While initial raves suited the Early Bird’s creators to a T, market realities forced Ford’s hand to plan a radical change. The enlarged “Squarebird” of 1958 ensured Thunderbird drivers of a ride into a new decade as sales jumped a whopping 76 percent. The Thunderbird legacy rolled through 11 generations during its 50-year run. Introducing unitized body-frame construction into the mix, the Squarebird was followed by the restyled “Roundbird” from ’61 to ’63 with another unit-bodied Bird on the market from ’64 to ’66. Body-on-frame construction returned in ’67 for the fifth-generation Bird, a truly big machine offered with either two or four doors. The even-larger ’72 was basically a rebadged Lincoln. A unitized platform returned in ’77 beneath the downsized eighth-generation T-bird, based on Ford’s midsized LTD II. Award-winning aerodynamics adorned the ’83 model, and an even slicker shell debuted six years later. The story finally came full circle after J Mays’ nostalgic two-seater hit the streets in 2002.
To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Summer 2010 issue of Hagerty magazine.