End of an Era

The flagship of the Ford luxury fleet saw no dramatic changes in body style over the past few years, although such items as a power lumbar seat, stereo search radio, AM/FM quadrasonic eight-track player, and an automatic headlight dimmer have been added. One of the most popular color selections was the Crème and Gold Luxury Group, which uses gold glamour paint on the body side and crème paint for accent on the hood, deck and roof. The padded vinyl roof is gold, as is the Thunderbird emblem in the opera window. The factory-offered interior choice was either two-toned crème and gold leather or gold media velour seating surfaces with a gold applique on the right-hand instrument panel. Completing the luxury group is the deluxe luggage compartment trim and the deep-dish aluminum wheels. Another popular color scheme was the Bordeaux Luxury Group, which consisted of Bordeaux paint, fully padded vinyl roof in silver or dark red with matching body side moldings, dual hood and body side paint stripes, and wire wheel covers. A choice of red leather or red media velour seat surfaces was offered along with the deluxe luggage compartment trim. One of the more descriptive offerings was the Lipstick Luxury Group – as the name suggests, lipstick red body paint with white stripes and a red vinyl roof. With all white vinyl or leather seat interior, red carpeting, and wire wheel covers, it really made a statement. The 1976 model was the biggest of all Thunderbirds, 225.6 inches long with a curb weight of more than 5,100 pounds. This year 52,935 Thunderbirds came off the line.

This year saw the beginning of a new era, with the first of a new generation of trimmer Thunderbirds. The overall length was only 215.5 inches on the 114-inch wheelbase, and the standard engine was a 302-cid V-8.

Ford advertisements touted “new down to earth prices” and “thousands less than last year.” It was a new mid-size specialty car, competing for an entirely new market. Compete it did! Sales made an incredible jump, from 52,935 units in 1976 to 318,140 in 1977. Yet it remained a Thunderbird with its rakish identity emphasized by the familiar opera windows and rear quarter windows. It also featured a striking wrap-over roof treatment, hidden headlamps and end-to-end taillamps.

The 1978 model remained virtually unchanged in design except for the hidden headlamps, which sported a chrome frame. There was also a Diamond Jubilee model, offered to commemorate Ford Motor Company’s 75th Anniversary. This model featured, in addition to other standard equipment, a padded vinyl roof, power antenna, 36 once cut-pile carpeting and a special paint treatment. Standard equipment consisted of a six-way power seat, tilt-steering wheel, power windows, power door locks, air conditioning, and an AM/FM radio with “search” capability. It bore a standard 302-cid, an optional 351-cid, and a 400-cid V-8. In 1978 production of the T-Bird saw 352,751.