When most car enthusiasts hear the word “Thunderbird”, the likely image that comes to mind is the original stylish 1955 legend from FoMoCo with its long hood and trunk, tail fins, and half hidden rear wheels. There is no question that the 1st generation Thunderbird is a collectible. Almost every classic car auction will have at least one example of meticulously restored Thunderbird selling for top dollar.
When you study the history of the Ford Thunderbird in a little more detail, you will find out that this nameplate has gone though more iterations and refreshes than any other car (as of Dec 2011). Lets focus on the 11th generation of this car that was produced from 2002-2005.
Can this great-great-grand child come close to matching the appeal of the original? Or is it lost among the sea of minor updates and major redesigns? Lets break it down and apply the Desirability + Rarity formula.
Does this car have style? This version of the car is channeling the original with it’s retro styling. You can definitely see the lineage to the 1955 car in this version and more so than any other. Yet it’s a sleek and simple design that can withstand the test of time. So far, this sounds promising.
How many doors does it have? It has 2 doors and a folding top. The car collector world prefers two door coupes and convertibles for whatever reason. Also, you get an option of a removable hardtop with those classic port hole side windows. Neat!
Does this car have power? This car is not a rocket ship and this maybe it’s weak link. However, the character of this Bird is more of a boulevard cruiser, rather than a drag racer or canyon carver. In it’s second year, the engine was upgraded from 252hp to 280hp. This makes the first year cars a little less attractive.
Does this car have performance? Once again, this car is not meant for quarter mile runs. It weighs in at near 3,800 lbs, but the suspension is nice and comfy.
Is it fun? If your idea of fun is gliding down to a local diner for a milkshake while enjoying a V8 rumble, and then going to a drive-in movie – then yes. It is meant to rekindle the magic of the 50s and it succeeds.
These answers move the desirability meter near the top.
In total there were a little more than 68,000 11th generation T-Birds produced. If you focus only on the 2003-2005 years, this number goes down to fewer than 37,000. Then you get to have fun with rare colors and options.
For example, maybe a 2003 Coral color James Bond edition with 700 examples produced would intrigue you? Or maybe you have been able to find 1 or 82 2005 Inca Gold cars? There is definitely a lot of room here for a collector to play.
This model is already fetching higher than book value in many cases. A nice example can not only maintain the price, but is likely to appreciate.
Andre Smirnov is a Software Engineer by trade and a life-long automotive enthusiast. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related informat