Ford has had a lot of storied names in its history. Some seem so faded in memory that it’s difficult to conjure up an image when brought to mind. Can you picture a Pilot? How about the Corsair? Now admittedly those were both Fords not sold in the U.S., but we’ve had our share of Fords that have come and gone ourselves- Torino, Maverick, Galaxie, etc.. Sometimes Ford brings them back, and today we’re seeing the Fiesta again after a 20+ year absence. Also, after a short hiatus, the Taurus name has returned, although the car that carries it looks little like the Tauri of old.
One name that carries with it a trunk-full of Ford history is the of Thunderbird, but today Ford dealers’ new car inventories are devoid of that noble marque. Shouldn’t Ford do something about that? The Thunderbird first arrived as a two-seat personal coupe in 1955. Ford sought to provide the car buying public with a less-expensive alternative to their Lincoln Continental Mark II- at that time the most expensive car in Ford’s stable. Over the years the Thunderbird gained a back seat; grew suicide rear doors; shared its platform with the descendants of the Mark II; got big; got small; got aero; got turbo’d; went retro; and finally went out of production. What was once described as a personal car of distinction, is today a pretty good parable of extinction. In determining its last iteration, Ford went back to the Thunderbird’s roots and created a car with two-seats and portholes in the removable hardtop roof. Perhaps they had forgotten the limited sales of those original two-seat ’55 – ’57 birds, and how the 4-seat ’58 doubled the previous year’s sales? Regardless, that T-bird at least looked the part, which is more than can be said for some of the cars from the seventies and early eighties. It wasn’t until the mid-eighties that the Thunderbird – much like Aerosmith – had a resurgence in popularity due to the fox platform-based Aero-bird. That car’s success begat the Super Bird, but by then the market for big coupes was but a shadow of its former size and development dollars went not to that car’s replacement, but to yet another profitable and trendy SUV. In 1998, for the first time in 43 years Ford’s lineup did not include the Thunderbird name. Riding the wave of nostalgia that had at least kept the Mustang from a similar fate (remember the Probe?) Ford tried again in 2002 with that ill fated two-seat rehash. The general tepidity of that car doomed it to failure and once again in 2006 the Ford brochures were 100% T-bird free. But with such history, and a number of notable and desirable cars built over better than a half century, Ford can’t let the Thunderbird name, nor its general class of Automobile run fallow can they? Shouldn’t Ford bring back the T-Bird? And if they did, which one should they build- the two-seat original, the grand mal four door of the late sixties, or the heavy but but quick muscle coupe of the eighties? Or maybe it could take on a whole new persona? Either way what do you think it should be? Image sources: [The Old Car Manual Project, Wikipedia]