In 1999, Ford began showing a concept car loosely based on the original Thunderbird two seat roadster, but with modernized styling. Public response at auto shows was overwhelming, so Ford gave the project a green light and began development. By utilizing an existing platform, shared with the Lincoln LS and the Jaguar S-Type, and an existing V8 from Jaguar, Ford was able to bring the car to market in just three years.
Launched in 2002, the original “Generation 11” Thunderbirds featured a retro two-toned interior and nostalgic exterior colors such as torch red, inspiration yellow and Thunderbird blue (although black and white were also available for more conservative buyers). The original model year used a 3.9 liter V8 from Jaguar, good for 252 horsepower, mated to a 5 speed auto transmission. The comfort tuned suspension and modest power made the car more of a grand tourer than a full blown sports car, but that was Ford’s intent.
Subsequent years saw changes in horsepower (raised to 280 in 2003), interior (switched to single color in 2003) and exterior colors, but the Thunderbird was never a great sales success for Ford. Thirty one thousand units were sold in the first model year, but sales declined to less than half that level in the second model year. Ford, it seemed, simply did not know how to market a luxury convertible, and public interest fell off as Ford channeled advertising dollars elsewhere. After a four year model run ending in 2005, the company pulled the plug on one of the most attractive retro rides to ever come out of Detroit.
Tom’s car is a 2002 in Thunderbird blue, also known as turquoise. It features OEM chrome wheels, the factory hard top and some really, really nice seat covers courtesy of his friend Go Go Amy.
Thanks to Tom Tilert and Go Go Amy for the pics!