Test drive: Ford Thunderbird

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by Early Apex, Jun 2, 2003.

  1. Early Apex

    Early Apex Guest

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    I took my car in for service this weekend and got a black 2003 Ford Thunderbird as a loaner. Those of you who know my car biases might be expecting a T-bird trashing; you're not going to get it.

    Once you accept the fact that this is not a sports (or even sporty) car, it's as much fun as any car you'll drive. It's a cruising convertible in the tradition of the finset early Thunderbirds. It's got everything that made that first generation of 2-seaters great, and it's a throroughly modern car to boot.

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    Maybe it's because I've never owned a convertible, but I just found it so much fun to put the top down and go cruising. It's quite a bit smaller than it looks, and the windshield is low and steeply raked, so it feels not so much like you're sitting in it as riding on it.

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    The interior is absolutely fantastic. Fit and finish and quality of materials are at least as good as anything from Europe in this price range. The seats were comfortable, supportive, and covered in very high-quality black leather. See how the silver trim in the door and dash panel meets at almost a 90-degree angle? It works so well with the surfaces and contours of the cabin that the impression is more modern elegance than retro. My only gripes about the interior are the gauge faces that looked like they printed on an inkjet and hard-to-read radio and HVAC displays.

    The T-Bird would be the perfect weekend vacation car, if you don't mind wearing the same clothes every day. There's a small shelf behind the seats large enough for a duffel bag, and the trunk can probably hold two pizza boxes, but that's it.

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    Driving impressions? Well, it's not really about that. For cruising up the coast with the top down, it's perfect. The 3.9L V8 makes (Ford specs) 280 hp, but it feels like the drivetrain eats half that and hands you the leftovers. The engine is dramatically slow to rev; it's as if the flywheel weighs several hundred pounds. Which makes for a great cruiser, but don't try to race anything faster than an Odyssey.

    The transmission is the only bad thing about the car. And it's really bad. It's a 5-speed auto, no manual control (other than moving the lever up the PRNDL), and it hunts for gears like they're wild rabbits. Stab the throttle at 45 mph in 5th gear, and the tranny first thinks 5th will do quite well, thank you, for your accelleration request. The engine slowly winds up in time for the gearbox to move for 4th gear, ask if there is a second, 4th gear is seconded, there is a vote, and then by majority decision swap 5th for 4th gear. The engine is still making progress now, perhaps up to 3500 rpm in 4th, when the transmission reverses itself and decides 3rd gear was what was desired all along. By this time, you've cancelled your pass and ducked back behind that RV.

    There is surprisingly little body roll, for a car built for cruising, and it always feels composed and in control. It doesn't take much to provoke understeer, though, and even with RWD and traction control off, oversteer is all but impossible thanks to the previously-mention flywheel/gearbox characters.

    Exterior design is (as always) a personal issue, but I love it. The downward-sloping belt line is unique and works well. Black is probably the best color to show off the great lines on the car.

    The bottom line is: I applaud Ford for taking a risk and building such a specialized, low-volume car like this. And they did a great job almost everywhere. Is it worth the $38,000 and up (way up if you get the hardtop too)? That's a lot of money, but the T-Bird's a lot of car.
     
  2. Mycophiles

    Mycophiles OT Supporter

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    Wow... what a writeup. :wavey: Keep on rollin yo. :bigthumb:
     
  3. Early Apex

    Early Apex Guest

    19 views...one reply. You bishes!
     
  4. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    the looks have grown on me, and i think it does exactly what they set out to do.
     
  5. Pro Street

    Pro Street New Member

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    writing like that you should work for us :o
     
  6. Pospodo

    Pospodo came for the pron but stayed for teh lulz

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    i love the looks of that car
     
  7. Josepi

    Josepi HA HA, I CHANGED MY AV

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    Is your house made of mud?

    :confused:
     
  8. Mugatu

    Mugatu Ask me about market research. OT Supporter

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    I think they are pretty nice - I just think Ford was overestimating what that car would do for them
     
  9. mucky

    mucky .

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    :cool: review.

    I'd consider them if I was at retirement age. :o
     
  10. mucky

    mucky .

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    Most houses in AZ and NM do not have grass lawns for obvious reasons. They have rock gardens.
     
  11. It's a nice car..





    For someone with middle age crisis :)
     
  12. Mugatu

    Mugatu Ask me about market research. OT Supporter

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    hint: stucco comes in many colors ;)
     
  13. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    obvious reason = mugatu & loudsystem's combined crotch odor killed all the grass in those states
     
  14. F8Lstang

    F8Lstang in savasana

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    arent they coming out with a faster one?
     
  15. mucky

    mucky .

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    They're cancelling production.
     
  16. Mugatu

    Mugatu Ask me about market research. OT Supporter

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    :nono: my crotch supports the growth of mosses and grasses of all kinds
     
  17. nucl3ar

    nucl3ar Guest

    One of the guys I work with has one, but he also has an original T-bird, so he is excused.
     
  18. bread

    bread OT Supporter

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    Good review, I just can't stand the way they look.

    This part had me :rofl:
     
  19. SaintGRW

    SaintGRW OT Supporter

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    great review :bigthumb:

    but i personally would never want to drive one. they don't look appealing and from the comment implying they are as slow as an odyssey makes it even more unappealing to me.
     
  20. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    they aren't cancelling production. They just aren't going to make a new tbird after they stop making the current one in a couple of years.
     
  21. carpet muncher

    carpet muncher New Member

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    :rofl: :rofl: @ the democratic tranny writeup.
     
  22. TopGun113

    TopGun113 Winning

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    Nice review. I also test drove an '02 T-Bird and my only gripes were the auto transmission, and lack of visibility with the hardtop in place. (But you don't buy this car to see out of, you drive it to be seen in).

    The car is actually quicker than it feels by the SOTP meter. The new T-Bird will run a 14.7 @ 95 on a good day.
     
  23. LOUDSYSTEM

    LOUDSYSTEM Guest

    ha ha iw as gonna say thats an arizona hood :o
     
  24. SaintGRW

    SaintGRW OT Supporter

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    is this true? they are not anything even close to car eye candy.
     
  25. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Very nice cars, and perfect for the target audience (which isn't OT's age group).
     

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