Cars

Why the Retro Ford Thunderbird Failed

Ford revived the iconic Thunderbird in 2002, but unlike the original Thunderbird, it didn’t take off. Although fans of the brand name are trying to get Ford to revive it again, that retro Thunderbird failed for many reasons. Here’s why it happened according to Doug DeMuro.

The Thunderbird’s Interior

Despite sporting a hefty price tag that’s equal to about $50,000 in today’s money, the retro Thunderbird didn’t have the interior features to make that price tag worth it. A lot of the features that it had also isn’t unique and were pretty commonly found in the average car. 

For example, the odometer wasn’t anything special and, according to DeMuro, it looked like an odometer from a minivan. For its hefty price tag, owners would’ve expected some high-tech features at the very least.

On top of that, rather than using luxurious leather linings for the entire interior, the retro Thunderbird mostly used plastic. This choice, along with its almost entirely black color, makes the retro Thunderbird ugly in DeMuro’s eyes. 

Not only does DeMuro think that the retro Thunderbird is ugly, but what features it does have isn’t well designed. For example, the passenger side power window button is the exact same size and shape as the door lock button, which means that if you want to roll down your windows, you’d have to actually look and see if you’re pressing the right button.

Some features aren’t even fully realized, either. For example, the seats are powered but only in moving them forward and backward. If you want to push the seats down, you’ll have to do it manually. As a result of this, DeMuro calls these seats “half-powered seats”, and they’re a sign of some serious cost-cutting by Ford. 

The Thunderbird’s Exterior

Although the retro Thunderbird is a two-seater, its size would suggest there’s more room for cargo than there actually is. DeMuro attributes that decision to make the retro Thunderbird more similar to the original Thunderbird, but it just makes the retro Thunderbird a less practical car to drive.

The cargo room in the trunk was also not impressive at all. Despite having a large frame, the design of the retro Thunderbird made the trunk very shallow. DeMuro, in the video, couldn’t even fit a backpack in the trunk of the retro Thunderbird.

Furthermore, according to DeMuro, many drivers didn’t like the exterior looks of the retro Thunderbird, as it was in essence, very similar to a Lincoln LS sedan. DeMuro did have some nice things to say about the design of the retro Thunderbird, though, as he thought that the chrome trim on the windshield was a very good design choice.

Underwhelming Performance

Another big issue that DeMuro had with the retro Thunderbird was its engine. Ford only offered one engine for it, and although they’d beef it up later, it wasn’t enough.

The first V8 that the retro Thunderbird had only got about 250 hp, and Ford eventually bumped that up to about 280 hp. For a $50,000 convertible, that type of power was just not enough. 

In terms of driving and handling, DeMuro thought that the retro Thunderbird was unremarkable in that regards. However, it probably wasn’t because of its performance that the retro Thunderbird ultimately failed.

Thunderbird’s Cool Factor

Ultimately, the reason why DeMuro thinks the retro Thunderbird failed was because it wasn’t cool enough. The original Thunderbird was a very cool car that few other cars could compete with. 

Instead of making something cool like that, Ford instead made a car that relied on the nostalgia of the people who had driven the original Thunderbird. As a result, very few people actually bought the retro Thunderbird.

Apparently, only about 60,000 retro Thunderbirds were sold in its first four years. Because of its poor sales numbers, Ford killed off its retro coupe and has yet to bring it back.