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Bring Back The Thunderbird (Mustang derived)


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303 replies to this topic

#1 OFFLINE   joihan777

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 04:39 AM

Hey all,
After numerous posts to the Bring Back The Thunderbird thread I decided to photoshop an image of what I think Ford could do with a Mustang platform. The Thunderbird concept is shorter and just a little lower. It would be a 2 seater roadster using slightly modified Mustang drivetrains. With the reduced weight and center-of-gravity readjustments, I think this idea for a Thunderbird could compete with a base Corvette. Adding powerpacks or even turbos could compete with the Z06. It'd be called the Thunderbird Lightning Edition. Of course this is just a size comparison, as I think the 2001-2005 Retro-Birds had a better direction style-wise. Whaddya think? B)

Posted Image

Edited by joihan777, 09 July 2007 - 12:38 AM.

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#2 OFFLINE   Roadrunner

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 09:48 AM

I understand the "heritage look" trying to be made here, but why would we want a stubby Mustang?
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#3 OFFLINE   ice-capades

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 09:53 AM

Hey all,
After numerous posts to the Bring Back The Thunderbird thread I decided to photoshop an image of what I think Ford could do with a Mustang platform. The Thunderbird concept is shorter and just a little lower. It would be a 2 seater roadster using slightly modified Mustang drivetrains. With the reduced weight and center-of-gravity readjustments, I think this idea for a Thunderbird could compete with a base Corvette. Adding powerpacks or even turbos could compete with the Z06. It'd be called the Thunderbird Lightning Edition. Of course this is just a size comparison, as I think the 2001-2005 Retro-Birds had a better direction style-wise. Whaddya think? B)

Posted Image


Just a few thoughts in response to your post here. I was not a fan at all, in fact, I hated the 2001-2005 "Retro" Thunderbirds. I thought at the time that the design and color schemes would look dated quickly and I think that they do now only a few years later. In the nearly 50 year history of the T'Bird it was never a competitor to the Corvette and shouldn't try to be if the nameplate returns at some point. Besides, Ford doesn't need a T'Bird to compete with Corvette when it has the various flavors of the Shelby Mustang available today and a new and updated Mustang series coming soon.

I bought a new 1974 Mercury Cougar XR-7 when the new model came out and then a 1976 Cougar X-7 before the body was changed and the Thunderbird became the Cougar twin for the 1977 MY after the T'Bird name was put on the Ford Elite series. I loved my Cougars as it was like driving a Lincoln Mark IV for less than half the price, etc. Mercury even advertised the Cougar XR-7 side-by-side with the Mark IV in TV spots featuring Farah Fawcett!

I've been driving company cars since 1986 and drive just about every Thunderbird model from model years 1986 through 1997. The T'Bird sold great though the 1988 MY and then nose dived in the 1989 MY when they introduced the new body and added far too much standard equipment, driving the cost and MSRP into a different category preventing anyone from marketing the vehicle successfully. It wasn't until they refreshed the car for the 1993 MY, removed the "excess" standard content and lowered the price point that the T'bird was positioned close to what it should have been when the 1989 MY T'Bird was introduced. Unfortunately, by then the damage was done and customers had abandoned the T'Bird for more compelling options elsewhere.

When, and if Ford considers a new Thunderbird I'd much prefer that any furture T'Bird go back to being a "Personal Luxury" model at an affordable/competitive price point.

Ford has not been alone in throwing away the heritage of certain car lines that were developed over many years. Thanks to Ford's new CEO the Taurus nameplate is alive again because he recognized the value of the Taurus name, recognition factor, reputation, etc.

If Ford is to build anything else using the Mustang chassis it would make the most sense to build a new Cougar model on a stretched wheelbase using the original Cougar proportions with that classic long hood and short decklid. Do a modern "Retro" Cougar based on the 1970 Cougar XR-7 and make it more upscale than the Mustang series to differentiate the two models. Based on the Mustang chassis, an all-new Cougar could also be developed in a very cost effective manner. The Lincoln-Mercury dealers would love it and it would restore another heritage model and nameplate to the market under the Ford halo.

Thanks for your thoughts on a new Thunderbird. I hope that you'll consider my opinions here!

#4 OFFLINE   joihan777

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 01:20 PM

I understand the "heritage look" trying to be made here, but why would we want a stubby Mustang?


It wouldn't be a stubby Mustang. The style would be more like this supercharged Thunderbird below. I did the Mustang photo alteration just to show how it would be possible to use the existing Mustang platform as a base for a next generation Thunderbird. Ford would be well served to have a competitor to the Vette, and also the Mercedes Benz SLK 350 & BMW Z4.
Posted Image

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#5 OFFLINE   Meelaan

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 01:43 PM

The failure of the last Thunderbird was due to it A) not having fins (what the hell is a Thunderbird without wings?), B) having an overly rounded front (looks like a docile goldfish), and C) being nice to drive, but not particularly good at anything one thing expected of a small ragtop (it basically competed with the Sebring convertible).

It's that simple.

Ford (and moreover, Mr. Mays) screwed the potential for the Thunderbird by using Mays' design philosphy of "everything-has-to-look-like-a-New-Beetle." He did it with the Five Hundred's roofline. He did it 100 times over with the Thunderbird. About the only vehicle design he positively influenced was the Mustang, and really, that was a no-brainer. The current Mustang looks like a Mustang, but honestly, it could have been designed in the dark by a one-eyed blind man.

You want a Thunderbird again?
- Give it fins.
- Make the front fascia slant forward.
- Give it performance credibility.


EDIT: By the way... sorry, but that photochop looks like a circus clown concept. Did you even try here? Where did you get the idea that because a convertible has two seats instead of four that it has to lose total length from the car? Thunderbirds are L-O-N-G. Long hoods. Long trunk lids. Long doors. Large displacement motors. No cab forward.

Posted Image

Edited by Meelaan, 08 July 2007 - 01:55 PM.

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#6 OFFLINE   MERKURXR4Ti

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Posted 09 July 2007 - 08:04 AM

Not a bad idea, the first T'bird was originally designed to compete with the corvette wasn't it? Of course this was before the vette became a hard edged sportscar...
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#7 OFFLINE   joihan777

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Posted 09 July 2007 - 01:11 PM

The failure of the last Thunderbird was due to it A) not having fins (what the hell is a Thunderbird without wings?), B) having an overly rounded front (looks like a docile goldfish), and C) being nice to drive, but not particularly good at anything one thing expected of a small ragtop (it basically competed with the Sebring convertible).

It's that simple.

Ford (and moreover, Mr. Mays) screwed the potential for the Thunderbird by using Mays' design philosphy of "everything-has-to-look-like-a-New-Beetle." He did it with the Five Hundred's roofline. He did it 100 times over with the Thunderbird. About the only vehicle design he positively influenced was the Mustang, and really, that was a no-brainer. The current Mustang looks like a Mustang, but honestly, it could have been designed in the dark by a one-eyed blind man.

You want a Thunderbird again?
- Give it fins.
- Make the front fascia slant forward.
- Give it performance credibility.


EDIT: By the way... sorry, but that photochop looks like a circus clown concept. Did you even try here? Where did you get the idea that because a convertible has two seats instead of four that it has to lose total length from the car? Thunderbirds are L-O-N-G. Long hoods. Long trunk lids. Long doors. Large displacement motors. No cab forward.

Posted Image


Not to sure about your perception of the current Mustang. WHOLE lotta paying customers say otherwise.
Could fins work in a modern car? I think fins were closer to a trend as opposed to 'style'. However, crease lines to 'suggest' fins might be cool. If you mean slant forward the front fascia like the original T-Birds (also like a Porche) then yeah, I think that's a good idea. Unfortunately, my little MS-Paint edit and the original picture were profile views, and the headlamp nacelles are pronounced as I'd like them to be (modernized & aerodynamic like the 2001-2005 T-Bird) so you can't really see the front hood slope from a profile. And the grill opening should resemble a shark or a F-16 air intake. ;)

And of course, the Thunderbird should be a good performer. With Mustang drivetrains on the 1ft shorter roadster the performance can only increase. The idea for the roadster being shorter than the convertible is simple. I LIKE IT. So does BMW, Mazda, Mercedes, & Porsche. Shorter cars tend to do better on lateral/ curvy situations, generally speaking. The Thunderbird in your picture is NOT the original. I believe it is a 2nd or 3rd generation. By then the T-Birds were starting to grow. I don't like that. I think the original models were cuter and they were not as long. A decent sized trunk would be sufficient for my tastes. Even the last Retro-Bird had a trunk a scootch too big for my tastes. And long doors are hardly a wanted feature with today's miniscule parking spaces. I sized my picture to something that I think would not only work, but also be profitable, luxurious & cute with the ability to be upgraded into a Vette fighter.

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#8 OFFLINE   Joecool

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Posted 09 July 2007 - 04:56 PM

2 problems with the last t-bird, looked more like a 53 vette than a t bird, and shoulda had more power

Was good to see it was a 2 place, roadster though.

#9 OFFLINE   mercurymichael

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Posted 09 July 2007 - 06:14 PM

A new bird needs to be a four seater, styling leader. Even as good as the new Mustang is, it still seems like a cheap car to me. T-birds were meant to be asperational, country club type vehicles.

#10 OFFLINE   Ford-150

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 01:28 AM

i don't want a retro theme with a new Tbird, too much stuff is looking retro these days

i want something looking like a XK, or an Aston, or the GT, those designs nail me in that sweet spot.....aahhh!!! yeah!!!!

nice job with the photoshop though

Edited by Ford-150, 10 July 2007 - 01:29 AM.

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#11 OFFLINE   Meelaan

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 09:31 AM

i don't want a retro theme with a new Tbird, too much stuff is looking retro these days

i want something looking like a XK, or an Aston, or the GT, those designs nail me in that sweet spot.....aahhh!!! yeah!!!!


EXACTLY. Just because it's a two-seater convertible does NOT relegate it to the Miata crowd.

nice job with the photoshop though


Err... no. That looks like a pedal car.

EDIT: Although the initial subject was regarding making a T-Bird out of an active platform, here's what we SHOULD have gotten the first time. This keeps the original car's proportions and signature styling elements rather than making it a low-rider New Beetle.

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Edited by Meelaan, 10 July 2007 - 12:56 PM.

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#12 OFFLINE   Ovaltine

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 04:31 PM

Now HERE'S the T-Bird that any new effort should emulate!

Posted Image

:hysterical:


But seriously.... what about a 4 passenger *badass* V8 powered version something in the vein of this '72 T-Bird?

Posted Image


-Ovaltine

Edited by Ovaltine, 10 July 2007 - 04:44 PM.


#13 OFFLINE   Former Ford ZM

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 11:29 PM

It needs to be a hardtop to compete with the luxo-vertibles out there.

I did see something disguised last year running around Detroit that had the C pillar opera glass that the Thunderbird is known for. Maybe Ford has something up their sleeves?

#14 OFFLINE   Watchdevil

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 08:56 AM

Hey all,
After numerous posts to the Bring Back The Thunderbird thread I decided to photoshop an image of what I think Ford could do with a Mustang platform. The Thunderbird concept is shorter and just a little lower. It would be a 2 seater roadster using slightly modified Mustang drivetrains. With the reduced weight and center-of-gravity readjustments, I think this idea for a Thunderbird could compete with a base Corvette. Adding powerpacks or even turbos could compete with the Z06. It'd be called the Thunderbird Lightning Edition. Of course this is just a size comparison, as I think the 2001-2005 Retro-Birds had a better direction style-wise. Whaddya think? B)

Posted Image


I think I understand what you are trying to do here but if this is literal it just looks like a stubby Mustang. Now if Ford were to take the Mustang and shorten it and give it all new styling that is distinctly Thunderbird then it might be worth consideration.

I looked at a Pontiac Solstice and while it's a very stunning car, there is no trunk room. The last Thunderbird had a deck on it you could land a plane on. I believe a well balanced compromise with adequate trunk room is the best solution.

My problem with bringing back the Tbird is it will conflict with the Mustang Convertible, while I also believe that a larger two door coupe/convertible than the Mustang will not generate enough sales to make a business case. Since Lincoln and Mercury do not have a version of the Mustang to sell, they have a better chance making a case for a production vehicle to have something interesting to sell in their showrooms.

However, I would like the Thunderbird to make a comeback in some shape or form because the Thunderbird is an important legendary icon that has been around for 50 years and Ford just cannot continue to turn it's back on it. The Thunderbird and Mustang together is what makes Ford interesting.

I do believe coupes are regaining popularity, there just has to be choices. If it looks good and is engineered well it will sell. being different and unique still sells. Nissan obviously thinks that it was worth it to make a new Altima Coupe. I have seen it and it is attractive enough. There is also Ford's untapped niche of the retractable convertible that GM, Chrysler and VW have models that are currently on the market. A definite luxury step above the Mustang with rear seat room would make a good contender for a Thunderbird.

I hope Ford figures it out... They just cannot continue to turn it's back on the Thunderbird legend.
Posted Image

#15 OFFLINE   Watchdevil

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 08:59 AM

It wouldn't be a stubby Mustang. The style would be more like this supercharged Thunderbird below. I did the Mustang photo alteration just to show how it would be possible to use the existing Mustang platform as a base for a next generation Thunderbird. Ford would be well served to have a competitor to the Vette, and also the Mercedes Benz SLK 350 & BMW Z4.
Posted Image



Now that Supercharged Tbird is one on the most beautiful concepts in detail. You gotta love that hood!
Posted Image

#16 OFFLINE   Watchdevil

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 09:12 AM

The failure of the last Thunderbird was due to it A) not having fins (what the hell is a Thunderbird without wings?), B) having an overly rounded front (looks like a docile goldfish), and C) being nice to drive, but not particularly good at anything one thing expected of a small ragtop (it basically competed with the Sebring convertible).

You want a Thunderbird again?
- Give it fins.
- Make the front fascia slant forward.
- Give it performance credibility.


Fins are too retro and they are not a practical design element to make a comeback. Some design elements make a car look too dated. The reason the circular headlamps and taillamps were not positioned upright was because they were tried and made the car look too old and dated. While I see the resemblance to an old Corvette with the headlamps canted back, the whole idea was to match the front and rear lamps to make them look modern yet give a consistency front and rear and to lend a look like the lamps tunnel from front to back.

recently, I was reading a catalog of ceiling fan styles. They divided all the types into several catagories. The main ones were Traditional, Classic, Contemporary and Transitional.

Describing Transitional it meant that they took classic design elements and blended them into contemporary forms. Thats how I believe the Mustang and Thunderbird should be designed because they do have distinct styling cues that define the style and image of the cars. They should be designed to look like they evolved from the original design for many years without an interruption. Best example, Ferraris and Porsches... If those vehicles changed into unrecognizable forms for the sake of being new and different, they might loose interest.

So yeah take the recognizable styling cues and blend it with modern surfacing and some new and interesting styling elements. However, outright retro copies are just a big no-no.
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#17 OFFLINE   Watchdevil

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 09:22 AM

Now HERE'S the T-Bird that any new effort should emulate!

Posted Image

:hysterical:
But seriously.... what about a 4 passenger *badass* V8 powered version something in the vein of this '72 T-Bird?

Posted Image
-Ovaltine


You always push my buttons when you share thoughts and photos about the Thunderbirds that most people don't pay any attention to. Even the boxy 80-82 Tbird is interesting in a quirky unconventional way seeing one fully restored with good paint and custom wheels.

You gotta love that black 72 Tbird! There are no words to describe it's beauty...

An interesting observation I made was it would be easy to convert the back of a Mustang to sort of emulate that 72 Tbird by giving it a full width taillamp treatment uninterrupted across the back. I see it in my head a little. Design a front end that is different from the Mustang, add some front fender vents not unlike the last Tbird and erase the hockey stick from the rear quarter panels and that would make a nice upscale Mustang alternative. Delete the rear seat area and make it a roadster with the tonneau cover that meets the headrests and it is classic Tbird. Also the Mustang dash design is closely related to the original 1958 Tbird design that it could be shared with some slight modifications to make it Thunderbrid distinct.

There are all sorts of ideas that can be implemented for the next Thunderbird. I just wish Ford would commit to doing something.
Posted Image

#18 OFFLINE   Ovaltine

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 10:50 AM

:happy feet:

You always push my buttons when you share thoughts and photos about the Thunderbirds that most people don't pay any attention to. Even the boxy 80-82 Tbird is interesting in a quirky unconventional way seeing one fully restored with good paint and custom wheels.

You gotta love that black 72 Tbird! There are no words to describe it's beauty...


Glad you liked the post.

My first car was a maroon '72 T-Bird with a white vinyl roof, replete with "ghetto" Landau bars. At the same time, my parents had a really nice looking silver and red '77 T-Bird. It was pretty, but the 351W was a gutless wonder. !@#$% smog controls!

Mine had a 429 4bbl dual exhaust in it. The mufflers and resonators went on it almost immediately, so I had a small garage put a couple of bullet-style mufflers on it with new pipes straight out the back with chrome tips. MAN! that thing had a nice bark then when I'd nail the gas peda! Best "One Wheel Peels" I've ever seen too! :D

But back to the point. I think you're on to something there with taking the basic Mustang chassis and massaging it into the next 'Bird. The one difference though is that I really think that it *has* to be a true 4-seater, with a *real* back seat in it, unlike the 'Stang. For the new car to be truly successful, it would need to be able to haul two adult men in front and at least two adult women comfortably in the back.

A truly upscale interior with retro touches and full width taillamps are a must. A semblance of rear wings could be included, but I think both the round portholes and landau bars should be retired. A small trapizoidal C-pillar window could be included if done tastefully and understated. Plus that would help rear visibility. No vinyl roofs need apply either. Although come to think of it..... may a nice half landau vinyl roof would be neat retro and unique selling feature? The dealers would b-tch about it though because it would cut in to their aftermarket business! :lol:

-Ovaltine

Edited by Ovaltine, 16 July 2007 - 09:04 AM.


#19 OFFLINE   Watchdevil

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 02:17 PM

:happy feet:


But back to the point. I think you're on to something there with taking the basic Mustang chassis and massaging it into the next 'Bird. The one difference though is that I really think that it *has* to be a true 4-seater, with a *real* back seat in it, unlike the 'Stang. For the new car to be truly successful, it would need to be able to haul two adult men in front and at least two adult women comfortably in the back.

A truly upscale interior with retro touches and full width taillamps are a must. A semblance of rear fings could be included, but I think both the round portholes and landau bars should be retired. A small trapizoidal C-pillar window could be included if done tastefully and understated. Plus that would help rear visibility. No vinyl roofs need apply either. Although come to think of it..... may a nice half landau vinyl roof would be neat retro and unique selling feature? The dealers would b-tch about it though because it would cut in to their aftermarket business! :lol:

-Ovaltine


I guess it is debatable whether it be a 2 or 4 seater. I would be happy with either. The important thing is to make it distinct enough from the Mustang that no one gets them confused. Having a fully retractable hardtop roof would keep the Tbird a top of the line halo car. As far as quarter window designs, offer a choice of having the porthole or not. However I don't care if it is there. The best looking Tbirds for me have the thick blind C-pillars.
Posted Image

#20 OFFLINE   joihan777

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 09:44 PM

I guess it is debatable whether it be a 2 or 4 seater. I would be happy with either. The important thing is to make it distinct enough from the Mustang that no one gets them confused. Having a fully retractable hardtop roof would keep the Tbird a top of the line halo car.


If the Mustang has 4 seats, the Thunderbird should have 2 seats. Aside from nostalgia, I can't see Ford developing a parallel vehicle with just a couple of differences. I can see Mercury doing something unique with the S197 chassis though, as they currently do not utilize it. Lincoln's MKR seems to be made for this segment as well. The original Thunderbird, and I think the most iconic Thunderbird, was a 2-seat roadster.

The Thunderbird should be a roadster capable of providing a magnificant, sumptuous ride as well as spirited performance when called for. I would so absolutely freakin' love a cruiser with just enough American retro touches to remind me I'm driving a legend but still be built on a state-of-the-art chassis that was rock solid in performance as well as safety. Watchdevil's comment about a fully retractable hardtop is spot-on too. The Thunderbird should compete (and give nightmares to) BMW Z4 & Mercedes SLKs! The Thunderbird GT should match up against the base Corvette and the Thunderbird Lightning should take on the Corvette ZO6!

You can think of one as a 'grown-up' Miata. The T-Bird I envision would be so hot and such a fantastic execution of American prowess that you'll end up seeing them on the Hot Rod shows and being sought after everywhere. Ford did it before, I think they could do it again.

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