1969 Ford Thunderbird
8-cyl. 429cid/360hp 4bbl
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Ford took a bold step in redesigning the Thunderbird in 1967. Added to the T-Bird range this year was a four-door sedan model, with forward opening “suicide” rear doors, which included part of the roof. Even more drastic, the company dropped the convertible from the Thunderbird lineup for the first time. Underneath, the car began to utilize body-on-frame construction instead of a unibody setup. Despite what purists must have thought, the move was an attempt to broaden the car’s appeal and sell more units, which was easily accomplished. Ford sold nearly 10,000 more Thunderbirds in 1967 than it did in 1966.
In addition to the four-door Landau sedan, a two-door coupe and Landau coupe were also offered. The Landau models had a vinyl roof and a decorative bar dressing up the C-pillar. All of the new Thunderbirds were longer and heavier than the preceding model, with full-width grilles, hidden headlights, and full-width taillights. Engines ranged from 275- and 315-hp 390-cid V-8s, through two high-performance motors of 427-cid, offering 410 and 425 hp, up to the 428-cid, 345-hp Thunderbird Special.
Thunderbirds were little changed for 1968, though the 429-cid, 360-hp Thunderjet engine was added to the options list and the 427-cid engines were dropped. Overall, sales dipped slightly to below where they were at for the 1966 model year, at 64,391 units. The 1969 T-Birds were the last to use this body with a few detail changes, including more people opting for buckets seats. Sales slid to below 50,000 for the first time since recession-sick 1958.
For 1970, the Thunderbird got received a new body shell that was longer and lower, with a projecting beak in the center of the grille, and full-width inverted “U” taillights. Body styles remained the same and motors ranged from 390 cid to 429 cid. The 1971 model year saw the last of this generation of T-Bird, with the 1972 car becoming upsized. As the last of the line, few changes were made.
This era of Ford Thunderbird can still be purchased quite reasonably. The cars don’t have the elegance of the first gen T-Birds, or the atomic styling of the “Bullet Bird” era, but they do have an interesting look that has aged quite well. They are heavier and thirstier than their predecessors, which makes the driving dynamics best suited to cruising. The 1970-71 “beaked” cars have all but disappeared and the quirky four-door is now quite rare in either series, meaning they both stand out on today’s roads. Somewhat surprisingly, parts aren’t all that difficult to obtain, and a lot of these cars still exist in fairly decent shape. Restored examples, however, are very unusual, mainly due to the cost of restoration being so much greater than the model’s current market value.