What makes the 1971 Ford Thunderbird one of today’s rarest and most popular classic cars? Ford tried something different for their big, sporty, two-door luxury ride for two model years.
The Fifth Generation Thunderbird: Long, Lean, and Luxurious
When the first Thunderbird launched in 1955, its two-door styling hinted at lazy evenings parked at the drive-in with your date leaning on your shoulder. But by 1966, avid fans of the model demanded more. Thus, the fifth generation had a 113-inch wheelbase, and its bodywork extended its length to over 205 inches.
They added a beak nose and grill that banished memories of the bulbous fenders of the 50s. This oversized coupe would easily fit in with parades and slow cruises down the coast.
Four Doors on a T-Bird? It Happened
While the Ford Thunderbird was conceived as an upscale two-seater, by the mid-60s, drivers were looking for extra room to chauffeur VIP guests around town. So, for the 1970 and 1971 model years, the Thunderbird added a sedan option to the lineup. Better yet, they stole the trendy suicide doors from the Lincoln Continental.
Only 6,553 of the four-door versions were ever sold. Since the frames built in the 70s were subject to rust and rot, finding one of these birds on the auction block today is a truly rare achievement.
A Landau Roof to Turn Heads at the Country Club
Everyone swooned over the power-retracting convertible top on the 1966 model year. However, Ford wanted to offer something other than its T-bird sedan with that space-consuming feature. Instead, they opted for the classic landau roof (those vinyl-covered rooflines featuring a trim that mimicked the look of a hinge from an old-timey carriage).
The landau roof turned the Thunderbird into a ride that easily fit in with the most discerning crowds.
Smooth Cruising with an Automatic Transmission
When you popped the massive hood on the ’71 T-bird, the monstrous 6.4L V8 engine stared back. The oversized ride demanded 320 horsepower to navigate crowded highways easily. But when you ordered a luxury sedan, you wanted to spend less time working the gears. Ford added the three-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission. The pilot only had to select Low or High, and the car took all the stress out of the commute.
Upscale Options for a Bespoke Build
Since Thunderbird was now targeting white-collar executives, you had the opportunity to customize your vehicle at the dealership. No two ’71 T-birds will be exactly alike.
Buyers could select premium hand-stitched leather seating, add power windows, air conditioning, and even an 8-track tape player. Lush carpeting, a dash that welcomed touches, and a velour headliner rounded out the offerings.
So Dazzling, Neiman Marcus Put It in Their Wish Book
What collectors will remember the most when reviewing headlines for the ’71 Thunderbird is that luxury retailer Neiman Marcus listed a pair of his n’ hers rides for a mere $25,000. The 1970 Christmas Wish Book said mom and dad could have a tape recorder and telephone mounted into the custom centre console of their rare rides.
What is the Highest Price Paid for a ’71 Thunderbird?
While the 1971 T-bird sedan may be a rare collector car, it is also one of the more affordable rides for the muscle car era. Over the past five years, one sold for $72,000. The average sale price is around $12,000, making it an attainable addition for most collections.
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