Pico Rivera, California
Mahwah, New Jersey
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door hardtop coupe|
4-door pillared hardtop landau sedan
|Related||Continental Mark III|
|Engine||390 cu in (6.4 L) FE V8|
428 cu in (7.0 L) FE V8
429 cu in (7.0 L) 385 V8
|Wheelbase||115 in (2,921 mm) |
|Length||209.4 in (5,319 mm)|
|Predecessor||Ford Thunderbird (fourth generation)|
|Successor||Ford Thunderbird (sixth generation)|
The fifth generation of the Ford Thunderbird is a large personal luxury car that was produced by Ford for the 1967 to 1971 model years. This fifth generation saw the second major change of direction for the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird had fundamentally remained the same in concept through 1966, even though the styling had been updated twice. The introduction of the Ford Mustang in early 1964 had, however, challenged the Thunderbird's market positioning. It, like the Thunderbird, was a small, two-door, four-seater with sporting pretensions, but it was more affordable. The Thunderbird's sales suffered. Ford's response was to move the Thunderbird upmarket.
For 1967 the Thunderbird would be a larger car, moving it closer to Lincoln as the company chose to emphasize the "luxury" part of the "personal luxury car" designation. Ford decided to abandon the Thunderbird's traditional unibody construction for this larger car, turning to a body-on-frame method with sophisticated rubber mountings between the two to reduce vibration and noise. A new option was four small lights on the ceiling directly above the rear view mirror that lit up for emergency flasher use, low-fuel warning light, door-ajar light, and seat-belt reminder light.
The convertible, increasingly a slow seller, was dropped in favor of a four-door model featuring suicide doors. It remained in the lineup through 1971 but never generated substantial sales.
The new 1969 Continental Mark III was based on the four-door Thunderbird chassis, and from that point until the late Nineties, Thunderbirds and Continental Marks were generally related cars, the Thunderbird following the Mark's growth in popularity in the 1972 model year.
The 1967 design was radically different from what came before. Ford's stylists delivered a radical shape that in many ways anticipated the styling trends of the next five years. A gaping wide "fishmouth" front grille that incorporated hidden headlights was the most obvious new feature. The look was clearly influenced by the intakes on jet fighters such as the F-100 Super Sabre, and was enhanced by the flush-fitting front bumper incorporating the bottom "lip" of the "mouth". The sides were the barrel-like "fuselage" style that was very popular during this period. The belt line kicked up "coke-bottle" style after the rear windows, again a styling trait that would prove ubiquitous. Large C-pillars (and a small "formal" rear window on the 4-door) meant poor rear visibility but were the fashion of the time. The taillights spanned the full width of the car, and featured, as in previous Thunderbird models, sequential turn signals.
The 1968 Thunderbird saw the introduction of the new 385 series big-block 429 cu in (7.0 L) V8 engines. Like most Ford motors of the time, they were tuned down to 360 hp (268 kW) for insurance reasons. The Thunderbird motors also got special treatment with wedge style heads, making a significant power increase over their conventional headed brothers. These motors made the cars some of the quickest and fastest ever produced, despite their larger size and heavier body on frame construction. 1968 and 1969 model years saw minor trim changes respectively.
In 1970 the Thunderbird was stylistically updated with the addition of a large, bird's beak-style projection out of its grille. Offered in coupe or sports-back models, all 1970-1971 Thunderbirds had prominent angular lines on the hood leading to a jutting tip, that also formed the center of the grill work, that was not a too thinly disguised bird beak. The T-bird for these two years had its most animalistic look that was fairly aggressive in appearance. Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen, the former GM man now President of Ford, is said to be responsible for this dramatic change,. As with the 1967-69 models, the 1970-71 models had sequential turn signals incorporated into the full panel tail lights in the rear of the vehicle.