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Buying a New T-bird?
Classic Facts
Frequently Asked Questions
VIN# Decoder
Yellow Concept Diecast Model - 1/18th
The New Thunderbird
Some Comparisons
 Page History - this page was built in 2001
just as the 2002 T-bird became available
to journalists and the first customers.
Some Comparisons of the 1955,  the 2002, &  Chrysler's TC by Maserati
from  road tests1

 Why the  Chrysler's TC by Maserati?

1 - After looking at all the other convertibles on the market, the Thunderbird is in a class by itself  in today's market, so went back in time to find cars to compare it to.  The closest is Chrysler's TC by Maserati and you will see the similarities below.  I would consider the TC a little more luxurious than the Thunderbird & was in the same price range when new, a sleeper that was buried by bad press but now is enjoying a growing recognition for what it really is.  Those who have encountered this car, not knowing it's press history, have fallen in love with the car at first sight.  Because of it's  rarity (only 7200 made), it's only draw back now is parts availabilty.  Though it shared many parts with other Chryslers of the time period, it had many unique parts, same as the Thunderbird.
2 - We own two of the them - both '89's, a manual (rare) & the automatic version
3 -

Keep in mind that many of these figures are not absolute - they can vary with the individual car

Went to MSN's Carpoint.com and used their comparison program for the new Thunderbird. --- So quick and easy to compare with another car.  They have it set up now for comparing it with the SAAB9-3, Mercedes-Benz SL class, Jaguar XK, and Mercedes- Benz CLK. or you may pick any other car in their listings  Since they have done such a good job (didn't have speed figures but everything else), I won't be adding anymore cars to this page.

One correction to note on their page --- they listed the Thunderbird as not having side impact airbags BUT the Thunderbird DOES have the side impact airbags.  Their info on the Chrysler TC is also faulty in some areas so will leave that as is below.

For a  Drive report of the new Thunderbird by a Chrysler TC owner from California, Stephen Lyons, see bottom of page

1955 Thunderbird 2002 Thunderbird - preproduction
photos in photos2 folder
1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati

Road Tests Dimensions Drivetrain Luxury

The Road Tests

2002 1989 TC*
0-60 mph, sec 10.4 7.04**** 7.49****
1/4-mile, sec/mph 17.1 / 78 15.28 / 92.0 15.93 / 92.4
Braking, 60-0 mph, ft na 123 137
Braking, 100-0 mph, ft na 356 ** na
0-100-0 mph, sec na 23.7  na
skidpad, g na 0.80 .78
600 ft slalom na 61.9 59.25
Turning circle, ft 36 37.5 36.1
Gas consumption, mpg 15/18 17 / 23 21./ 28
* as tested on the 16V TC by Motor Trend, April 1989 (only test I had available)
**more than a football field - think about it. How fast do you really want to go
***tests just weren't conducted the same back then - few comparable figures available - 10.4 sec for the 0-60 is accurate - a friend tests theirs every year at an 1/ 8th mile drag race track. - takes about 11 sec to do the run with an average speed of 66 mph at the end.
****probably more speed than you will ever need.

Comparison of Dimensions

1989 TC
Body Style 2-door conv. 2-door conv. 2-door conv.
Wheelbase, in 102 107.2 93.3
Length, in 175.3 186.3 175.8
Width, in 70.2 72.0 68.5
Height, in 52.2 52.1 51.9
Curb weight* 2837-3200 3775 3085
Seating capacity 3** 2 2
Cargo Capacity, cu ft 18.8 *** 6.9 13.6
Fuel Capacity, gal. 14.0 18.0 14.0
Weight Capacity 453 lbs
*55- 2 different weights reported - depended on magazine; 2002 - with convertible top only; TC - unknown if that was with or without hardtop - I've seen a 3200# figure for the TC in another magazine.
**55 has a bench type seat that allows a 3rd person to sit in the middle, though some what uncomfortably since the early Thunderbirds had floor shifts, unlike the mainline Fords of the day which were column shift.  Seatbelts weren't even offered that year.

*** based on dimensions of 58.2in x 34.8in x 16.1in.2 Comment: Figure should be adjusted by taking out spare tire measurements but I do not have those figures. I have always considered the '55 trunk as barely enough room for traveling and look how much more room it has than the new Thunderbird - a car which we plan to travel in.  I would readily give up the power top to make more room for storage.   The TC has a nice size trunk & I think the 55 is slightly smaller than it with spare tire in trunk.

Drivetrain & Chassis

. 1955 2002 1989 TC*
Drivetrain front engine, RWD Front engine, RWD Front engine, FWD
Engine  8 cyl, 8 V, cast iron Y-block & heads; overhead valves  V-8, DOHC, 32 valves, aluminum block & heads 4cyl, inline 16V turbo.DOHC 
Displacement, ci/L 292 / 4.8L 241.9 / 3.9L 135 / 2.2L
Horsepower @rpm 198 @ 4400** 252 @ 6100 200 @ 5,500
Torque @ rpm 286 @ 2500 267@ 4300 220  @ 3,400
Transmission(s) 3-speed manual - standard
3-speed overdrive, opt.
3-speed automatic, opt.(but the norm)
5-speed automatic 5-speed manual*
Steering Manual - standard
Power assist - opt (but the norm)
Rack & Pinion; power assist Rack & Pinion, power assist
Suspension coil springs, front
leaf springs, rear
upper & lower control arms;coil springs, anti roll bars - front & rear front: struts, anti roll bar, coil springs
rear: beam axle, coil springs
Brakes power assist, drums . 4 wheel disk ABS 4 wheel disk; ABS
Wheels 15x 5 steel 17x7.5, cast aluminum 15x6 cast aluminum
Tires 670x15 4-ply tubeless P235 / 50VR 17 Michelin radials P205 / 60VR 15 Michelin radials
Spare same size tire & wheels Steel wheel with tire: T185 / 60R 17 Steel mini wheel with tire
Traction Control no yes (optional) no
*The TC also came with a 4 cyl, 8V turbo engine, automatic for 89 but road test was made  on a 16V engine
**Stats for the 292 equipped with an automatic

The Luxury Appointments

. 1955 2002 1989
Costs when new app 2700-3800 35,500 - 42,000  30,000 Plus
Costs currently 20,000 - 40,000 35,500 - 42,000** 8,000 - 15,000
Interior Vinyl upholstery & dash, & doors;  Leather upholstery, 
 Leather upholstery, dash, & doors;
Carpeted Floors yes yes yes
Floor Mats no yes yes - with emblem
Radio AM T&C AM,/FM, 6 CD Changer AM/FM, cassette tape & opt CD player
Speakers 1 8 8
Seats Manual 

Power (opt)
Power Power
Seat Belts/shoulder harness no yes yes
Airbag(s) no driver & passenger plus side bags no
Windows Manual

Power (opt)
Power Power
Sun Visors no yes yes
Vanity Mirror(s) no yes, not lighted yes, lighted 
Steering Wheel Telescoping Tilt, telescoping Tilt
Cruise Control no yes yes
Air Conditioning no yes, dual controls yes, single controls
Tachometer yes yes yes
Convertible Top Manual (opt)*** Power Manual
Convertible Top lined no yes yes
Window on soft top clear plastic glass glass
Soft top storage Folded & hidden behind seat - no visible tonneau cover Well with semi soft tonneau cover; visible Well with metal cover permanently attached; powered & trimmed to lines of car
Hardtop Non-porthole (opt)*** Porthole (opt) Porthole 
Rear Window Defroster no yes on both tops yes on hard top
no on soft top
Hardtop rack no yes yes (opt)
Colors Black, Red, T'Blue, White, Yellow Black, Red, T'Blue, White, Yellow Red, Cabernet, Yellow
Interior Colors 2-tone All Black or 2-tone Ginger or Burgandy
Door Locks key Power / key Power / key
Remote trunk release no yes yes
Trunk light no yes yes
Engine Compartment light no ? yes
Remote Gas Flap Release no no yes
Windshield Wipers mechanical, vacuum operated Electric, speed sensitive Electric
* Plus $5000 Over MSRP on this car.  by 90, dealer prices had climbed to $40.000 in the Seattle area.
**That's MSRP range including the sold out Neiman Marcus edition; Some Ford dealers (but not all) are charging over MSRP so check around for your best deal.
*** The 1955 price included one or the other top - there was an optional tonneau cover that covered the cockpit area for those that only had a hardtop..

B.T.W. - The TC is a great cruiser, only detriment we have found is  a lot of wind in the cockpit with top down, but our seats are all the way back (long legs - tall bodies).   Ride is really comfortable, great for long distance. Very responsive when asked. The 55 tbird has the same type of wind characteristics; seats are not as comfortable but it still handles long distance travel well and power is there when asked.

Road Test Observations by Stephen Lyons3:

July 19, 2001

I got a chance to drive the 2002 Thunderbird today.  This was a
manufacturer's sample, not calibrated or built to the required emissions
standards, but representative in every other respect to the production
examples soon to be sitting in your local Ford dealers' showrooms.

First, getting into the car.  If you think the window sill line of the TC
is low, wait until you try this!  It takes a serious & deliberate duck or
you will be meeting your new ride in a most unpleasant & attention getting

Once inside, the interior is roomy enough.  The leather upholstered seats
are not especially cushy, as is the current vogue, but surprisingly
comfortable.  Other interior materials seem to be of pretty high quality,
but I did spot some plastic that may or may not weather well, as proved to
be a bane with the early Cadillac Allante'.  Center armrest is chintzy,
only one of you will be able to use it at a time, & the compartment
underneath will hold a cell phone but not much more.  Very cool steering
wheel, partly a smooth, lustrous black plastic that harkens back to the
Bird's 50's roots, the other portions being leather wrapped.  Power
tilt/telescope via a toggle on the steering column, & as a very trick
feature, the wheel goes automatically to the full in/up position when the
ignition is switched off to facilitate egress.  Kind of wish Ford had seen
fit to put the ignition switch on the dash instead of the column, though. 
The slightly off-white faced instruments are attractive enough, but as is
so often the case nowadays, no voltmeter or oil pressure gauge is provided
or even available. 

Driving the car is a reasonably enjoyable enough experience.  Some creaks &
rattles even on smooth roadways & with the hardtop on to stiffen things up.
Not as many as with my TC's (much of which can be attributed to leather
rubbing against leather), but this Bird is brand new, too, so a more
meaningful comparison might be made when they have some tens of thousands
of miles on them, also.  The V-8 is very smooth, & the car doesn't feel as
punchy or fast as my Turbo-II's, especially in the mid-range, although I'm
sure it is the quicker car by far.  But it's a more disconnected sort of
performance that's somehow a bit less satisfying.  The five speed automatic
transmission had a tendency to go gear hunting every once in a while, which
may be just a quirk of this particular example, however.  Another
aggravation that is becoming endemic in present-day cars is the excessive
tire noise coming from the low profile rubber.  The stereo is excellent,
with it being very difficult to pick up where the speakers are; the cabin
just seems to fill up with music.

While I didn't take the top off, it looks to be a chore on a par with the
same process on the TC.  The resulting gap in back is not taken care of by
an integral tonneau as with our cars, but must be taken care of with a
snap-on cover that didn't impress me very much as to its appearance.  I
would bet that someone very quickly is going to come up with a fiberglass
tonneau that will rise up to meet the backs of the seats, a la' the early
1960's T-bird Roadsters. Seems like a natural to me. 

The engine compartment is very tidy, but not at all friendly to casual
tinkering as everything is shielded by expanses of plastic sheeting.  The
battery is located in the trunk, which is finished in the typical FoMoCo
gray fuzz that is good enough for Mustangs & Tauruses.  Ford might've done
better there to match the otherwise upscale flavor of this vehicle. 

But all in all, a very attractive product that will undoubtedly sell like
$40K+ hotcakes.

Stephen Lyons
TC America Member 

As always, when facts are stated, a source should be identified (and these make good reading), so:
Above info can be found in
1 - Motor Trend, July, 2001,  pages 36-46
Motor Trend,   April 1989, pages120-125   - Tested the 16Valve engine 
Auto Age, May, 1955 / Motor Trend Buyers Guide, March 1955 / Road & Track, March 1955
I tried to use the same Magazine for all tests but for the 55, I had to compile several magazines
2 - Ray Miller's Thunderbird, An illustrated history of the Ford T-bird ©1973 (still in print)
 the Early Bird magazine - a bi-monthly member publication of CTCI since 1966
Thunderbird, An Odyssey in Automotive Design by William Boyer, ©1986
Soaring Spirit, Thirty-Five Years of the Ford Thunderbird by John Katz,©1989
and for new facts on the new Thunderbird:
Thunderbird 2002 by Michael Lamm ©2000
for information & photos on the Chrysler TC by Maserati, visit George's TC
3 - Used with permisssion from Stephen Lyons


A Line of Dot's
© 2001 Dot Lang
Webpage Design/Photos/graphics by Dot
unless otherwise noted
NOT affiliated with FoMoCo
A Line of Dot's