We were mere toddlers when Ford unveiled the Thunderbird in February 1954. But memories are powerful. The timeless design of the all-new 2002 Thunderbird stirs deep emotions for those of us old enough to remember the original. Sentiment, however, isn't enough to mask the new T-Bird's shortcomings, and there are several. But this is still a great drive - one of the few truly successful modern interpretations of an auto classic.

He: Ford had a tougher job in trying to re-create the original Thunderbird than Volkswagen did when it fashioned the New Beetle. VW's chief task was to faithfully mimic the shape of the original Beetle. It didn't really matter that the New Beetle is front-wheel drive, because it lookslike the old Beetle. The reincarnated Thunderbird, on the other hand, really needed a V-8 engine and had to be rear-wheel drive to be authentic. The shape didn't need to be an exact copy, merely evocative of the original. Ford succeeded - the new Thunderbird is a beauty and great fun to drive.

She: I think you're over-intellectualizing things, as usual. The magic of Thunderbird is that it gives us back our childhood. People who see it treat this car with reverence. The New Beetle prompted glee. There's a real interesting psychology at work here with T-Bird. But I know most guys don't like to talk about feelings.

He: Nah, I just hate the song. Seriously, the new T-Bird displays many of the inherent problems of ragtops, including cramped headroom, lousy visibility and lots of road noise when the top is up. It comes with an easy-to-use power softtop that you can raise or lower in about 10 seconds. Drop that top, and you're instantly transported back to the `50s.

She: Yeah, great for anybody who misses the military-industrial complex, Eisenhower and hula hoops. By the way, I drove the hardtop and it helps cut down the noise. It's the way to go, especially with the cool porthole windows that remind you of the `50s version. The other truism about the new T-Bird is this is not a good all-around vehicle. It's a toy to take out on special occasions. There's barely room for anything in the trunk.

He: Still because the T-Bird borrows heavily from the chassis of the Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-Type, its driving dynamics are impressive. Steering is precise and controlled. The brakes are excellent. Ford over-softened the suspension - it feels floaty on rough pavement. But, generally, the ride is exceptional.

She: There are some interior disappointments. The aqua needles on the gauges are cool and a great `50s color, but they tend to disappear in bright sun, especially on the gray background. There are no lighted vanity mirrors. The driver's seat has a power height adjustment, but the seat-back adjuster is manual. I like the power tilt/telescope steering column and was impressed by the safety features - standard side air bags and antilock brakes.

He: Ford put a lovely engine and trans mission in the T-Bird - a very responsive twin-cam 3.9-liter V-8 from the LS that makes 252 horsepower and is mated to a five-speed automatic. The fuel economy is only average. I hope Ford eventually offers some sort of manual shift option.

She: Typical guy. I don't really need a manual transmission to enjoy driving the new Thunderbird. Price will be key and here's some good news: The base model will only cost you $35,495 to recapture your childhood - a real bargain.

Anita's rating: World class

Paul's rating: Above average

Likes: Distinctive styling with emotional appeal. Easy-to-use power top takes 10 seconds to raise or lower. Power tilt/telescope steering column. Responsive engine.

Dislikes: Cramped headroom and lousy visibility with top up. Interior colors don't match well. Puny cargo bay. Suspension a little too soft. Pretty noisy at highway speeds. Questionable build quality. Aqua needles on gauges get lost on gray background.

Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-passenger convertible.

Price: Base, $36,495; as tested, $37,825 (inc. $530 destination charge).

Engine: 3.9-liter V-8; 252-hp; 261 lb-ft torque.

EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway.

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $1,435

Where built: Wixom