Named for a legendary creature among Native Americans, Ford Motor Company created a whole new segment within the auto industry in 1955 when they introduced the Thunderbird to the American motoring public. The Thunderbird was a bird with supernatural power and strength and was apparently well-suited for the vehicle as the nameplate spent a span of 50 years in the Ford line-up in a variety of body styles.
The Thunderbird was introduced in February 1954 at the Detroit Auto Show as a 1955 model and was made available for sale in October of that year. While the car, a two seat convertible with a removeable hardtop available, was considered a competitor for Chevrolet’s Corvette the reality was the cars were aimed at totally different buyers and marketed accordingly by the respective companies. Chevrolet set their sights on people who wanted a sports car while Ford sought to create a whole new market with an upscale personal luxury car. Ford’s strategy met with success, as the company sold 23 Thunderbirds for every Corvette sold as sales topped 16,000 units for the first-year model!
With the exception of a hiatus beginning with the 1988 model year and ending with the introduction of the 2002 model line, the Thunderbird badged cars came to symbolize Ford’s personal luxury automobile. From the time the first models were introduced in 1955 until Ford pulled the proverbial plug on the name at the end of the 2005 model year a total of 4.4 cars were produced with that name in virtually every body style imaginable. All told, eleven district generations of the Thunderbird vehicles came out of Ford factories as that personal luxury car market evolved through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
The car that advanced that market was the totally-redesigned 1958 model that grew from a two-seat vehicle to a car that welcomed four people. While still a two door coupe (a convertible model was introduced mid-year) Ford executives belief that the two-seat configuration limited sales was proven with sales more than doubling from the 1957 model. In all, the second generation of vehicles spanning the 1958-1960 model years sold over 200,000 units which was four times the sales of the first generation. From 1961 through the 1976 models, the Thunderbird held a special niche with the American motorist as the cars grew larger, more powerful and more luxurious!
The size trend began to reverse itself in 1977, when Ford introduced a totally new design that was several inches shorter than the previous model. While retaining V8 power, the new smaller T-bird came standard with a 302 cubic inch small block with the 400 cubic inch engine being the largest available option. Luxury still remained at a high level, especially with some of the special editions produced in limited numbers. Downsizing continued through the next generation, which shared the Fox platform with the Mustang, and subsequent generations that were built on a Jaguar platform until Ford retired the name (at least temporarily) at the close of the 1987 model year.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, other automakers jumped on the bandwagon producing retro-looking vehicles with modern technology and amenities. Ford went back to the archives and created a car obviously inspired by the first generation Thunderbirds, right down to the available removeable hardtop for the 2002 model year! These cars were powered by a 4.9L V8, also derived from Jaguar which was owned by Ford Motor Company from 1990 to 2008. This new Thunderbird also shared a platform with the Jaguar S-type and the Lincoln LS. Second year models saw internal engine changes that upped the horsepower slightly. If the original 1955 model was not a sports car, certainly this final generation of Thunderbird radically tilted the scale away from sports car to luxury car. Most reviewers were wary of Ford’s claim of “relaxed sportiness” but at the close of testing came away praising the vehicle’s overall feel and performance.
While first-year sales numbers were good, sadly the tastes of the buying public quickly changed and Ford broke with their decades of tradition chasing consumers tastes with the Thunderbird and made the decision to end production with the 2005 model year. The last Thunderbird (at least to date) came off the assembly line in July 2005.
This 2004 Ford Thunderbird is a tremendous example of a final generation T-bird! The Merlot Metallic paint contrasts nicely with the Light Sand leather interior and soft top. A matching Merlot hardtop is also included with the car. Ford production records indicate 12,771 Thunderbirds were built in 2004, with 1,322 manufactured with this specific paint and trim combination so this is significantly rare. Built in November 2003, this car is equipped with the 4.9L engine producing 280 horsepower and the five-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift option. The vehicle shows 28,701 miles on the digital odometer, which we believe to be original. To comply with Missouri statutes, this vehicle will be sold mileage exempt due to age. The car is equipped with all the power options one would expect in a personal luxury car, including power heated driver and passenger seats. The suspension is slightly detuned from the Lincoln and Jaguar offerings, resulting in a better ride quality under normal driving conditions.
The present owner of this car acquired it from a private individual almost seven years ago and the car has been driven very little since purchase. The car has been stored in a humidity-controlled environment during that time. Will the final generation Thunderbird become as collectible as the first generation? At this point it’s anyone’s guess but enthusiast interest for these vehicles has been strong for the past 15 years since production ended. This would be a great car for local and regional shows, cruises and tours and is just a fun vehicle to drive!
Evergreen Digital Showroom offers this 2004 Ford Thunderbird at a price of $29,900 USD. We will gladly assist with transportation and delivery arrangements at the buyer’s expense. To discuss this car or make an offer, feel free to call sales manager Steve Russell at 417-532-8000. To see other vehicles offered by Evergreen Digital Showroom, visit our website at www.evergreendigitalshowroom.com.
Because of the number of vehicles we represent we cannot drive every vehicle for long distances. These vehicles have been part of static displays for long periods of time, in some cases for decades, and are subject to the flaws and imperfections consistent with that. While we do our best to disclose all issues we known about a vehicle in our advertising, these are old cars and something that has always worked in the past might not function properly today. Please check the requirements of your state regarding the licensing and registration of classic vehicles and make sure the vehicle you are looking at meets those if applicable. Unless otherwise noted, all vehicles represented by Evergreen Digital Showroom possess a clean (non-branded) title which will be provided the new buyer when purchase funds clear our financial institution. Virtually all our vehicles are sold as mileage exempt due to their age. We do not warranty any vehicle, nor any part of the vehicle including air conditioning systems, brake systems, electrical systems and gauges, fuel systems, accessories or powertrain components.
These are old vehicles and it is very common for them to require certain maintenance and upkeep for them to be operational. In many cases issues with leaks may develop when being driven after a long period of not being used. This is common, as classic cars at some point will leak fluids. For this reason, we do not encourage buyers to attempt driving their purchase home as we cannot guarantee functional reliability of these vehicles. We strongly encourage prospective buyers to be sure they are comfortable with these issues before purchasing a classic car.
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