Timeline: Ford Thunderbird

1951, October

Ford Division VP & General Manager Lewis Crusoe sees European sports roadsters at Paris Auto Show, asks “Why don’t we have something like that?”

1953, January

Chevrolet reveals Corvette prototype at the GM Motorama in New York City

1953, May 18

Crusoe first sees clay model of proposed ’55 Ford Thunderbird

1953, June 30

Chevrolet Corvette production begins

1953, September

Ford Thunderbird production for 1955 Model approved

1954, February 20

Thunderbird prototype unveiled at Detroit Auto Show

1954, September 9

Thunderbird production begins at Dearborn Assembly Plant

1954, October 22

1955 Thunderbird goes on sale, a two-place roadster with optional detachable fiberglass top

1955, August 26

1955 Thunderbird production ends after 16,155 built

1955, October

Sale of 1956 models begins with portholes in steel top and continental tire kit on rear

1956, October

Sale of 1957 models begins

1957, December 13

Production ends for 1957 Thunderbird after 21,380 built, last of original two-place models

1958 Ford Thunderbird 1957, December 31

1958-model four-place Thunderbird “personal car” unveiled in Palm Springs, California

1958, February 13

1958 Thunderbird goes on sale after production shifted to Wixom, Michigan, Lincoln plant

1958, October 27

1959 Thunderbird goes on sale

1959, October 8

1960 Thunderbird goes on sale; model year production hits 92,800 for last of the “Square Birds”

1961 Ford Thunderbird1960, November 12

Third Series 1961 “Round” or “Torpedo” Thunderbird goes on sale

1961, October 12

1962 Model Thunderbird goes on sale, including rare Sports Roadster model with fiberglass tonneau cover over rear seats

1963, January

Introduction of Thunderbird Limited Edition Landau model with closed-side rear quarter top

1964 Ford Thunderbird 1963, September 27

1964 Ford models go on sale; “Scuptured” Thunderbird is first of the Fourth Series; the 1966 model will have the last T-Bird convertible for the rest of the century

1967 Ford Thunderbird1966, September 30

Fifth Series 1967 Thunderbird goes on sale with four-door sedan on longer wheelbase

1971, September 21

Sixth Series 1972 Thunderbird goes on sale, now a luxury coupe on 120-in. wheelbase

1977 Ford Thunderbird1976, October 1

Seventh Series 1977 Thunderbird goes on sale, downsized to 114-inch wheelbase, lower price, ten times higher volume

1981 Ford Thunderbird1979, October 12

Eighth Series 1980 Thunderbird goes on sale with 108-inch wheelbase for make’s 25th year

1983 Ford Thunderbird1983, February 17

Ninth Series “Jellybean” 1983 Thunderbird on sale with 104-inch wheelbase almost as short as 1955’s 102

1983, April 1

1983 Model Thunderbird Turbo Coupe on sale

1986, October 2

Tenth Series 1987 Thunderbird on sale with new sheetmetal, 5-inch-longer body; some might call it merely a mid-cycle tweaking rather than a new series

1993 Ford Thunderbird1988, December 26

Eleventh Series 1989 Thunderbird on sale, with return to 113-inch wheelbase of four-place Square Bird of 1958 model year

1995 Across-the-line new model introductions are now history, but the late-cycle tweaking of the 1996 Thunderbird provides new front end styling


After 42 years of continuous production, 1996 becomes the last model year for the traditional Thunderbird

1999, January 3

Two-place “retro” Thunderbird concept car unveiled at Detroit Auto Show

2000, May

Ford Motor confirms it will build a production version of the concept Thunderbird as a 2002 model

2001, July 20

Twelfth Series 2002 Thunderbird production beings at Wixom plant

2002 Ford Thunderbird 2001, October 29

National television advertising for 2002 Thunderbird commences, the usual mark of official on-sale start

The Car Connection Daily Headlines
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