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Hooniverse Asks- 2002-2005 Thunderbird, Collectible or Forgettable?

Robert Emslie December 20, 2012 Hooniverse Asks 72 Comments




You know, Ford’s Thunderbird has had so many reincarnations – Square Bird, Four-Door Bird, Down-Sized Bird, Aero Bird, and Retro Bird – that it probably should have been better named the Phoenix. That is, if Pontiac hadn’t already owned the rights to that name. There are no new Thunderbirds gracing Ford’s dealer lots today, and that brings up the question as to whether or not its last iteration – that Retro Bird – bears a modicum of collectibility? 

Harkening back to the original ’55 – ’57 two-seat T-birds, although oddly featuring styling tropes from later models as well, the 2002-’05 ‘Birds also rivaled their ’80-’82 predecessor Crap Birds for shortest time on the market. That last until they make some more ‘Bird rode on the DEW98 platform shared with Lincoln’s LS and Jaguar’s equally backward-looking S-Type. The 252-bhp 3.9-litre V8 and Ford stable 5R55N 5-speed automatic proved a competent if uninspiring drivetrain, while the platform itself offered up a capable cruiser, but was far short of a sports car.

The last to date T-birds were also only the second of the long line of Ford’s personal coupes to offer independent suspension all the way around, and in a nice juxtaposition, also provided a round porthole in its removable hardtop – a soft top was also included – as a nod to the original. Interior fittings were mostly lifted from the Lincoln LS, and over all the car looked well built and has since not gained a reputation for unfavorable reliability.

All well and good, but is it good enough – especially in light of all the other, albeit vastly more expensive to maintain, two seat droptops of recent vintage out there – to warrant picking one up in the hope of seeing its value increase? What do you think, is the 2002-2005 Thunderbird Collectable or Forgettable?

Image: [ProductionCars]

  • Vavon
    • topdeadcentre

      The unholy four-way love child of a Citroen DS Cabriolet, a Ford T-Bird, a dustbuster, and a pink bedroom slipper.

  • Kogashiwa

    It's going to be a pretty uphill slog for any retro (pastiche) design to be collectible.

  • $kaycog

    They don't do anything for me, but I'm sure there are some who think they're the bees' knees.

  • topdeadcentre

    I like them, though like most people, not as much as the classic T-birds. I wish there had been more engine in there from the factory, but "more engine" is something that can be made to happen.

    • When I worked at the Ford wind tunnels we tested one with the supercharged AJ-V8. That was a fun car. Tires never lasted long on it.

      • BlackIce_GTS

        <img src="http://files.conceptcarz.com/img/Ford/57_Ford_Tbrd_SprChgd_F_DV_05_HH_p04.jpg&quot; width=500>
        I guess it would have been confusing to still call it that.

        • I've never heard anyone refer to the supercharged '57 Fords as "F-series" outside of that conceptcarz description. They're generally called "F-code" or sometimes just "F cars" just as the dual-carb versions are "E-code" or "E cars." Admittedly I'm more familiar with the world of full-sized late-'50s Fords than 'Birds, but I think they mostly use the same terms.

      • Rover1

        I had that idea yesterday (Comment One in the article on the Paxton supercharged T-bird), more engine is always obvious but which 'more engine' is rarely so obvious.

  • JayP2112

    I can dig it.
    In the same region as the V6 convertible Mustang-Camaro.

    Would a Jag S-Type R supercharger engine fit the Thunderbird? That would solve some problems.

  • I'd say forgettable, but then again at the local downtown classic car "cruise in," there's still a bunch of old farts that drive in with a fleet of pimped out PT Cruisers, so I'm sure there's a collector market for the New-Birds somewhere.

  • Van_Sarockin

    I thought these were one of the better retromobiles to come out. And I'm perplexed that they didn't catch on better. Maybe they were priced a bit high for a fashion accessory? I don't know if they'll ever become collectible, but they're quite a value to buy right now. And there aren't too many other contemporary choices when you have to have a semimetallic coral paint job.

    • Rover1

      Of course they'll be collectible, some people collect Edsels so anything can happen!

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        We have a regular here with one even!

  • Irishzombieman

    Two days ago, when I posted this as my submission for The Worst Car or Truck of the 21st Century, I think I got more down votes than the whole rest of my time here on Hooniverse. Obviously there're people here who like the car.

    I am not one of them.

    I have many reasons, all of them completely subjective, that I shall refrain from posting.

    • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

      Thumbs up not for not posting, but for your logic.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      <img src="http://image.motortrend.com/f/8534958+w500/112_0401_08z+2002_Ford_Thunderbird+Interior_View.jpg"&gt; I saw that too, and it's more evidence of it's collectible-ity, there's not a lot of sense in thumbs downing like that, and some people with little of that have a lot of money sadly. Anyway I like them cause of the way the early interiors were colored to match the outside, but they were too much money when new.

      • danleym

        I don't know if I've ever seen the interior before- that looks really good! I'm not a big fan of the exterior though… at least they got the part right that you seen when you're driving.

        • mseoul

          But the seating position was so high! You can't get down inside one if you're over 5'5.

          • danleym

            Fair enough. It looks good, but having never sat in one, I can't comment on whether it works well.

      • Dacket84
    • quattrovalvole

      Since when do we use "thumb down" for those with different idea than ours?

      I thought that button is only reserved for trolls.

      • danleym

        I was really tempted to thumbs down this out of sarcasm, but figured that wouldn't come across very well so I thumbs upped it instead.

        Plus, I agree with you, so I didn't want to use the thumb down on a non-troll.

    • Lately, it seems like the downvote brigade is out in force. Perhaps we need to remind people of Hooniverse commentiquette — downvotes are for rudeness, false statements, and the like…not for a well-stated opinion you happen to disagree with, regardless of how it's done on other IDC sites.

      • MVEilenstein

        Oops. Just posted the exact same sentiment. Thumbs up for you anyway.

  • Devin

    I always associate it with elderly women who have those freaky tiny dogs.

    It might be the pastel paint that's doing that.

    • wisc47

      It is a bit of a Florida car isn't it?

    • MVEilenstein

      Yes, but the same could be said of a '78 Coupe de Ville, and I would drive one of those all day with a mile-wide grin on my face.

  • It will look good next to other collectibles form the early 2000 retro-moderns like a PT, Prowler and New Bettle. It will take a very, uh, interesting person to be a collector, but I am sure someone out there has a T-Bird with just 500 miles on it siting in a air conditioned garage.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    It is about as collectible as this:

    <img src="http://www.bestautophoto.com/images/lincoln-blackwood-03.jpg"&gt;

  • Collectible to someone else.

  • JayP2112

    De Lorenzo over on autoextremism said the the final version of the tbird wasn't the one that had been approved for production.
    I don't know if it was a Mays design and it was changed by committee or Mays changed the design.

    He was able to see the first design and said it looked terrific and that this was a watered down version. Anyone ever seen that first Tbird he was talking about?

  • quattrovalvole

    I was 11 when this car came out and I used to think it looks amazing. Still do now despite the crap interior.

    As for collectible? Well, this is a guy who really wants to "collect" one of this:

    <img src="http://japanesenostalgiccar.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/galant-5.jpg"&gt;

    … so you may not want to quote me of this kind of things.

  • Maymar

    I used to service a used car dealer who must've ran through at least a half-dozen of these in about six months as the owner's demo. He would've been about 65 or 70, and right about in the perfect demographic for these (which hampers future collectibility when anyone that wants one won't be driving once these reach classic status).

    They do seem like pleasant cars – a little creaky, a couple cheap interior bits, and as mentioned, not a sports car (not that it was ever meant to be). As mentioned, the supercharged V8 would've livened things up a bit (and been historically appropriate). If we're talking future collectible T-Birds, the Turbo and Super Coupes are a better bet.

    • Kogashiwa

      Drove a turbo coupe once.

      The interior quality was Chinese toy-level (being generous), the five-speed would change gears eventually, only after making sure you knew who was really in charge, the engine was industrial tractor coarse and noisy, and turbo lag was best measured with a calendar.

      Was huge fun, I loved it.

  • SSurfer321

    Umm, what were we talking about again?

  • TrampaOnline

    I remember that when these came out my mom wanted one pretty bad. Never did get it. She stuck with big SUV's, but with an empty nest once my brother moves out, I hope she finally gets it. It does seem like they built it without much of a demand for it. I get the feeling it won't be collectible on a large sense, more of a small scale cult car if anything.

  • wisc47

    Doesn't do anything for me but I have a theory. The old Studebakers had some pretty radical styling (here's looking at you '51 Commander) that might have been considered so-so for it's time. Now, and I'm sure there are people who would agree with me, I want an old Stude' so bad I would sell an unnecessary organ. Give it 40 years and it'll find it's collector's niche.

  • JayP2112

    I've spotted a few TCs and SCs on the autotrader lately and started a fascination with the aero and supers.

    • MVEilenstein

      My brother drove an '88 TC for a year or so. It was kind of a pain driving in traffic, but when you got an open road, that turbo would really get your attention.

      • JayP2112

        The whole 'personal coupe' as I get older gets more interesting. Sporty but not kidney busting.
        Then again I'd ruin the deal by jacking with the suspension to make it "better."

        • MVEilenstein

          It's a long, narrow car, so handling will never be its strong suit. It's a speedway machine in street clothes. Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  • I have some good friends who had one of these 'Birds, and they loved it, the wife especially. They're not the blue-haired lady and golf slack wearing geezer types, either. They're Hoons, actually. When they sold it, somebody of the above said demographic bought the 'Bird, and it's in good hands. The new owners love it even more. Myself, I have no problem with T-Birds of this vintage, I think they capture some of the essence of the original. The original wasn't a screaming road burner, but a cruiser as well. Oh, my friends needed a new toy after they got rid of the T-Bird, so they got a '66 Chevy stepside beater pickup truck to tool around in out in the desert, and to pull their vintage travel trailer. Pure class.

  • Even I, who like them more than most, must say no.
    Cruise down Seawall Boulevard in on a warm summer night? Sure.
    Store for 30 years on jackstands in a climate controlled garage? Not so much.

  • calgoat

    If you're going to sell a small 2 seater/roadster, then you have to balance the lack of practicality with power and/or fun. As I understand it (having never driven this version of the bird) this car was neither fast, nor did it handle in any appreciable manner. It could have had a lot more potential if they had just given it a manual transmission. But beyond the retro styling, I don't see what this car's redeeming qualities are.

    Forgettable for me.

  • Got to say its collectible, it is a great version of the original car

  • Mad_Hungarian

    In a certain sense I think the question has already been answered affirmatively, as the Retro Birds are recognized by the major T-Bird clubs and show up at meets, and it has aftermarket support.

    Part of the appeal of the Retro Bird is that it is accessible to those who have long wanted a 1955-57 two seater but can't afford one, or at least not one in decent condition. Another aspect of its appeal is that auto design has become so conservative in the past 15 or so years, that anything designed and built for the sheer fun of it has to be applauded.

    My dad has one, so I have had the chance to spend some up close and personal time with it including driving it. It's not a Corvette but remember, neither was the original. It's a very solid-feeling and well-constructed car. It won't win lots of drag races but it probably goes, stops and handles better than the majority of other T-Birds made (I had a '77, so I can definitely vouch for that statement as to that generation).

  • Will

    Too heavy – 3,700 lbs. Of course, only hoons care about that.

  • Fred G

    Brief background, I am over 70, male and up to a month ago /3/30/14 I owned a 2003 CORVETTE. I had owned 4 others during my life and I still love them. I felt a little naked without a toy of some sort and to boot I did not the hole it left in my garage. My wife of 53 years never cared for any of my CORVETTES so at this stage I looked around for a similar but more sedate two seat toy. While there are a variety of these type vehicles, I located a 2004 T-BIRD that checked out both mechanically and physical appearance and was very reasonable to buy…..and I did just that. OK, I have only owned this BIRD for a week or so, but in testing it out in city and country driving I find it very enjoyable. A bit demure, but comfortable and solid. Yes, there are some drawbacks, some blind spots /cured with additional mini-mirrors/, somewhat awkward to get in and out of /does age enter into this?/ but all in all a most sedate and friendly driving car. Collectible you ask? I think somewhere down the line /quite a ways down the line/ it will become a "item of interest" to enough collectors that the word collectible might be in order. One of the best parts to this story is that my wife likes the car and has even driven it already. LIFE IS GOOD. PS: I live in The Villages, Florida if anyone was wondering.

    The WIZARD……………..

  • Gritssouth

    Definitely ‘Collectable’ ! Own one and love it ! Drives like it’s on rails …. I don’t get the critics comments on ‘handeling’ at all ….. Handles as good or better than a ‘vette is ya ask me !