Rare Rides: The Very Special 1982 Ford Thunderbird Cabriolet

rare rides the very special 1982 ford thunderbird cabriolet

Rare Rides featured exactly one example of the legendary Thunderbird name in previous entries: A late Eighties Turbo Coupe that was basically brand new. While the Turbo Coupe has a following amongst classic car folks, today’s early ’80s Thunderbird is not held in such high regard.

In fact, I’ll go ahead and call it the worst Thunderbird ever.

Bring on the Malaise.

By the turn of the Eighties, Ford’s legendary Thunderbird nameplate was due for a new eighth-generation model. The outgoing seventh-gen car was the last of the large Thunderbirds. Derived from the Torino platform, Thunderbird Seven was 217 inches long and utilized only V8 engines. But those sorts of figures were from a different era; downsizing and fuel economy were en vogue by 1978.

Those two things in mind, Ford changed the Thunderbird considerably for the 1980 model year. The coupe moved to the newer Fox platform, which Ford was keen to spread around as much as possible. Gone were the full-size dimensions; the new model was 17 inches shorter than its predecessor, and over four inches narrower.

Power started at a lower cylinder count than before: six. The base engine was an inline Thriftpower 3.3-liter, eventually offered alongside a larger 3.8-liter Essex V6. Two V8s rounded out the range, 4.2- and 4.9-liter mills from the house of Windsor. Like past Thunderbirds, only automatic transmissions were offered, in three and four forward speeds.

Thunderbird sales were strong at the conclusion of 1979, and production expanded from two to three factories in 1980. Thunderbirds were born at the Chicago, Atlanta, and Lorain Assemblies. The new car benefited from a lower curb weight, better handling and fuel economy, and incredibly low consumer interest.

Critics panned the new midsize T-bird, while customers shopped elsewhere for a personal luxury coupe. Between 1980 and 1982, Ford shifted 288,638 Thunderbirds, a total just 4,000 cars greater than sales for model year 1979. Ford couldn’t ready the Aero Bird soon enough, and the ninth generation was on dealer lots for the 1983 model year.

However, in the early Eighties one customer in New Jersey loved their Thunderbird, but felt it wold be better without a roof. They contacted Coach Builders LTD in Florida and asked for a beheading. The shop was happy to oblige in exchange for payment of $12,000. The New Jerseyan agreed, then shipped his $8,500 Thunderbird to Florida. Coach Builders scalped the Thunderbird and installed a custom powered roof, and their job was done.

Over the years the custom Thunderbird racked up 66,000 miles and found its way to California. It’s for sale there now, where this one-of-one (with two sets of wheel covers) asks $12,500.

[Images: seller]

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  • Graham64 Graham64 on Aug 21, 2020

    Turd polishing of the highest order.

  • Lady Feliz Lady Feliz on Jan 03, 2021

    I've seen this particular T-Bird parked in Los Angeles, and kept thinking "if it weren't a convertible, I'd think of buying it." Can't imagine that the loss of the roof does this car any good almost 40 years later, and the body flex must be fun when whipping around LA's curvy, hilly streets! I've seen it up close, and it really is in good condition however.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.
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