Spanning over eleven generations and almost fifty years, the Ford Thunderbird is responsible for carrying thousands of people over hundreds of miles in both comfort and style. Often credited with the creation of the “personal luxury car” niche, the Thunderbird has undergone several changes throughout the years but retained its original purpose as the perfect road trip vehicle.
Almost four and a half million vehicles later, the Ford Thunderbird is still beloved by many Americans who want a less pretentious (and less expensive) convertible or hard top for Sunday afternoon drives, weekend car trips, and the occasional jaunt across country. It has also done well in racing, particularly for NASCAR drivers Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott and Davey Allison, and Alan Kulwicki. The Thunderbird even set a record – during a 1980’s qualifying session at the Talladega Speedway, the vehicle created a new record for the fastest lap in stock car history (over 200 mph), a record which still stands today.
Unfortunately for the Ford Thunderbird, nothing lives forever, no matter how classic and beloved. As time goes by and people live at faster and faster paces, the vehicle simply can’t keep up with the need for more seats, more space, and more economical choices. In 2005, the last Ford Thunderbird rolled off the line.
The good news is that with almost five million Thunderbirds made, there are vehicles available for those who still dream of seeing American in one of these beauties. And who knows? The Thunderbird has been put on hiatus before and been brought back to life. With all the interest in a return to the past for a glimpse into a simpler time, there may yet be another iteration of the Thunderbird for future car lovers. At the very least, it will continue to inspire designers for many years to come.
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