Ford Thunderbird (sixth generation)

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Ford Thunderbird
Sixth generation
1976 Ford Thunderbird (14486208639).jpg
1976 Ford Thunderbird
ManufacturerFord Motor Company
AssemblyUnited States: Wixom, Michigan
Body and chassis
ClassPersonal luxury car
Body style2-door hardtop coupe
LayoutFront-engine, rear-wheel-drive
RelatedContinental Mark IV
Transmission3-speed Cruise-o-Matic automatic
Wheelbase120.4 in (3,058 mm)[1]
Length225 in (5,715 mm)
Width79.7 in (2,024 mm)[1]
Curb weight5,000 lb (2,268 kg)
PredecessorFord Thunderbird (fifth generation)
SuccessorFord Thunderbird (seventh generation)

The sixth generation of the Ford Thunderbird is a large personal luxury coupe that was produced by Ford for the 1972 to 1976 model years. A counterpart of the Continental Mark IV,[2] this generation of the Thunderbird was the largest ever produced; weighing in at over 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg), they are also the heaviest coupes ever produced by Ford (aside from its Mark IV counterpart).[1]

In terms of styling, the sixth-generation Thunderbird would heavily influence the styling of the 1974–1976 Mercury Cougar XR7 and Ford Elite, the latter of which was replaced by the seventh-generation Thunderbird in 1977.


1972 Ford Thunderbird
The interior featuring round dials and clock would remain the same until the end of the 1976 model year

Aside from the redesign itself, the 1972 Thunderbird represented a simplification of body styles. Instead of the three body styles (landau, two-door and four-door hardtops) offered for the 1971 model year, the Thunderbird was pared down to a single two-door hardtop model line. Exterior wise, many components were common with the Continental Mark IV, with the primary differences being the front and rear body panels. The controversial prominent “beak” introduced for the 1970 model year was toned down while the sequential turn signals seen since 1965 were deleted for cost saving reasons.

At first, the base engine was the 400 Cleveland engine. However, this engine did not provide the heavy vehicle with the performance that was expected from a personal luxury car. The 429 was made the base engine early on in the model year, with the 460 becoming optional.[3]

Aside from the dashboard, the interior was also shared with the Mark IV. Instead of the square gauges used by the Mark IV, the Thunderbird used round dials for the speedometer, fuel gauge, and clock. 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 US$5,293 and a total of 57,814 cars were built for this model year.


1973 Ford Thunderbird, rear view

For 1973, Thunderbird increased both in size and price. To accommodate the larger 5 mph bumpers mandated for all 1973 automobiles, the front was restyled with an egg crate grille, 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 cars were built, making this the third highest production figure to date.


1974 saw more changes made in response to new federal regulations. Replacing the seatbelt interlock, a buzzer would sound if both front seatbelts weren't buckled; the addition of 5-mph bumpers to the rear added still more curb weight. While the 429 V8 was replaced by the more powerful 460 V8 sourced from Lincoln-Mercury, it now required the use of unleaded gasoline; a low-fuel warning light was added to the dashboard. The gas filler door was moved from behind the license plate to the driver's side rear panel. While looking similar to the 1960s sequential taillights, the new-full width taillights were of a conventional design separated by a central reverse light.

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 [4] ($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 cornering lights ($43) also appeared on the option list.

Base price was $7,221 and 58,443 cars were produced for the model year.


1975 Ford Thunderbird

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 had 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 cornering 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.[5]


1976 Ford Thunderbird

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 production = 299,146



  1. ^ a b c "Directory Index: Ford_Thunderbird/1975_Ford_Thunderbird/1975_Thunderbird_Brochure". Retrieved 2011-11-20. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1960-1972 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2004), p.901.
  3. ^ "1972 Ford Thunderbird Production/Specifications". Retrieved 2020-09-29.
  4. ^ "Directory Index: Ford_Thunderbird/1974 Ford Thunderbird/1974 Ford Thunderbird Brochure". Retrieved 2011-11-20. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Directory Index: Ford_Thunderbird/1975_Ford_Thunderbird/1975_Thunderbird_Brochure". Retrieved 2011-11-20. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Tast, Alan H. and David Newhardt. THUNDERBIRD FIFTY YEARS. Motorbooks. October 15, 2004.