Rare Rides: The Gorgeous Foose Speedbird, a 2002 SEMA Winner

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the gorgeous foose speedbird a 2002 sema winner

Today’s Rare Ride is a one-of-one – a light gold metallic and roof-free speedster. Underneath its considerably revised bodywork is none other than a 2002 Ford Thunderbird, a car Rare Rides has covered previously.

This very special Chip Foose design won at least one award in its day, and now it’s for sale (though not in Florida as one might expect.) Let’s check it out.

Chip Foose established his own design shop in 1998 and started Foose Design in its current iteration in 2000. With a portfolio largely of customized resto-mod designs, Foose gained exposure and notoriety in 2003 when TLC did a documentary called Rides on this very car.

The Speedbird was created at the behest of Ford, who approached Foose to do a rework on a modern car. In 2002, Ford gave Foose Design and two other hot rod firms an example of their new Thunderbird. The other companies commissioned for the job were Bobby Alloway and So-Cal Speed Shop. The ask was simply to create a unique design based on the new Thunderbird that would be shown in the Ford booth at the 2003 SEMA show.

Foose drew up a streamlined rework of the Thunderbird that removed the roof and turned it into a two-seat speedster. Front and rear clips were altered, a new grille appeared, and the hood sported many slats. The most notable change was perhaps the windshield, which was edited into a wraparound look much like that Corvette Callaway Speedster featured here ages ago.

The realized Speedbird ended up pretty much exactly like the concept drawing. The Thunderbird’s stock interior was not edited much, however, the rear-view mirror had to be mounted on the dash. The standard bucket seats were also replaced by some Foose ones. The interior was purported to have a “distressed” look to the leather, but I’m not seeing it. Other visuals included a lowered ride height via Eibach springs and Boomer-approved chrome wheels that were a one-off design for this car. Headlights were a slightly different shape than stock: They came from a Volkswagen Beetle.

When it debuted for SEMA 2003 in Las Vegas, the Speedbird was awarded Best of Show (by Ford), who deemed it better than the other two Thunderbird edits the company commissioned for the show. Since then the custom Speedbird has been driven, and that’s certainly preferable to stowage under a velvet tarp in anticipation of a Bring-a-Trailer debut in 20 years. With 30,000 miles on the odometer, the exclusive speedster has been bid to $28,100 as of this writing. It has two days left in its eBay auction and has not met the reserve. Interested?

[Images: Foose Design]

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3 of 13 comments
  • LectroByte LectroByte on Jul 13, 2021

    Gorgeous? Not even Foose can save this design, the hood length and front overhang are still wildly out of proportion with the rear of the car. It just always looks like a four-door design that was forced into being a coupe as an afterthought.

    • 96red 96red on Jul 14, 2021

      Now that you mention it, the proportions of this car DO better if you reverse it and make the front the rear and the rear the front...

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Jul 15, 2021

    It would take more than some mods to fix that turd of a car. I see one occasionally, in black, being driven by a ~80 year old guy. I always think, "I guess the cataracts make that thing look good to him!". One of the worst "retro" car designs, ever.

  • Slyons My guess is they keep the 2.0 liter they have now with minor tweaks, and shoehorn in the 48V mild hybrid system that just debuted in the CX-90. Should allow for all the regular fun of wringing out the 4 cyl and bump the fuel mileage up at least a couple points. I don't think we'll see a major evolution of the drivetrain until the next next model (NF?).
  • 28-Cars-Later " as long as internal-combustion engines exist?"So... forever until society collapses, rebuilds, and then the Hunger Games begin?
  • Jeff S It would be a neat project but the 6k should include the parts car.
  • Kcflyer Why oh why does every manufacturer slop the roof so much on vehicles that are supposed to be utilitarian? Especially a three row people mover. Let the rear roof square off like an old volvo wagon for cripes sake! And get off my lawn. And don't give me the mpg noise. I'd happily give back a couple mpg for some utility in a "utility" vehicle.
  • Varezhka KISS, just like Miata always has. No exotic powertrain options, a simple 2L NA with MT with similar power output as Mazda3 and CX-30 would best match the car; as much as I have always dreamed of a rotary powered RX-5.That said, the Miata that I actually liked and driven the most was NC. It was just practical enough and comfortable enough over long distance that I can actually use it as my DD/road trip vehicle without losing the lightweight nimble feeling. ND as nice as it is lost some of that IMHO.The only other thing I'd like would be the new MazdaConnect which is so much nicer, and a less angry face.