Lohnes’ hatred of pretty much any Ford Thunderbird that isn’t a two-seater with fins is legendary around here. He’d like to see every last one driven off of a cliff, lemming-style, but I think that he’s just a bit too wound up about it. I agree that there are some bad years of Thunderbird, but not every last one is a loser, and some just suffer from an image issue. Take the last generation of Thunderbird: the MN-12 platform has four-wheel independent suspension, a V8 powertrain and the ability to source manual transmission parts if you know where to look. The styling is kind of so-so, but for 1990s Ford it’s pretty good and you do have NASCAR heritage on your side. But none of that has translated into enthusiast support…honestly, it’s kind of surprising to see the Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar and Lincoln Mark VIII left out in the cold, considering how they are set up.
Take this Rough Start candidate: it’s a 1996 4.6L V8-powered Thunderbird that is up for sale for $1,999. Pay full price and you have a comfortable V8-powered cruiser that you can fit in comfortably. This Bird doesn’t look mangled or really beat…for a twenty-ish year old car, it’s lived a pretty charmed life, we suspect. It doesn’t scream out “hot rod”, but we can fix that. First step would be to give the Thunderbird some thunder in the form of a dual exhaust setup with some bark. Next, we have to address the wheels and tires…something dished and nasty with a bit of NASCAR look to them will work well. Just those two items alone will switch the personality of the Thunderbird up, but if you want, go for gears next, or get started acquiring the Super Coupe parts needed to swap a stick in. Or leave it as-is and enjoy a clean driver. Your call, but admit it…the wicked-up version sounds much, much better, doesn’t it?