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1967-1971 Ford Thunderbird

1967 Ford Thunderbird

The 1967 Ford Thunderbird was as thoroughly re-engineered as it was redesigned. Body-on-frame construction, based on the full-size Ford platform, replaced the unit-body arrangement that the 1958-1966 Thunderbirds had shared with the big Lincolns.

1967 Ford Apollo Landau
Sporting goods dealer Abercrombie & Fitch
commissioned approximately seven lavish Apollos
based on the 1967 Landau hardtop.

The new Thunderbird borrowed nearly all of the big Ford's running gear, including its all-coil suspension and even the front and rear sections of its frame. Side rails were shortened to give the Thunderbird a sportier 114.7-inch wheelbase in two-door form, and 117.2 inches for the four-door. This was a bit longer than the approximately 113-inch wheelbase of the 1958-1966 models, but still handily compact alongside the 119-inch Toronado and Riviera.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo
Inside the special Abercrombie & Fitch Apollos, a
writing table and lamp served passengers.

Incredibly, the bigger, body-on-frame Thunderbird still weighed 138 pounds less (in two-door form) than its unit-bodied predecessor. The only items carried over from its previous incarnation were its standard 315-horsepower, 390-cubic-inch V-8 and optional 345-horsepower 428-cubic-inch engine.

The changeover to body-on-frame construction must have complicated operations at the Wixom, Michigan, plant where Ford assembled the new Thunderbirds on the same lines that still built the unit-body Lincoln. Thunderbird frames started upside-down along an all-new frame line; suspension parts were lowered onto them. Then a hoist lifted the frames, turned them over, and fed them to a suspended conveyor that transported them to final assembly, where they were lowered to floor level and mixed with Lincoln unit-bodies riding on special fixtures.

1967 Ford Thunderbird special interior
A telephone with deck-lid
antenna was among the
features of the special
Abercrombie & Fitch
1967 Thunderbird.

Engines and drivelines were installed and then, as before, Lincolns and Thunderbirds were separated and sent to their respective trim lines. Both cars still received a single electrostatic primer, followed by a spray primer, then three color coats. And just like the Continental, every Thunderbird was given a 12-mile road test before the plant released it.

Car Life called the 1967 Thunderbird "slicker, quieter, and smoother than any Bird that preceded it." But the more skeptical editors of Car and Driver complained that the bigger Thunderbird had become "a sharply styled, slightly smaller Galaxie with all the trimmings ... . " They liked the more functional new interior, but criticized their four-door test car for poor visibility. "Once underway," they added, "the Thunderbird is just another big domestic car, with a wonderful penchant for silent 70-mph cruising speeds and handling with a heavy dose of understeer."

For more on Ford's decision not to use unit-body construction in the 1967 Thunderbird, see the next page.

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