Hooniverse Malaise-O-Rama Weekend – A 1979 Ford Thunderbird Heritage

Continuing on with our Malaise-O-Rama Weekend, I found this downsized Thunderbird with just about every add on in the book. It is the very definition of Malaise, with the exception on the color. Let’s discover the Heritage Edition of the 1979 Thunderbird, and follow along as I count the number of 70s era doo-dads that are on this particular car.

1977 was the first year for the new “down-sized” Thunderbird, and it was actually a best seller for Ford for the three years it was in production, selling over 955,000 units during this time period. It was one of the more successful cars in the Ford Lineup, and included almost everything as far as styling gimmicks at the time. Out front were the usual Ford styling hallmarks including a prominent grill, stand-up Hood Ornament, and “hidden” headlamps.

Along the flanks was another Ford hallmark of late, the wider than wide side protection molding, with bright fender molding, fake fender cooling slots (huh, I guess some things do come back into style!), cornering lamps, and that 1/2 vinyl roof with opera windows. Out back is a Thunderbird styling trademark with the large rear tail lamps that is rather restrained.

Inside is where we get into the overwrought 70s traditions including the use of velour on every seat surface, plush carpeting underfoot, and look at that AM FM 8-Track player. Due to the fact that this Thunderbird shared a lot with its poorer Torino cousin, the instrument panel actually contains instruments including a Tachometer, a temperature gauge, an ampmeter, and an analog clock.

But there is one thing that this particular T-Bird has that a lot of other 70s iron lacks, and that is a set of “T-Tops”. How Malaise-O-Riffic is that? You can take off the tops and breeze around town in your 152 HP 351CID V-8, with the Select-Shift Cruise-O-Matic doing all the dirty work for you. You would be Stylin’ with your old-lady on your way to the Roller Rink.

This particular car has only covered 6,286 miles, making this one of the lowest mileage Malaise Era Thunderbirds offered for sale. Currently, the bidding has stalled at $14,300, with a buy-it-now price of $28,500. I know this isn’t exactly everyone’s glass of Bourbon, but what do you think this car would sell for? See the eBay listing here.

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  1. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    That's the nicest Torinobird i've seen in probably 20 years. Still, these are absolute crap and you could get a pristine '64-'66 model for this kind of money.

  2. tonyola Avatar

    The Heritage was basically a continuation of the 1978 Diamond Jubilee model and it followed the same formula – take a base T-bird coupe, throw every possible gimmick and option at it, and charge double the base car's price. It could actually be worse – it could have the fake trunk straps seen on some T-birds. This car is another example of Ford's awful '70s styling. The Toronado, Eldorado, and Riviera were downsized to a FWD platform in '79, yet they were all far more attractive than this brick. The price is ridiculous. You could easily get a extremely nice '60s T-bird *convertible* for $28,500.
    <img src="http://automotivemileposts.com/auctions/images/tbird1979sportsdecorburntorangeglow570width.jpg&quot; width=500>

    1. CJinSD Avatar

      The price is a fantasy, and I don't admire these Fords. Still, you should post some photos of the Eldorado, Toronado, and Rivera to support your assertion. I remember them pretty well, and their vertical back windows, slab sides, spackled on ginger bread as brand differentiation, and awkward proportions didn't make them far better looking than Nissan's Juke or Murano convertible.

      1. pat l Avatar
        pat l

        I have one for sale identical to the red one in this pic, 102000 2 owner miles~turn key ready to roll, with every concievable option that Ford had to offer including glass t-tops!

        1. jose Avatar

          How much do you want for your Bird?Do you have any pictures.

  3. muthalovin Avatar

    You had me at T-Tops, Jim. I would pay anything to have a T-Bird with T-Tops. ANYTHING!

  4. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    I know it shouldn't, however I'm still a little surprised when I see the HP ratings of these old malaise V8s, especially when I compare them to my humble I4 Fusion.

    1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      But they did have plenty of V8 torque, so numbers can be deceiving.
      We had a Heritage T-Bird, albeit with a 400 instead of the 351. First car I ever stole and went joyriding in at 3am. Great fun.

  5. west_coaster Avatar

    "We invited William and his roommate Robert to the dinner party on Saturday, but they said they're going to be in Palm Springs this weekend at an art gallery opening. They also want to show off their new snazzy Ford Thunderbird to some friends."

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      Snazzy is really a great adjective for this car- in the same way I could hear someone describing a nice padded blazer haha.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        "That's a snazzy leisure suit you got there, dude!"
        <img src="http://static.arstechnica.com/leisure%20suit.jpg"&gt;

        1. Black Steelies Avatar

          Precisely. You could go on to say that just about anything in this picture is snazzy. I only hope this isn't from the personal archives.

          1. tonyola Avatar

            I've worn some embarrassing and silly getups over the years but I never wore a leisure suit, nor has my hair ever been styled like that.

          2. Black Steelies Avatar

            That's good news. And I figured out why he looked familiar-
            [youtube PZtxBZ9D5sI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZtxBZ9D5sI youtube]

  6. Sam Avatar

    Anyone remember that music video from the early-mid 90s where these guys take off the t-tops and the back window area and leave that center pillar thing on one of these????

  7. Black Steelies Avatar

    I appreciate the doo-dadery, the t-tops particularly, but this car is so whack everywhere else. It's like I find bits and pieces here and there I really like but the design is still all-around uncohesive. I can't appreciate a car like this for its "lines"- there are just too many!

    1. west_coaster Avatar

      One example: the gauges are rather awesome. Nice long sweeps, clean graphics, etc. They look as though they were lifted out of an actual performance car.

      1. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

        Unfortunately, that gauge package is an option; most T-Bird owners made do with a speedo, fuel gauge and a clock. The '77 T-Bird introduced the concept of "de-contenting" to the public; the base car had crank windows, manual seats mounted uncomfortably low, and overall was basically a low-line Torino with a funny roofline.

      2. Black Steelies Avatar

        Yes, I have no qualms with the interior and altogether it looks pretty great.
        But what the hell happened to the outside!?! I'd love to bash out those massive taillights with a bat.

        1. dutch Avatar

          Usually the taillight lenses fell out on their own. They were held in place with butyl windshield rubber. Back in the day, we'd sell lenses because they "disappeared".

          1. Black Steelies Avatar

            Wow. If that happened just as I was swinging the bat, I would be. so. pissed.

        2. tonyola Avatar

          Actually, I like big taillights and those big red rectangles to me are among of the less-offensive details on this Thunderturkey. I'd aim my bat at the glitzoid grille (it's plastic and will easily shatter) and decorated headlight covers.

  8. OA5599 Avatar

    My mom had a 79 T-bird when I was in high school, then it was on permanent loan to me when I went away to college. It wasn't a bad car during the time that I drove it, but a couple years later I found a smoking deal on a 440-6 Challenger, and the first week after I got the Mopar, an unlicensed driver smashed the parked 'bird pretty hard. My dad got a fair settlement from the insurance company, spent about $50 on Bondo and Krylon, and sold the car for a Lemon-y price to someone at work.
    Ours had significantly fewer options than the Heritage model featured above. It looked more like the one pictured in Tonyola's coment, less the trunk straps, and in a silver paint/blue vinyl color scheme. It looked better than the ebay car, in my biased opinion, Could have used velour seating surfaces, though, especially in summertime.
    If you are keeping score for the design cliches found on the feature car, don't forget the relocated antenna. Stock location was the front passenger fender.

  9. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    Oh wow… be still my heart…
    You forgot Quadrasonic! Best. Sounding. Stereo. Evar! It was surreal.
    We had a 79 Heritage Bird complete with the T-tops, and I loved the hell out of it. It never let us down, and towards the end it survived the 17 mile commute on harsh washboarded/snowy/muddy/dusty dirt Sierra canyon roads without missing a beat. In fact the only problems we encountered were picking up square-nails in the tires left over from the '49 gold-rush. Not really the car's fault. For it's day it really felt luxurious. And in an age when all the cars sucked, at least this one felt and looked nice. I hope the Lincoln Blackwood fares half as well in history 30 years from now.
    Time hasn't been good to it, but at least it was good to us at the time.
    Sitting in the back seat with the tops off at night on the way to the drive in, "The Gambler" or Johnny Cash on the Quadrasonic 8-track, Foster's Freeze cheeseburgers in hand and worried we were gonna get killed if we spilled anything. (We had the optional squeeky-Vinyl leather-appearing seats)
    I really miss that car.
    (edit: We already had the car when we moved out into the boonies. My parents bought it when we still lived in civilization before the recession took it all away, killed the upper-middle class and reduced us to weirdo state-park inhabitants in BFE)

  10. Ironghost Avatar

    Man. I miss mine.

  11. salguod Avatar

    Wow, I'm having flashbacks. I was in HS in the 80's and my friend's family had this car. OK, not this exact car, but its twin, right down to the Heritage package and the T-tops. We thought it was the bomb. My Dad had an orange '77 Cutlass which we also thought was awesome, but it didn't have T-tops.
    The whole package is pretty rare, as far as it goes, and I've wondered what it was worth. Gonna have to track it to see where it ends up.

    1. Rick Ramirez Avatar
      Rick Ramirez

      I used to have a 1979 T-bird and it was a great car for college. I evenually got married and had to sell it. I wish I could have it back. My dad also had a 1978 Diamond Jubliee edition T-bird that was beautiful in an amber color but no t roof or moon roof. I would love to buy this one if I could finance and offer $20,000. I love the color the t-top and that it is a Heritage edition. I would love to take it to antique car shows and show it off because it is a very collectable car. The last of its kind in that body because the following year 1980 the T-bird was trimmed down to an awful body. The 1979 body was the best with its lights on the back separated and the reverse light in the middle. There no other cars that year that had this pattern of lights on its rear. It really was a great looking automobile reguardless what all its critics say. I can only dream about the car.

      1. Jim Avatar

        I love those '77-79 TBs also. I have a '79 TB Heritage, original rare (uncataloged) polar white paint with dark blue velour. 14k actual miles. Bought it in '95 from the original owner when it had 9.5k miles. Moonroof, quad 8 track (fm doesn't work), original optional factory HR70x15 white stripe tires on the original blue accent wheels, extended range 27 gallon gas tank. No rust, no accidents ever, 2 small door dings and very few small rock chips. Almost everything works except fm, gas gauge, heater (news new core). Standard 302-c4 is a dog off the line, but cruises nicely at speed once it gets there. Carb should be cleaned. Also have a restorable '78 DJ 400-c6, running when parked a couple of years ago. 115k miles, bought from 2nd owner in '91. Straight but needs a bit of rust repair and paint, tires, rag joint on steering column, brakes don't work, and general tlc. Nice blue velour. Moonroof, quad 8 track, factory hd suspension. Most things work. If you are interested in either or both, let me know. Jim v1e9t7t3e@netscape.net