Ford Thunderbird (sixth generation)

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Sixth generation Ford Thunderbird
1973 Ford Thunderbird Front.JPG
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production 1972–1976
Assembly Wixom, Michigan
Pico Rivera, California
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop coupe
Layout FR layout
Related Lincoln Continental Mark IV
Mercury Cougar
Engine 429 cu in (7.0 L) 385 V8
460 cu in (7.5 L) 385 V8
Wheelbase 120.4 in (3,058 mm)[1]
Length 225 in (5,715 mm)
Width 79.7 in (2,024 mm) [1]
Predecessor Ford Thunderbird (fifth generation)
Successor Ford Thunderbird (seventh generation)
Main article: Ford Thunderbird

The sixth generation Ford Thunderbird debuted in the fall of 1971. These were the biggest Thunderbirds produced, sharing a common platform[2] with the Lincoln Continental Mark IV. They rode on a 120.4-inch (3,058 mm) wheelbase, measured 225 inches (5,715 mm) overall by 1976. Prices rose also, with the 1976 Thunderbird listing at $7,790 without options. They used a massive 429 cu in (7.0 L) engine that was standard in 1972 and 1973 or the optional 460 cu in (7.5 L) V8 engine, which was made standard for 1974 through 1976. These cars weighed in excess of 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg).[1] Due to their enormous proportions and large engines gas mileage was abysmal. These cars averaged anywhere from 8 mpg-US (29 L/100 km; 9.6 mpg-imp) to 12 mpg-US (20 L/100 km; 14 mpg-imp) depending on driving conditions. With the 1973 oil crisis taking its toll on the United States, automobiles were forced to downsize and become more efficient.

The 1972 Thunderbird represented a scaling down of body styles. Instead of the three body styles offered for the 1971 model year, Ford offered Thunderbird in only a two door hardtop form. The body shared many components with the new Lincoln Mark IV, the main differences being the front and rear ends. The prominent “beak” of 1971 was toned down and the full width tail lights lost the sequential turns signals of the previous cars. The interior was also shared with the Mark IV, the only difference being the dash. The 1972-76 dash used round gauges, speedometer, fuel gauge, and clock, as opposed to the Mark IV square gauges. To the driver’s left were the climate control controls and the light controls. To the right were the radio controls, wiper controls, and information center. This dash layout would remain through the 1976 model year. Base price was $5,293 and a total of 57,814 Thunderbirds were built for the model year.

For 1973, Thunderbird would increase both in size and price. To accommodate the larger bumpers mandated for all 1973 automobiles, the front was restyled with an egg crate grill, topped by a spring-loaded hood ornament, flanked by the quad headlight in individual nacelles. The turn signals were more prominent at the fender edges. Also new to the exterior were opera windows, first optional, then standard late in the model year. Power windows ($129), vinyl roof ($141), manual air conditioning ($436), and tinted glass ($51), were also made standard during the model year. Some new options included AM/FM 8-track tape player ($311), remote control right hand outside mirror ($26), and an anti-theft system ($79). Some optional equipment available included sure-track brakes, an early anti-lock braking system ($197), power sunroof ($504), power door locks ($59), cruise control ($103) and the 460 cu in (7.5 L) V8 ($76). 1973 was the last year for the 429 and leaded gas. Base price was $5,577 early in the model year and $6,414 later due to additions to the standard equipment list. A total of 87,269 Thunderbirds were built making this the third highest production figure to date.

1974 would see more changes made in response to new federal regulations. The addition of 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumpers added still more curb weight, and the only engine now available was the huge Lincoln 460 cu in (7.5 L), which made the car so thirsty that a low fuel warning light was added to the dashboard. Also new for 1974 was a buzzer that would sound if both front seat belts weren't buckled. The full width taillights were replaced by four light segments separated by a central back-up light and the gas filler door was moved from behind the license plate to the drivers side rear panel. 1974 was the first year for special luxury group trim options, the burgundy luxury group ($411) and the white and gold luxury group ($546). These groups added upgraded paint and exterior and interior trim. Standard equipment remained unchanged but there were several new items listed as optional. Some of the most notable, and costly, included power moon roof ($798), auto lamp for automatic on/off of headlights [3] ($34), and power mini-vent windows ($70). AM/FM stereo ($152) or with tape player ($311), power drivers seat ($105), dual power front seats ($210), rear window defroster ($85), power antenna ($31), automatic temperature control ($74), and front corning lights ($43) also appeared on the option list. Base price was $7,221 and 58,443 were produced for the model year.

Little changed for 1975 save new luxury groups and more items added to the standard equipment list. The widely hated seatbelt alarms were dropped. 1975 would have the most extensive list of standard equipment of any year Thunderbird from 1955 to 1997. Some items made standard this year were, AM/FM stereo, front corning lights, and front and rear stabilizer bars. The special editions luxury groups returned being named copper luxury group ($624), silver luxury group ($337), and jade luxury group ($624). The wide range options available changed little but four wheel disc brakes ($ 184) were available for the time. Power was still supplied by the 460 cu in (7.5 L) V8 rated at 220 horsepower (160 kW). Base price was $7,701 with a production of 42,685. An alarm system became optional.[4]

1976 was the last model year for the sixth generation. Some items that were standard in 1975 were moved to the options list. Some items returning to the option list included, AM/FM stereo, front cornering lights, and tinted glass. Additionally the rear windows became stationary. This move was to keep cost down and was also shared by the 1976 Mark IV. The 1976 luxury groups were crème and gold ($793 ), lipstick ($546 ), and Bordeaux ($700 ). New options included driver's lighted vanity mirror ($43), power lumbar drivers seat, ($86), AM/FM stereo search radio ($298), and AM/FM stereo radio with Quadra sonic 8-track tape player ($382). An auto dimmer was added to the autolamp option. Base price was $7,790 with a total of 52,935 cars produced.

Production totals[edit]

Year Production
1972 57,814
1973 87,269
1974 58,443
1975 42,685
1976 52,935
Total 299,146

Source: [5]


  1. ^ a b c "Directory Index: Ford_Thunderbird/1975_Ford_Thunderbird/1975_Thunderbird_Brochure". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  2. ^ Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1960-1972 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2004), p.901.
  3. ^ "Directory Index: Ford_Thunderbird/1974 Ford Thunderbird/1974 Ford Thunderbird Brochure". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  4. ^ "Directory Index: Ford_Thunderbird/1975_Ford_Thunderbird/1975_Thunderbird_Brochure". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  5. ^ Tast, Alan H. and David Newhardt. THUNDERBIRD FIFTY YEARS. Motorbooks. October 15, 2004.