The Carchive: The 1967 Ford Thunderbird

It’s that time again when right-minded folk will change their browser to another channel and go read something else for the next couple of hours. Those of you who remain can join me for a rummage through the dirty laundry of time in search of an interesting sock or cherished, fading T-shirt. Welcome to The Carchive
A while ago these vaults hosted “Thunderbird Week” where we fondly revisited Ford’s “personal luxury” offerings from ’78 through to ’93. And very nice they were too. Well, give or take. Today we head back to ’67 and look at what is very probably, no, very actually my favourite American Ford of all time.


“New… A long Smooth Rich Fast Four-Door. Unmistakably, Uniquely Thunderbird”
It certainly was unique.
The ’67 was somewhat different to what prior enthusiasts of the brand knew and loved. Among “improvements” implemented for this generation of ‘bird was the addition of more doors, doubling the original two to a more generous four, the rearmost of which opened up suicidally, Lincoln Continental style. They were still frameless, you’d expect nothing less.
Most harrowing of all the developments was that this new “Landau” model was equipped with baby-pram style “S” bars on the fixed-for-eternity roof. This and the vinyl cladding were said to “augment Thunderbird’s aura of grace, dignity and unparalleled comfort
Some stylistic peculiarities aside, that was probably true.

“Rakish, impressively cut…. New style in steel”
Rakish was probably the right word. The Thunderbird was always about making a strong impression, and the new ’67s were certainly attention-grabbing. Long, low and lean and with big, hungry looking front grille. And hidden headlamps! This car had it all, and it was all in an effort to distance the ‘bird from the stratospherically successful Mustang which, lets face it, did the two-door, four seat coupé / convertible thing pretty damn well too.
So plush, adult cruiser it was, then. “Highway pilot” speed control and stereo-sonic tape were two of the cutting-edge facilities you could avail yourself of when you chose a ’67 ‘bird. You also got to reclined behind a dashboard which would still look pretty acceptable if it was installed in a luxury car today. Chuck in a few TFT displays and it could easily be 2015 in there.

“The luxury car of Now…. that Flies like the Future”
All you Americans of a certain age probably have old Thunderbirds engrained in your psyches and so none of this will come as anything new or surprising to you, but if one of these machines turned up in a European street it in 1967 it would have smacked us in the face as a big slab of future. Even more so if there was a 428 rumbling away seismically under the hood. This was a brave new world of car.
Sequentially operating tail-lamps which indicated turn direction in “rippling flow of light”. are still one of the most awesome features ever fitted to a car and should make a comeback immediately. As, incidentally, should headlamps concealed behind pneumatic flaps in the front grille.
Full climate control was practically unheard of in a car from such a plebian marque as Ford, and a dual line braking system was pretty advanced stuff.

“Make this Thunderbird yours… this car of now, and tomorrow.”
This was about as forward-looking as Thunderbird got. Generations going forward evolved to be more in tune with the population and economies of the time, and by the mid -70s any pretence at innovation had pretty much evaporated. The Fox and MN12 T’Birds were good Cars, but were they Thunderbirds?
OK, the ’67 was a different Thunderbird to the ’55s. Things had changed and the sporting nature of the originals had translated into a grand-tourer style. What had been a Convair Delta Dagger had metamorphosed into a Hustler; less flighty but better at covering long distances quickly. One thing was sure, though, and it positively radiates from this brochure: Ford were very proud of the Thunderbird name.
And so they should have been. The name brought glamour and identity to the blue oval, and the fact that Uncle Henry no longer thinks that to be necessary is rather sad. That the final, eleventh iteration was a pastiche on the original version was a pity, and probably a case of playing it safe while conforming to the retro fashions of the time.
As a baroque example of pure space-age automotive one-upmanship, this will always be my favourite Thunderbird.
(All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Ford Motor Company, who I hear are planning to fit concealed headlamps to the next generation Fiesta)

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    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Indeed. But, you know…. I quite like the four door. What’s wrong with me?

  1. Maymar Avatar

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    Ford still does the rippling flow of light! It’s a little cooler on these very jet-age Thunderbirds (I’m most fond of the suicide-door’d ones), but still a nice touch.
    I’d be interested to see a new-age Thunderbird, but I’d be afraid to see what it would work out to. I suppose they could aim to fill the gap between a top-spec Mustang and the new GT, something akin to the Jag F-Type V8, but who knows if anyone would buy one. Considering it’s a nameplate that holds most sway with Baby Boomers, a BMW X6-esque four-door coupe SUV…thing, might be the best, weirdest possible application. I figure, go with the Taurus/Flex/Explorer chassis (for the length, for the sake of styling), just enough room for four, and a bunch of golf clubs. Maybe Ecoboost V6?

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      I gave my visual opinion of a new mustang-based T-bird almost exactly two years ago. But since the Great IDC Crash has hidden all the comments from that post, here it is again.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        Yes! That, just with, like 3 more inches ground clearance. Maybe model it after the suicide door models so you can bring along Stan and Barb to dinner.

        1. Tanshanomi Avatar

          This is the sedan version. With the curved rear edge, the rear doors couldn’t have normal hinges at the rear, so it would be cool to use a parallelogram hinge, similar to the Chrysler 70X concept car. I’d make them pillarless sub-doors, like the RX-8/Saturn Quad Coupe, with the B-pillar support and front latches built into forward edge of the rear doors.

      2. Ray Vacca Avatar
        Ray Vacca

        Kinda splits its identity between cougar/t-bird..i like the idea. C’mon Ford, step away from the F150 craze and spread those wings.

    2. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Aaaand copy. Thank you.

  2. theskitter Avatar

    If I saw a two-door on the street, I would identify it as a not-quite-right Toronado.

  3. barney fife Avatar
    barney fife

    I was able to spend considerable time behind the wheel of a ’66 T-bird before trudging off to Vietnam in ’69. Very cool. Moveable steering column, wrap-around rear seating, space-age looking dash & console and a big, thirsty V-8 up front for easy cruising. Some years later, while stationed in Texas, a fellow soldier had a 4 door that just dazzled me. I’ve kinda been looking for a good one ever since.

  4. Conner DeKnikker Avatar
    Conner DeKnikker

    I’ve got an MN12, the last Thunderbird which was truly innovative. The first American car with an SLA IRS, electronically adjustable suspension, and a supercharged V6…
    It sounds more like the formula for a new Audi than a 60 year old American marque.

  5. JayP Avatar

    I want a hit of whatever the graphic designer was on when designing this pamphlet.

  6. Monkey10is Avatar

    The interior shot of the 4-door on the first double spread reveals that it not only had fake ‘landau bars’ on the outside, but landau bars on the inside as well!
    When you have a styling feature you are proud of, that is the way to really work it.