The Five Best Ford Thunderbird Models

I have always wondered what the best ford thunderbird models were.

After all, they were not made recently. 

In fact, they were in production from 1955 – 1997 and 2001 – 2005, making that eleven generations total.

Will we see another Ford Thunderbird comeback?

Before we answer that question, let us rank what were the best Ford Thunderbird models so far.

In this article, I will based my ranking on novel ideas, and style. 

Though the Ford thunderbirds all have powerful V8 engines, they were not put to good use and in later decades, other Ford models and competitors later used larger and more powerful engines to boost performance.

In short, I will take notes on the Ford thunderbird engines but they will not be what I ranked them for.

The Best Thunderbird Cars

Here are the 5 best thunderbird cars, by series and year:

  1. 1955 Ford Thunderbird (First Generation)
  2. 2003 Ford Thunderbird (Eleventh Generation)
  3. 1964 Ford Thunderbird (Fourth Generation)
  4. 1967 Ford Thunderbird (Fifth Generation)
  5. 1973 Ford Thunderbird (Sixth Generation)

1) 1955 Ford Thunderbird (First Generation)

Iconic for its time, Ford faced steep competition with other manufacturers, particularly the Chevrolet Corvette.

The Chevrolet Corvette entered the American car market with its muscle car like parts and looks as well. It used muscle car powertrains.

Ford took a unique approach to this situation, making its first-generation Thunderbirds more about luxury and less about power and performance.

Creating its own niche, Ford enhanced its Thunderbirds to be the dominant car series in terms of style, presence, and swagger.

1955 Ford Thunderbird Pros

  • 4.8-liter V8 Engine
  • 193hp
  • 16,155 produced
  • 0-60mph in 8.9 seconds
  • Top speed of 104 mph

2) 2003 Ford Thunderbird (Eleventh Generation)

That is one good looking car…

This submodel is part of the eleventh generation of Ford Thunderbirds, the last batch to be produced so far.

Early sales and good reviews looked promising to revitalize Ford dominance in the American car market. 

However, this was shortlived as sales for the eleventh generation Thunderbirds could not be justified and production was discontinued in mid-2005.

The eleventh generation Thunderbirds was an attempt to capitalize on old retro car nostalgia, coming back to the original 2-seater convertible look. 

2003 Ford Thunderbird Pros

  • 3.9 L Jaguar AJ35 V8
  • 252hp
  • 14,678 produced
  • 0-60mph in 6.3 seconds
  • Top speed of 154 mph

3) 1964 Ford Thunderbird (Fourth Generation)

The fourth-generation Ford Thunderbirds had three models, the convertible, the hardtop and the Landau (as shown above).

Predominantly a luxury car at this point, the Ford Thunderbirds still used the standard 390-cubic-inch V8 engine from its roots.

Later models have a more powerful engine but it was not the primary reason to get this car.

This series was used in several productions and films, such as the Highlander: The Series, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and Murderers’ Row.

1964 Ford Thunderbird Pros

  • 6.4 L FE V8 Engine
  • 300hp
  • 92,465 produced
  • 0-60mph in 9.3 seconds
  • Top speed of 127 mph

4) 1967 Ford Thunderbird (Fifth Generation)

Ford’s fifth-generation thunderbirds had major changes, one being that it introduced a 4 door car for its Landau model. 

However, the 2-door hardtop and landau were also available too.

One reason for this major change in looks is that Ford introduced the Mustang in 1964 and had similar features as the thunderbirds but was cheaper.

This produced a major marketing challenge and you guessed it, sales for Thunderbirds plunged.

The solution?

A bigger car with 4 doors…  

The public seemed to enjoy these changes and the Ford Thunderbirds created its own spark needed to surge into the 1970s. 

1967 Ford Thunderbird Pros

  • 6.4 L FE V8 Engine
  • 315hp
  • 77,976 produced
  • 0-60mph in 8.8 seconds
  • Top speed of 129 mph

5) 1973 Ford Thunderbird (Sixth Generation)

The sixth-generation Thunderbirds soared into the car market as a large luxury coupe.

The sixth-generation Thunderbirds were the most produced series out of the eleven in thunderbird history.

Instead of continuing its partial success from the fifth generation, the sixth-generation offered only a 2-door hardtop version, 1 model for its entire sixth generation.

But it was the biggest Thunderbird Ford every produced so far along with a very large engine.

1973 Ford Thunderbird pros

  • 7.0L 385 V8 Engine
  • 211hp
  • 87,269 produced
  • 0-60mph in 10.7 seconds
  • Top speed of 121 mph

Final Review

The Ford Thunderbirds were a swing and a miss.

Initially, they enjoyed temporary success with first-generation thunderbirds.

But it was all downhill from there. There were occasional spikes in popularity, sales, and nostalgia in later decades but Ford could not capitalize the car markets with their Thunderbird models.

Unless they revamp their design to improve on efficiency and power, there would be a very small chance that we will ever see another Ford Thunderbird production in the 21st century.

Now, we are focused on green energy, electric cars, or super-fast cars. 

If your model cannot fit into either one of these three niches, it will be tough to break into the market.

So, how was my list?

Do you agree? Disagree?

Let me know and thanks for reading…

2 thoughts on “The Five Best Ford Thunderbird Models”

  1. Hey great read, gotta love your picks as my first bird was a 1975, my third bird is a 2002, and my all time favorite is a 1966, which I have yet to purchase. The 1967 is my second all time favorite. Do we have similar likes. Thanks for the memories. Tom F

  2. Agreed with the top two. The others I know nothing about but… I have just imported into the UK a lovely double black and sand series 11 Anniversary. My god it’s a good looking car! Thanks for your article.


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