Ford created a flurry of excitement when the revived Thunderbird appeared as a 2002 model. Though fully modern underneath, the redesigned model was a throwback to the original two-passenger T-Bird of 1955 - 1957. Sales have fallen short of expectations, but the Thunderbird continues into 2005 with new seatback map pockets and new aluminum appliqué trim on the doors and center stack.
Adapted from the Lincoln LS platform, the rear-wheel-drive Thunderbird convertible has a 3.9-liter V-8 and a five-speed-automatic transmission. A removable plastic hardtop is optional, and the car's hood, fenders and rear deck are also made of plastic.
Even though Ford shuns the "retro" label, designers obviously gazed into the past to a dramatic era of the company's history with the design of the Thunderbird. Like its long-ago predecessor, the 2005 Thunderbird seats two occupants and is equipped with rear-wheel drive.
Styling kinship to the original Thunderbird is evident in its eggcrate-style grille and round headlamps, while the hood scoop suggests the 1961 model. Heritage also is evident in the classic porthole-style quarter windows that are incorporated into the optional 83-pound removable hardtop. The shape of the taillights and the basic reverse-wedge profile also hark back to the past.
The current Thunderbird measures 186.3 inches long overall and has a 107.2-inch wheelbase. Two new colors are available for 2005: Bronze and Medium Steel Blue. A fabric convertible top is standard. The Deluxe model has 16-spoke cast-aluminum wheels that hold 17-inch all-season tires, but the Premium model has standard seven-spoke chrome-plated wheels.
Interior trim complements the body color. Standard features include automatic dual-zone air conditioning, leather-trimmed bucket seats, a six-way power driver's seat, a leather-wrapped power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and an in-dash six-CD changer. Trunk capacity is 6.9 cubic feet. Heated front seats are included in the Premium model.
Under the Hood
The Thunderbird's aluminum, 3.9-liter V-8 produces 280 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and drives a five-speed-automatic transmission. A manual-shift provision for manually selected gear changes is optional.
The Thunderbird was Ford's first convertible with head and chest side-impact airbags. All-disc antilock brakes are standard.
The Thunderbird's ride quality isn't bad on smooth highways and handling is agile enough, but its suspension is on the stiff side and can take some bumps rather hard. Acceleration from a standstill is energetic, and the car delivers brisk passing and merging capabilities.
Slipping inside the T-Bird may demand a significant twist of the neck in order to clear the soft top, but the seats are cushioned beautifully. The mirrors are ample in size, but serious blind spots make lane changes dicey.
Even though it's more ordinary than the flamboyant shape suggests, this two-seater delivers a generally enjoyable experience — a flashback to the 1950s. Sadly, it doesn't feel especially well assembled.
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