAT in any of your Corvettes, especially in the C5 roadster." "Golf clubs! NOW you're talking. Can we go for a ride?" "