By on July 13, 2021

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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13 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Gorgeous Foose Speedbird, a 2002 SEMA Winner...”


  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    Nice! He actually managed to make that Thunderturd look good!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “considerably revised bodywork”

    That wasn’t apparent to my eyes, and could be a reason the car hasn’t met its reserve.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    A lot of genuinely beautiful details and great execution that, unfortunately, add up to a turdlicious whole. There’s just not much you can do to save this design, which was the worst of the retromobiles.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    A-pillars are crafted from Adamantium.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    I love that generation Thunderbird. I would wholeheartedly cruise in one with a few tasteful appearance modifications. I am in the minority for this car, and I’m completely ok with that.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      This one doesn’t do it for me as I don’t find the mods particularly appealing but I would drive a stock one or one modified more to my taste. In fact I’ve got the itch for a convertible and have been searching this generation of T-birds in addition to Mustangs.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    There is one near me that looks good. Rather than red or yellow with blinding chrome wheels, it is a more restrained medium gray or dark blue, with elegant 12 or 15-spoke painted silver wheels. I think some of the chrome has been blacked out, or matte-ified.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    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.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    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.

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