Ford Thunderbird

Click to enlarge... Ford have achieved the product placement coup of the year. The current Bondfilm features their prestige marques of Aston Martin and Jaguar and there's alsoa bit part for the new Thunderbird. Granted, this car literally got ten seconds worth of exposure inthis latest Bond flick, but Ford will have been delighted with the sight ofthe  delectable Halle Barry climbing out of the Thunderbird as she arrivedat a party. I on the otherhand did not look as good driving a Thunderbird...

Click to enlarge... With theassistance of Steve Davidson, the sales manager of WhiteOaks Ford Lincoln in Mississauga, Ontario I set about selecting the Thunderbirdfor my road test. Steve took me to the dealership's stock compound where there were no fewer than twelve sparkling new Thunderbirdsparked up in a row. Having a range of colours to choose from, I decided to takethe classic light blue, appropriately named Thunderbird Blue. The orange of thecar used in the film is being used to best effect on the limited edition 2003'007' model only.


The differences between that model and my test car - apart from the colour choice- is that the 2003 model gets a power increase from 252 hp with 261 lb/ft oftorque (2002) to 280 hp with 286 lb/ft of torque (2003) from the samedisplacement 3.9 litre, V8 engine. Power is sent to the rear wheels via afive-speed automatic gearbox. That auto 'box is the only option unfortunately, which is ashame because this engine is agem. It would be wonderful to be able to enjoy it coupled to a manualtransmission. The original Thunderbird that inspired this model, sold from '55to '57 was a manual after all.

The Thunderbird is a good looking car. You might not describe it as pretty,but it has elegant lines and a lot of presence. Inside is uninspiring with the dashboardwas takendirectly out of the Lincoln LS8 - a car with which this new Thunderbird shares its chassis,engine and gearbox with. Ford did however change the dials, and they do lookgreat at night time glowing with a light blue hue, along with the needles.Chrome ringed dials would have been nice though.


Click to enlarge... It's a pleasant place to spend time, more so with the top down, than up. With thesoft-top up or the hard top in place the car does feel a bit claustrophobic and it has horrible blind spots.However, with the top down, not only does the car look nicer, it also improvesthe feel of the interior.

I did have few quibbles regarding the seats. First of all, they are alittle short in the thigh support area and secondly no matter how you adjust the seats, the driving positionfeels a bit odd. Coupled with the view you get out over the hood  (bonnet ), pointingthis car takes a little getting used to. Whilst this isn't a sports car, theseats do lack side support and I was sliding around on the leather a bit duringthe day.

The aerodynamics of this car are surprisingly good with the roof down. There'sno buffeting to speak of so even at highway speeds, with the top down and the side windowsup, it's a calm drive. Roof up is even calmer, almost devoid of any road noiseor wind noise. Quiet until you press the pedal on the right that is. Provoke this mightyV8, and this car just picks up and goes like someone has just pressed the fastforward button. The performance figures might not lookthe greatest, with a 0-60 mph time of 7 seconds flat, with a top speed of 138mph, but it is more than fast enough for everyday use.


I just simply loved giving it a bootfull of throttle every chance I got, just so I could listen to that engine sing.This is where the auto-box lets it down as it sometimes changes up a gear toosoon, cutting out on the music from the engine bay. However, to its defence, itdoes change gears quickly and smoothly. Go on Ford - give us the Lincoln's semi-automatic gearbox? That wouldcertainly be a good compromise.

The handling however is not a compromise. The chassis and suspension aretuned for ultimate comfort, rather than ragged edge handling or anything inbetween. Forddoesn't deny this, saying this car is more of a cruiser rather than anout-an-out sports car. There is a lot of grip, and if you trust the tires(235/50R17) together with the traction control system, you can go around cornersswiftly. Understeer is the dish of the day. The brakescould be better with both feel of the pedal disappointing and theireffectiveness (stopping distance is 123-ft from 60 mph).

After spending nearly four-hours driving the Thunderbird, across highways and city streets, I did begin to admire the car. It's a car thatwould definitely grow on you. Take it for ahalf-hour test drive and you'd return feeling disappointed. Take it on alonger drive, and you would begin to appreciateits finer qualities. 

At a base price of Cdn.$56,615 to the loaded price of Cdn.$61,615,this car is certainly not cheap.

In the Bond film, Halle Berry arrived to the party in the Thunderbird andamonst the company of Jaguars, Range Rovers and of course James Bond's new ride, the awesome Aston MartinVanquish. The Thunderbird held its own on the style front. So you can feel comfortable in the company ofprestige European cars at a much lower price and that is what does it for me.

Comments (11) Join the discussion on the forum

  • double clutch 02 Dec 2002

    Personally, I'm tired of all the retro stuff, it's just a lame excuse for a company that doesn't have talented enough people to come up with something new and unique. Furthermore, I don't see the copies being as good as the originals! As for the T-Bird, what can I say, it's just another worthless, boring car from Detroit with an automatic transmission. It has no outstanding performance qualities, it's just a cruiser used by people who want to look good,....if you think driving a T-Bird makes you look good. I wouldn't buy one even if the price was retro. But, it fits in nicely with all the rest of the boring cars that litter the American highways.
    Brits and Euros count your blessings.

  • robert farago 02 Dec 2002

    The front end looks has the stare of a dead fish. The rear is more dull than John Stuart Mill. It doesn't handle, the interior isn't special and there's not a lot of power. What's the point? Oh yes... style. Only posers (Oscar nominated or not) need apply.

  • v8thunder 02 Dec 2002

    levensnevel - you're right. Every 'new' car released purports to 'hark back to the styling of the great blah blah blah...'. Time to do something totally groundbreaking that doesn't involve a rehash with a silly price tage, lots of chrome, blobby headlights and front wheel drive. And if they are going to produce a 'sucessor', make sure it keeps to the original ideals. The Mini was supposed to be the smallest package you could fit four adults and their luggage into, and the 'style' came second - look how BMW cocked that one up (it's cramped inside and bigger than an old 2002). The VW beetle was supposed to be the cheapest quality car it was possible to make (hence 'Volks Wagen'), yet the new one's more expensive than the golf (which replaced the beetle anyway), and now 'Volks Wagen' are off making luxury £60K limousines when they already own Audi - what's going on there? At least the Ford Thunderbird sticks to it's ideals of a V8 cruiser, and it does look quite good, but where's the development of the idea?

  • kevinday 02 Dec 2002

    andytk said: Don't joke about the Capri. Apparently we are getting it back...

    Unfortunately it will be four wheel drive and I doubt it'll have a straight six. More like a V6. I doubt they'll even bother with a V8 though. Source is Evo mag some months back and I stress that this was just a rumour.


    Erm the Capri 2.3, 2.6, 2.8, 3.0 and 3.1 were all V6 not straight 6.


  • levensnevel 01 Dec 2002

    Thunderbirds are go

    was the catchphrase when I was young.
    But in this case: Ford plse go straight back to the drawingboard. Forget that awfull retrolook and surprise us all with something totally new.


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