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Today In History: The Ford Thunderbird Takes Flight

Posted in Ford, General, muscle cars, Newsworthy by Suzanne Denbow | August 20th, 2008 | 18 Responses |

On August 20, 1962, the first Ford Thunderbird was produced. Designed to serve as a prototype, the Ford Thunderbird was Ford’s rapid-fire response to the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette. When it finally rolled into the commercial market in 1955, the Ford Thunderbird quickly outsold the Corvette. With a 292 V8 193-hp engine, the T-bird was unlike anything Ford had ever produced before. The early T-birds were all fiberglass hard-top convertibles with a few canvas-tops being offered in ’56 models. After it became apparent that Ford had stumbled upon a guaranteed formula for success, engineers began to tinker with the design. Ultimately, the Ford Thunderbird lasted for 12 successful generations and sold approximately 4.2 million units. Although Ford officially pulled the plug on T-bird production in 1997, limited edition ”Retro Birds” were produced from 2002-2005. So celebrated was the brief comeback, the 2003 Thunderbird earned a coveted spot in the James Bond film “Die Another Day.”

First Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1955-1957 "Classic Two-Seat Thunderbird"

First Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1955-1957 "Classic Two-Seat Thunderbird"

To View All 12 Generations of the Ford Thunderbird, Click “Read More”

Second Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1958-1960 "Four-Seat Square Bird"

Second Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1958-1960 "Four-Seat Square Bird"

Third Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1961-1963 "Bullet Birds"

Third Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1961-1963 "Bullet Birds"

Fourth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1964-1966 "Jet/Flair Birds"

Fourth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1964-1966 "Jet/Flair Birds"

 

Fifth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1967-1971 "Big Birds"

Fifth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1967-1971 "Big Birds"

 

Sixth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1972-1976 "Bigger Birds"

Sixth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1972-1976 "Bigger Birds"

 

Seventh Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1977-1979 "Torino Birds/Birds of a Feather"

Seventh Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1977-1979 "Torino Birds/Birds of a Feather"

 

Eigth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1980-1982 "Fairmount/Silver/Box Birds"

Eigth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1980-1982 "Fairmount/Silver/Box Birds"

 

Nineth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1983-1986 "Aero Birds"

Nineth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1983-1986 "Aero Birds"

 

Tenth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1987-1988 "Bubble Birds"

Tenth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1987-1988 "Bubble Birds"

 

Eleventh Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1987-1997 "High Tech/Super Birds"

Eleventh Gen. Ford Thunderbird 1987-1997 "High Tech/Super Birds"

 

Twelfth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 2002-2005 "Retro Birds"

Twelfth Gen. Ford Thunderbird 2002-2005 "Retro Birds"

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18 Responses

  1. The oddest part of the Thunderbird saga is the fact that the best selling Thunderbird was 1977-’79 cars, with the 1978 model the main seller in that grouping. It seems odd when given how the first generation, two seater, continues to bring big bucks at auction.

    Also, believe there’s a typo. You meant perhaps that the first T-bird was built in 1952, as a prototype, not 1962 – unless I’m missing something, such as an adjective about a “special edition” T-bird of some sort.

  2. Will says:

    The 5th generation T-bird shown above is, I believe, a Ford Torino. It certainly isn’t a Thunderbird. T-birds, in fact, were never turned out with the Cobra treatment. As for dates: The first ‘Birds were manufactured during the summer of 1954 & appeared in Ford showrooms that Fall marketed as 1955 models.

  3. Scott Bray says:

    As already pointed out this article is full of editorial and photographic errors. Additionally the generational nicknames are for the most part completely made up and have never been used by collectors, historians, or Ford. For more factual history of the Ford Thunderbird online see the following article on the Ford website: http://media.ford.com/newsroom/release_display.cfm?release=19472

  4. cody mccall says:

    “On August 20, 1962, the first Ford Thunderbird was produced.”

    Duh! Wrong! On a T-Bird site? Wow!

    I’m sure everybody reading this knows T-Birds came out in 1955. My neighbor sold ‘em. Drove one. Everybody wanted one. Fortunately, they didn’t have to wait til ’62 to get one.

  5. howdy doodie these are very nice cars, very rare to see them in my home country, we have a 1966 thunderbird landau in one of the sheds on my family farm, had haybails around it and on it,still there in quite good conditon, i will get it out and have a closer look and get it running. my dad used it last back in the 1980s so its been sitting for quite a few years.

  6. i know quite abigt about cars, i have a daihatsu sharirigy, i think i know what liam morrison is saying about his one in his shed, my dad was a police officer back in the 1960s and i can remember him coming to visit in his tbird, took me for a ride a few times, very fun, great memorys, i bet he wishes he owned that car now!

  7. well i know what aaron is saying, i like the tbirds, was your dads police car the landau model? my one is in my shed!!!

  8. liam that is really none of your bussiness weather it was a landau model or NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. god sake Aaron u need to get your head checked! u are so completely rude and fjucking inconsiderate! i am not impressed at all, all i wanted to know was if the farking tbird model was a landau not bloody brain science!!!!!!!

  10. matthew keeley says:

    hi there everyone mi names matt and i was looking for a resonably priced model of this car and i found one in a junkyard and brought it for $300 n its blowimg out smoke when i drive it? not sure if its cause theres something wrong with the engine or not could anyone help me? and also its leaking some kind of fluid but im gonna take it in to get fixed with the fluid. also the door panels are different colours to the chasey but its still a pretty mean car for $300

  11. man oh man you guys need to sort your crap out and get it togeather! iYes it was a landau model and you dont need to know anymore than that, im not telling you my account details or my visa number, its my bussiness and not YOURS!!!, u dont know me so it doesnt matter!!!!

  12. arthur says:

    yah i,ll love to buy a 1962 thunderbird,1957 thunderbird.)

  13. shirley fye says:

    Looking for a 1956-1958 thunder bird (ford).

  14. donna bridgman says:

    love the pink bird

  15. German Guevara says:

    The 1955 T-Bird is one of the best sports car ever made

  16. grant says:

    Isn’t that a 1969 Torino NOT a 1969 T-bird pictured above

  17. Gary says:

    Correction: The T-Bird came out in 55. Was NOT a fiberglass car (like the early vettes). You should add how much faster the Tbird was and that it out-sold the Vette in those early days.