The Ford Thunderbird classic cars, or T-Birds, were produced from 1955 through 2005 and underwent 11 generations of remodeling. The first two-passenger model was designed in response to the previous introduction of the now classic Chevrolet Corvette. However unlike General Motors with their sporty Corvette, who missed the market by beginning with a six-cylinder engine, the T-Bird was introduced with a 292 cubic inch V-8 and luxury amenities and outsold the Corvette by a margin of over 20 to one.
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The second generation classic Thunderbird was introduced as a four passenger model in 1958 and was produced until 1960. Once again it was marketed as a luxury car and the extra seats and amenities added almost 1,000 pounds to the gross weight, significantly reducing its sporty appeal. It was built on an all new, more rigid, unibody chassis and featured dual headlights, bigger tail fins, more chrome and a new 352 cubic inch engine. It was crowned the Motor Trend Car of the Year and sales continued to climb, resulting in only minor changes to the front grille and engine for the 1969 and 1960 model years.
The third generation T-Bird most notably lost its tail fins in 1961, as most manufactures gave up the battle of the tail fins. The new body resembled a bullet more than a bird and a new 390 cubic inch V-8 engine and three-speed automatic transmission gave it enough power to be chosen as the 1961 Indianapolis 500 pace car. For 1962 Ford added a Landau top option along with a fiberglass tonneau cover for the back seat of convertibles to make them look more like the original two-seater. The 1963 T-Bird was virtually unchanged with the promise of a new generation for the following year.
The fourth generation T-Bird ran from 1964 through 1966 and while it received a new body that lost some of the "bullet" look, more notable was the introduction of sequential turn signals in the tail light cluster. In 1968 a new 428 cubic inch V-8 that produced 345 horsepower was added to the list of options.
In 1967 the fifth generation T-Bird was introduced as a true luxury car in direct competition with the Lincoln and in a blatant effort to separate it from the far less expensive, and far more sporty, Mustang. The all new body was mounted on an independent chassis to isolate it from road noise and vibrations and the convertible model was dropped in favor of four doors, with perhaps its most notable feature being "suicide doors" in the rear. The fifth generation ended with the 1971 model T-Bird, along with the Classic Car Era.
Ford continued to produce the Thunderbird through six more generations of design changes that for the most part were intended to maintain its status as a luxury car. However lagging sales in the 1980s resulted in the return to a more sporty version for the ninth generation in 1983 and when that did't solve the problem production was stopped during the tenth generation in 1997. Ford reintroduced the T-Bird in 2002 for the eleventh generation as a remake of the original sporty two-seat convertible but sales never met expectations and the lineup was halted once again in 2005.