History of the 1977-1979 Ford Thunderbird
The 1977 Ford Thunderbird was a drastic departure from the previous generation. Rather than continuing to grow, the Thunderbird, like much of the domestic product line, shrunk in size as a response to growing concerns about fuel costs. The car was nearly 1,000 pounds lighter than the 1976 model, and rode on a wheelbase that was 6 inches shorter. In addition to size, the 1977 Thunderbird’s price was reduced as well, now with a $5,000 base price. The car was still Ford’s entrant in the “personal luxury car” market, however, despite the smaller package.
The Thunderbird’s new look was similar in spirit to earlier models, only now it featured concealed headlights, a squarer grille, and a glassier cabin, with opera windows. The Town Landau roof featured a chrome accent bar that served as an extension of the B-pillar, and the C-pillar was extremely thin. The car’s 302-cid, 130-hp V-8 was standard and 149- and 161-hp versions of the 351-cid V-8 were optional. Regardless of engine choice, shifting was managed by a three-speed automatic transmission. Buyers responded well to the redesign and new price, and more Thunderbirds were sold in 1977 than ever before.
The 1978 model year was mostly unchanged, though a Diamond Jubilee decor package was available for nearly $4,700 more than a standard ’Bird, and a 400-cid,166-hp V-8 became available. In 1979, the Diamond Jubilee was replaced by the Heritage Edition, and a lighter 351-cid V-8 debuted.
The sales success of the 1977 to 1979 Ford Thunderbird led to another redesign for the 1980 year, again introducing a smaller version of the car. Today, this generation of Thunderbird is exemplary of late 1970s design. Cars are relatively inexpensive, so buyers can afford to seek out well-optioned, low-mileage, and scrupulously cared-for examples. Perhaps surprisingly, many of those still exist.