Has the retro-inspired Thunderbird been around long enough to become cool?
We currently have a 2005 Ford Thunderbird 50th Anniversary Edition on sale on the CarBuzz website. Since only 1,500 were built, $44,900 seems a fairly reasonable asking price. But two questions remain: Has enough time passed for the 11th generation Thunderbird to be considered cool, and would you rather have it than a Mustang GT Convertible?
To understand this Cashmere Thunderbird, we need to look at it in context. It followed a slew of retro-inspired models, all the rage in the early noughties. The trend started with the 1998 VW Beetle, which was hugely successful until it died out in 2018. Then BMW launched the New Mini, which kick-started an entire brand that's still going strong with models like the John Cooper Works GP. Other examples include the Plymouth Prowler, BMW Z8, and the 2004 Ford GT.
Ford wanted a piece of the retro action, and it made complete business sense. The Blue Oval even had the perfect marketing platform thanks to the Bond franchise.
The only part of the car that didn't already exist was the body.
It was built on the Ford DEW platform, designed years earlier for the Lincoln LS, Jaguar S-Type, and the latter's successor, the XF. The engine was borrowed from Jaguar, which Ford owned at the time. It was part of the AJ-8 engine range, first introduced in 1998. It replaced Jaguar's famous and notoriously finicky straight-six engines and was available in naturally aspirated and supercharged formats.
For the Thunderbird, Ford went the NA route. Later versions like this one sent a rather underwhelming 280 horsepower and 286 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission with an early version of manual override called SelectShift.
The biggest problem with this car is that it never knew what it wanted to be. The suspension setup was sloppy, and the performance was adequate at best. The V8 engine's soundtrack isn't great, and the interior was borrowed straight from the Lincoln LS. No wonder it failed so badly.
The only thing the Thunderbird had going for it was the design, which simply wasn't enough to justify the $40,000 plus sticker price. It did have loads of standard features, including that power-folding top, power-adjustable heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and leather seats.
This particular example is number 54 of 1,500 Anniversary models built, and it has just 6,010 miles on the clock. The low mileage is likely the result of previous owners simply enjoying the design, which this car is all about.
Sometimes, looking good is more important than enjoying the ride. For reference, see Ford's Bond ad for the Thunderbird below.
But the question remains, does it look good after 20 years? Answers in the comments section below, please.