Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Unique in all the World," 1971 Final Edition

The 1971 two door Landau coupe, with its revived blind rear quarter roof panel, a look that was used in 1966, and 1969 as well.

M Y   C O L L E C T I O N — There is a case to be made that the 1971 Thunderbird was the final edition of the original "4-seater" Tbird's life, first produced for the 1958 model year. Prior to that was the now-classic 2-seat convertible built from 1955-57. Other Tbirds were built on several different platforms until the late 1990s culminating with the revived roadster of the 21st century, but the '58-'71 versions, to this writer, represent the "real" Thunderbird. 

Many people consider that "real" line ended in 1966, as the '67s abandoned unit-body construction in favor of a separate frame and body, but the '67s-'71s carried on so many unique Thunderbird traits and features, including the close-coupled interior and styling proportions, they are completely 100% classic Tbirds to me. Beginning in 1972, in my opinion, Thunderbird began the long slide to oblivion, although this was not the opinion of the general buying public. The "mid-size" 1977 edition, which was really a deluxe Gran Torino along with a greatly-reduced list price from the luxury-class Tbirds of the past, sold in the many hundreds of thousands per year, but was about as "unique" as shag carpeting in a 1970s family room. 

Bucket seats and a console had been an option since the late sixties, but represent the quintessential Tbird  experience to me. This emerald green cloth interior is gorgeous, isn't it?

The 4 door Landau was entering its last year in 1971, its suicide doors consigned to the halls of history until Casey/artandcolour began their revival in the mid 2000s, lol.

The 4 door's optional Brougham interior was as luxurious as the early 1970s got, as luxurious as any car ever needed to be in my opinion! This is still a pinnacle of design and execution.

While the Landau coupe reverted to the blind rear roof of earlier models, the base Thunderbird coupe kept the wonderful fastback roof from 1970. Though only a very clever facelift of the 1967-69 models, the windshield and roof was cut down about an inch and a half, making for this very stylish silhouette, another high-point of Tbird design.

The cover of the '71 Tbird brochure featured this three dimensional Thunderbird, raised and embossed, creating a sculptural appearance. It seems to be modeled in clay or wax, and the paper used was a heavy stock with an almost burlap texture. 


  1. I feel like I've seen this brochure before, but I just can't seem to place it, hmmm.
    I agree with your accessment of T Bird lineage. The Thunderbird, more than any other car, really reflected the post war exuberance that we used to enjoy in this country. The gas crisis in 1973, coupled with the feds getting more involved in every facet of the auto industry, really but the brakes on the design freedom and optimism that epitomized the Thunderbird, as well as the auto industry as a whole.
    I think that optimism is what really attracts me to these cars, that step back to a happier time.

  2. plus the gorgeous styling with its Bunkie Beak! : )

  3. I agree with you, phantomX and Casey! After 72, the
    T-bird stopped being in a class by itself .

    The lowered profile of the 70 coupe is one of my favorites. It seems more in keeping with the original designs and intentions for the 67. Bunkie gets credit for the nose,and I wonder if he also didn't say something about lowering the roof line ?

    I always felt it flowed beautifully and enhanced the 67-69 design -and I owned a 68 !

    They did not lower the sedan roof, correct? I always try to imagine the sedan with the coupes flowing c-pillar.

    Time to open up my photoshop and try my caveman chops!

    Thanks Casey!


  4. No need to become a caveman, at least not today, AP. I chopped this fastback 4 door a while ago! I think it could have worked quite well.

  5. Hey Casey,

    WOW ! That is a amazing. It would have made a stunning sedan. Beautiful work, Casey!Perfect! Even better than I imagined !
    I am going to sit in my cave all day and just admire it

    I am now inspired to build a small fire of twigs, get out Photoshop and attempt to put the Landau top on the sedan, stretch it three inches, and make a 'Town Limousine!"


    Oggy the Caveman



  7. These Thunderbirds are wonderful. I especially love the pictures of the interiors -- they were SO luxurious. And came in such lovely colors. The beak is so cool, too. Ford used amazing leather in those days -- when leather was still more or less something unusual -- luxury cars still had real cloth upholstery, usually in a choice of fabrics, patterns and colors. I think the disappearance of all that variety probably has something to do with fire retardant regulations. What price safety?

    The new Hemmings came yesterday and has a lot about the "square" birds -- cover pic is a 60 hardtop in a medium metallic blut with tan leather. It mentions that the door panels had a different stitch pattern when leather was used.

    Paul, NYC

  8. I can't wait to get the new HCC now. I've been looking through a lot of my HCCs recently, and am struck at just how many errors there are! We've spoken about it before. For a magazine with Hemming's heritage, it's really amazing at the almost Motor Trend-like mistakes in it, lol. I still buy it every month though, while I"ve given up buying the four monthly car magazines with "new" cars in them. They never have anything interesting to me, that I can't find online on a daily basis.

    I got the new Collectible Automobile the other day and am devouring it, too!