1973 Ford Thunderbird: Thunderbrougham!

Thomas Klockau

I love mid-summer—peak car show season. In back-to-back weekends I saw at least a dozen amazing cars that I will likely write up soon, but today’s subject was the result of a change in plans due to an extra-hot week in the Midwest.

1973 Ford Thunderbird front end detail
Thomas Klockau

Every Wednesday during the summer there is an evening cruise in on the Davenport, Iowa, riverfront. Sometimes there is a great turnout and sometimes there are only a few cars. Of course, this is dependent on what the weather is like. Extremely hot and humid, usually means a low turnout, so I wasn’t expecting much, but since my office is nearby I figured I’d swing by for a quick look.

1973 Ford Thunderbird side profile
Thomas Klockau

As I crossed the bridge, I could tell there were only two cars, one which may have not even been vintage, so I just continued on through downtown. And as I passed the Hotel Blackhawk, I spied this magnificent 1973 Ford Thunderbird.

1973 Ford Thunderbird front quarter panel
Thomas Klockau

I immediately vectored my car into the nearest empty parking spot and frantically ran over to gawk at it—no surprise, as I’m frequently spied in the greater metropolitan area darting into traffic to geek out at some well-preserved example from the Brougham Age.

1973 Ford Thunderbird rear three quarter
Thomas Klockau

This car was a sweetheart. I’ve seen a few of these around, including a very sharp white one with dark green leather and dark green top, but this was amazingly nice. I couldn’t find a thing wrong with it, not a ding in a wheel cover or one sprung stitch in the upholstery. I was also particularly fond of the ice blue metallic paint with navy top and cloth.

1973 Ford Thunderbird rear taillight
Thomas Klockau

This was the second year of the “Thunderbrougham,” as I call them. Never again would the T-Bird be so large or extravagant. Built from 1972–76, it shared its body and chassis with the Continental Mark IV.

1973 Ford Thunderbird front three quarter
Thomas Klockau

Some wags have said the Mark was simply a dolled-up Thunderbird, but as I recall, the Mark IV was designed first, then the Thunderbird was adapted from it. Either way you slice it, these were large, imposing personal luxury coupes. My friend Carmine refers to them as the “Thunder Thighs” T-Bird.

1973 Ford Thunderbird interior seats
Thomas Klockau

The ’73s, like all other cars that year, had a new bumper designed to withstand a 5-mph knock with no damage. This resulted in the “park bench” bumper style that became so common on cars in the U.S. in the mid-to-late ’70s. In addition to the new bumper, the T-Bird got a new eggcrate-style grille to replace the ’72’s horizontal-bar version and revised front turn-signal lenses, and the headlights moved into separate pods, replacing the previous year’s style, where they were housed in a shadow box-type chrome frame with a repeating pattern from the grille within them.

1973 Ford Thunderbird interior rear seat
Thomas Klockau

The trim rear bumper and full-width taillights carried over for 1973. Thunderbirds now had a base price of $5577 ($38,646 today) and weighed in at an impressive 4572 pounds. It was a very good year for personal luxury coupes, and the T-Bird was no exception: 87,269 were built for the ’73 model year.

1973 Ford Thunderbird interior top
Thomas Klockau

The new front bumper stretched the overall length to 218.9 inches (in 1972 it was was an even 216 inches). Wheelbase was 120.4 inches and height was 53.1 inches. To put that in perspective, a 2023 Cadillac Escalade is 211.9 inches long with a 120.9-inch wheelbase! The 429-cubic-inch V-8 with 201 horsepower was standard, with a 219-hp 460 optional. Both breathed through a four-barrel Motorcraft carburetor.

1973 Ford Thunderbird rear three quarter
Thomas Klockau

As you’d expect of Ford’s top luxury coupe, standard features included power steering and power front disc/rear drum brakes, along with AM radio, spare tire lock, ample sound insulation, full wheel covers, side body protective moldings, Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission, and power ventilation. An amazing 23 colors were available, eight of them at extra cost.

1973 Ford Thunderbird wheel tire
Thomas Klockau

Options included SelectAire air conditioning, a power sunroof, the Exterior Decor Group, deluxe bumper group, leather interior, bucket seats with matching center console, cornering lamps, and a power antenna.

1973 Ford Thunderbird interior seats
Thomas Klockau

Our featured car is finished in Silver Blue Fire, which was one of the optional exterior paint choices. An identical one was shown in the ’73 Thunderbird brochure. I later found out that it had a reputed 20,000 original miles and was equipped with the 460 V-8. It was a beauty, and it more than made up for that messed-up cruise-in!

1973 Ford Thunderbird interior door panel
Thomas Klockau



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    Memories! I owned the exact car, only mine had the gorgeous white leather interior & matching blue color-keyed wheel covers. I sold it for $1,800 in 1984–wonder where it is now.

    I love any and all things Brougham, and this Lincoln look for a Ford price is Awesome! I am a Major fan of personal luxury, toe it has always been what America is all about, success!!!

    To begin, I love Thunderbirds, I have my favorites from every generation. If I have to rank them on my favorite all-time model years, it won’t be easy but the 1974 through 1976 model years are in my top 5. Admittedly I happen to like what I call the Disneyland bumpers, both front and rear. I do like the wall to wall taillights of the 73s, but because of the overall size of these, I think the bumpers give it a very stately yet elegant look. I also like the taillights with the chrome boxes across the with of the taillights, again, I think it gives the car a more formal finish to the taillights. The taillights of the 73s are very clean and somewhat sporty styling. I like them both but 74s really do it for me. The way I see it, if traditional elegance is what your looking for then you have to go for the Lincoln Mark lVs. Of course they are basically the same car, but the styling differences of each one of them work great on their own. The hidden headlights and formal waterfall grill, and those gorgeous Mark running and indicator lamps are a perfect fit for the Marks, they capture the Lincolnesck look, as do the raparound taillights. At the end of the day, I love both of them. If you’ve ever seen either one of them in black on black leather interior you can see they are both perfect Mafioso cars, being Italian, that means a lot. The Thunderbird featured here is a real beauty. In my opinion, Ford styling in the mid-70s puts The Ford Motor Company at the top of their game, they blew GM out of the water. Chrysler had some great looking cars too, but it was all about Ford.

    What can I say about the 1970’s T-Birds especially from the the years 72 – 76. Flawless absolutely Flawless. You couldn’t have gotten any better with the top of the line Brougham Models and series especially with the Fully Equipped, Fully Loaded Fully Powered front Bucket High Back Chase Lounge 60/60 Reclining Seats including Rear Seat for Rear Passengers if I was going to allow for people to sit in the back seat. Tilt Telescopic Power Steering Wheel with Cruise Control JBL AM/FM Cassette Stereo with Dual Power Antenna, Dual Luxury Remote Control Mirrors and 2-4 Sets of Factory Installed 15 Inch Aluminum, Chromed,Highly Buffed, Polished Bucket Mag Stainless Steel Rims with Classic 2 & 1/2” Double Eagle or Uniroyals Self Sealing Whitewall All Season – All Terrain 15” 225 – 235 75 R15” Tires. That’s how I would have all my Luxuriously, Luxurious, Luxury Personal Rides.

    The 74 through 76 Thunderbirds are one of my favorites. I know they are big, and not what Thunderbirds typically were in the 50s and 60s, but I love them. I also love their cousins, the 1974 Lincoln Mark lVs. Both of these cars are gorgeous, I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite between them. I guess that means I should have one of each. I love most of the full-size Ford Motor Company 70s cars. Not just because they are so much better looking than anything GM and Chrysler were doing. Ever since I was in my 20s these 2 cars have been two of my all time favorites. There’s a black 75 Thunderbird that lives down the street from me, every time I see it I just stare at it. I’m trying to come up with a reason for owning one just like it because I definitely don’t need one, and I don’t have a good place to park it, but I still love and want one. Back in the 80s and 90s people couldn’t give them away due to their poor gas mileage. But I don’t care about the mileage, because that’s not why you buy a car like that. I love those big Fords from the 70s.

    Had a friend in the early 80’s living in Denver that had the lipstick red/white trim and white leather interior ’73. Imposing. Pimpy!!! And the owner and car went together perfectly..

    When he borrowed my 72 VW Camper I got to do the Detroit Lean in that big ‘Bird. Just like the song said: Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin’ the scene with a gangster lean….

    That is a stunning classic with class and would turn car enthusiasts heads in awe. I would love to had the opportunity to purchase that gorgeous vehicle.

    I often wonder if the car designers in the 70s had a collective stroke. The most of cars from the 50s and 60s looked soo much better than most of the cars from the 70s. The 80s werent much better, on average. Maybe I am too old, or maybe too young, to appreciate these cars…

    “deluxe bumper group”. Sheesh.
    Sorry but this model Thunderbird is the equivalent of what the 3rd generation Mustangs were to it’s legacy. Quickly forgotten.

    Thomas, another beauty, thank you!! Wow. Such great lines and proportions. ‘Standard 429, optional 460’… let that sink in for a minute. Loved the brochures from the day – you wonder if the original owner looked in the brochure and said, ‘…just like that. Exactly, like that.’, then put down his/her money and waited for the factory order. I also loved how, back in the day, you could open the big binder, pick individual options, feel the materials, and see the colours on swatches. Those were the times.

    My Dad’s brother was a doctor, and the owner of the Ford/Lincoln dealer was a neighbour, so every two years he had a new Ford. Early in his career, with a smaller family, it was a 68 390 Mustang, then the suicide-door T-bird, then one of these 73/74 T-birds, then a 76 Ford Elite, then later on, when the 78 LTD Country Squire was purchased for the boat and family vacations, he bought a Lincoln Continental.

    Thomas, much like the Frost Orange Firemist Cadillac from last week (stunner), I don’t know how you keep your wallet in your pocket! I see you renting a big warehouse somewhere, with a full-time valet, to bring you something Brougham and different each day of the week. I would find your passion very hard… please keep these great Broughams coming!!

    p.s. Sajeev – thought you’d make a comment about the Lincoln next to it… but you didn’t… haha!

    This car displays most everything that went wrong with the T-Bird over the years: too big, too overwrought, tasteless. The earlier T-Birds had some class, and the ones that followed (1977-79) were not only smaller, but much less embarrassingly ostentatious than this barge.

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