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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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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.

  • Ajla There's a melancholy to me about an EV with external speaker-generated "engine" noise and fake transmissions. It feels like an admission from the manufacturer that you're giving something up and they are trying to give back some facsimile of it. Like giving a cupcake scented candle to someone on a diet. If I was shopping for an EV I'd rather go to a company enthusiastic about it rather than apologetic.
  • EBFlex More proof of how much EVs suck. If you have to do this, that means you are trying to substitute what people want...and that's ICE.
  • Akear The only CEO who can save Boeing, GM, and Ford is Alan Mulally. Mulally is largely credited with saving both Boeing and Ford. The other alternative is to follow a failed Jack Welch business model. We have all witnessed what Jack Welch did to GE, and what happened to Boeing when it was taken over by GE-trained businessmen. Below is an interesting article on how Jack Welch indirectly ruined Boeing.https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-boeing-was-set-on-the-path-to-disaster-by-the-cult-of-jack-welch
  • ChristianWimmer The interior might be well-made, but the design is just hideous in my opinion. It’s to busy and there’s no simplistic harmony visible in it. In fact I feel that the nicest Lexus interior ever could be found in the original LS400 - because it was rather minimalistic, had pleasing lines and didn’t try to hard. It looked just right. All Lexus interiors which came after it just had bizarre styling cues and “tried to hard” if you know what I mean.
  • THX1136 As a couple of folks have mentioned wasn't this an issue with the DeLorean? I seem to recall that it was claimed you could do a 'minor' buff of the surface and it would be good as new. Guess I don't see why it's a big deal if it can be so easily rectified. Won't be any different than getting out and waxing the car every so often - part of ownership, eh.