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Our Car:
First Observations
 2002 Ford Thunderbird

Some of you have been waiting for my driving impresssions of the new Thunderbird. Many of you know that we have several convertibles already, including a 57 thunderbird, 2 '89 Chrysler TC's by Maserati, and a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron GTC  (all the Chryslers are 4 cylinders &  have turbos) - hardly comparable engine wise until you stick that turbo on them.   Since this will have to happen over time as I get used to the new car, I'll give you a running impression.  First one will be my impressions over the first few days of ownership. 

I've highlighted what I feel should be improved in the "con" section otherwise it's just items that I will have to get used to because it's a different car.  Remember that the LeBaron has been my daily driver for 12 years and is a fun car to drive even though it's been outpowered by many cars today - it still has plenty of scoot on the freeway and on the street.

our 02 and 57 in the foreground,  LeBaron  and Ranger in background


observations of new 'bird (June 9)
after putting on 100 miles:
difference betw 1989 ChryslerGTC LeBaron 2.5L turbo  and  2002 Thunderbird 3.9L non-turbo - - both automatics.
you can slip Chrysler's TC by Maserati into the LeBaron's spot and still get similar results.

'bird cons:

  1. The power is not there at the start on the 'bird - think that may be my problem.
  2. Seats are not as comfortable - I'm not young anymore & I'm getting foot cramps when I get out of car after driiving.  lumbar support doesn't seem to be working but will check that out more - its probably just my unfamiliarity withh how to work the lumbar support.
  3. Trunk, hood and doors don't close easily. It's an effort to close - have to almost slam the doors, trunk & hood.  My 77 Ford LTD had better closing doors, etc... as do the LeBaron and the TC.  My 57 T'bird has better closing doors.   I don't like to slam doors, nor trunk or hood.
  4. Tranny is touchier than the LeBaron - this may also pass as I get used to the car.
  5. Not as much leg room on passenger side which is ok for me but not for George - at least that's what he says.
  6. Road feel is less but eventually I will learn how to feel the road with this car - every car I ever driven, I've been able to feel the road so I don't buy that when journalists call it a fault - they need to get in tune with the car.
  7. Too much thought has to go into remembering to keep your fingers out of the latch handles on tops (but I like the looks of the handles so there is a dilemma there for the designers.
  8. Rear view mirror smaller than LeBaron - doesn't show as much, making more of a blind spot in back of you but then it doesn't hide as much that is behind the mirror in front of you.
  9. Premium wheels show dirt quickly
  10. Thought the LeBaron had a lot of plastic but this 'bird has even more.  Will have to watch to see what starts breaking first - it was the seat belt sheafs that went first in the LeBaron.
  11.  TC had a very plush full leather interior with much less plastic showing than in the new T-bird.  GTC was in a much lower price bracket but leather interior compares equally with the t-bird
  12. Still getting used to the differences in the positions of the parking/emergency brake which I make a habit of using all the time.  Now that gets embarrassing as I keep popping the hood open!  - Don't like the position of the center parking brake handle - too far away to use comfortably - takes 2 hands to use.  Like the floor brake on the LeBaron.
  13. Rear view mirror glued to window - I hate this and I've had to live with it with the Chryslers, too.
  14. trunk small - half the size of the original 55 which is considered small itself and also much smaller than the TCs.
Update on the "cons" a week later (June 17)
  1. power is still not there on take off - I miss my turbo!  but it sure is there once I get it going.
  2. have adjusted the seat so I don't get cramps now but the LeBaron fits me like a glove.
  3. am learning how to close the doors, etc...with one push - still not as easy as other cars
  4. getting used to the tranny
  5. haven't removed the top yet so not dealing with the finger pinchers (update: good news, read "pros")
  6. haven't popped the hood lately trying to release the emergency brake - my learning curve is much slower now than it used to be.
  7. emergency brake can now be pulled on with one hand - am I getting stronger? or is the e.b. llearning that it is going to be used in this car & it better co-operate?
  8. trunk size is a joke ( but better than some sport cars or a motorcycle) - wait'll you hear me when we try to travel!  but if Bob & Phyllis can do it, so can we.
Update #2  June 19
  1. found another "want" - locking gas cap flap
  2. wind in the cockpit is worse than the LeBaron but better than the TC or 57.

'bird pros: 

  1. colors - though the LeBaron had a similar teal color available but not in the sportier GTC version.
  2. over all looks - better than the LeBaron but remember that the LeBaron was an excellent design.  I still love to look at my LeBaron after 12 years of ownership.
  3. Handles corners as well or better than the LeBaron and the LeBaron does well around corners.
  4. fewer blind spots overall.
  5. Sound system much better - difference in years, I think.
  6. love the interior color - drab, conservative options were available on the LeBaron in '89.
  7. premium wheels are a snap to clean up - GTC's wheels are a real pain.
  8. center console is nice!
  9. gauges - wasn't impressed when I saw them the first time but like them now and they are unique.
  10. Sun visors are perfect size - smaller than GTC's which always got in my way.
  11. has only 2 seats - can't compare with the GTC in this respect - puts the 2 in different classes but compares with the TC.
  12. The Ride is Smooooth.....!! perfect for a cruiser and better than either of the Chryslers which we have taken long distance and don't tire us out.  No cowl shake with the hardtop on - Won't be trying it with the hardtop offf until sometime in July.  I would call it a great suspension!
  13. BIG GRIN factor (had that with the GTC, too! - and the TC and the 57)
MSRP Price comparison.  TC & T-bird had comparable prices but are 12 years apart so take in the inflation factor. .  TC msrp was negotiable but the t-bird isn't...  yet.
For other comparisons of options, etc. click here

Update on the "pros" a week later
  1. like the steering wheel
  2. road feel is fine now
  3. like the CD player
  4. like the other controls
  5. like the ride
  6. LOVE the color
  7. and is it ever quiet inside with the hardtop on.  Extremely little sound escapes to the outside, too. 
  8. A little wind gets in with the windows open but it does not cause a hair mess - has a nice flow pattern around the cockpit.   One window up and one down is even better especially if the window up is cutting off the traffic noise.
Update June 22, 2002
  1. Hardtop has been removed and I've raised and lowered the softtop several times.  Though handle was unfamiliar to me, the header of the softop has 2 finger grips on either side of handle that help one close the handle without getting your fingers in the way of the handle - rather obvious to use.

    Update - January 2003
    We've had the car for 8 months now and use it at least twice a week.  It's accumulated over 7000 road miles and it's not a daily driver.  We are enjoying it.  We have gotten used to it.  The doors still close too hard for me and I still think the emergency brake is difficult to set.  I don't pop the hood anymore trying to release the emergency brake but George still has occasionally and I catch myself getting ready to do that.  Still in love with the color even with the 2003 new colors on the road now.

    We have traveled long distance with the car now and are able to pack the trunk with what we need and still have room for more.
    Update - November 2003 - Now have over 21,000 enjoyable miles on this car.  Love to drive it.

    Update - May 2006
    We've had the car for 4 years now and 63,000 miles are on it.  I should note that long ago, we verified the sales pitch that the car learns how you drive, ie, if you want jack rabbit starts, it will give you jack rabbit starts.  It takes about 3 good stomps at different but consecutive times to get the car to realize that you do indeed want it to perform for you.  It's default mode is a gas-saving, smooth start though, and it will revert to that if you let it.
    If you're wondering about our high mileage, just consider this.  We bought a 2005 in June of 2005 and it now has over 9,000 miles on it.  6500 of those miles were accumulated in April of 2006.

OUR 2005


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