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1967-1971 Ford Thunderbird

1967 Ford Thunderbird Design

A huge bird emblem spread across the eggcrate-textured grille was a clue as to the direction of the 1967 Ford Thunderbird design, although the Thunderbird's traditional hood scoop faded into a mere power bulge.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Landau hardtop
The most-wanted of the 1967 Thunderbirds was the
Landau hardtop, which sold 37,000.

Out back, the trunk lid gently echoed the "dog-bone" theme of 1964-1966, above a single huge taillight that stretched from fender to fender. Individual sections still lit sequentially to signal a turn.

A bright molding along the bottom edge of the body visually connected the front and rear bumpers. Vent windows vanished, and the rear quarter glass now retracted horizontally into the roof pillar for more rattle-free operation.

Thunderbird fanciers would find more design continuity inside. Flow-through ventilation, an innovation in 1964, was continued in the new generation. The dash housed more conventional instruments but still swept into a massive center console, and the rear seats continued to wrap around at the outboard edges. The swing-away steering wheel now tilted as well. Optional lights on an overhead console warned if a door was open, fuel was low, or a seat belt had been left unfastened.

A renewed interest in safety brought pliable rubber grab handles, recessed sun visors, and even shoulder belts, one year ahead of federal mandate. Tiny fins on the front fenders were made of soft rubber too, and then deleted entirely shortly after the start of production.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Landau interior
The 1967 Thunderbird Landau's interior featured a
swing-away steering wheel and bucket seats.

As before, the Thunderbird lineup began with a painted-roof hardtop and progressed up to a "Landau" with vinyl top and ersatz landau irons. The latter surrendered the unique, blind-quarter roofline it had worn in 1966 and now frankly looked a little awkward, as the smooth new body lines left no logical break point for the vinyl covering.

Still, Landaus outsold hardtops more than two-to-one. The convertible, whose sales had faded more or less steadily since 1960, was discontinued. Ford had developed another very different Thunderbird variant to replace it.

A four-door Thunderbird wasn't an entirely new idea. As early as September 1955, Ford designers had modeled a 1958 "Squarebird" as a close-coupled four-door hardtop. In May 1964, still early in the 1967 program, Boyer's crew worked up a full-size rendering of "their" Thunderbird as a four-door hardtop, with short rear doors, wide rear roof pillars and "black cherry" paintwork.

One day Bordinat brought Lee Iacocca (then general manager of Ford Division) in to see it. Wrote Boyer: "Iacocca's cigar glowed brightly as he took it all in and, of course, we were not unaware that black cherry or candy apple red were Lee's favorite colors. ... [He said,] 'Let's get that one nailed down. That's our convertible replacement.' Gene looked back at us with a discreet wink. ..."

The four-door sold 24,967 copies in 1967, or 32 percent of Thunderbird production. The convertible hadn't broken 10 percent since 1963.

In the original drawing, the rear doors were hinged conventionally, at the B-pillar. Ford engineer James K. Wagner recalled "some financial types joking" that the four-door Thunderbird could be a Lincoln if the designers would just "flip the door handle around." The production version did feature rear-hinged doors like the Continental's.

But on the Thunderbird, a section of the roof's broad sail panel extended into what would have been window area and opened with the door, creating an even more close-coupled appearance. The standard vinyl top and landau bars helped camouflage the cut line. And the Thunderbird's frameless door glass closed against a slim center pillar. The Continental's combination of reverse-hinged doors and pillarless construction had been "nothing but trouble," said Halderman, and Ford engineers had no desire to repeat the experience.

For more on the 1967 Ford Thunderbird, continue to the next page.

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