What’s in a special edition? Depends on a lot really, which is why “special edition” has become the synonym for “We needed a reason to call attention to a model with slow sales.” Acura, for example, is great at this sort of thing.
American manufacturers have also been great at conjuring up minimal fanfare to charge much more for otherwise-dated metal. The big, personal luxury coupes of the era reached the pinnacle of ugliness combined with half-assed technical achievements that were often headache inducing.
The 1977-79 Ford Thunderbird was radically downsized from the previous generation, but it was still a massive thing. It sold extremely well, though, which makes the addition of the Heritage Edition in 1979 unnecessary in my book. A continuation of the Diamond Jubilee Edition from ‘78, it was how Ford put every single option available on a Thunderbird and charged a lot of money for it.
This 1979 Thunderbird Heritage Edition is extremely blue. There’s no getting away from the fact it looks like just about every exterior surface of the car is a shade of blue – the wheels, the vinyl top, the grille. It’s overkill, really. The interior is a little more restrained, but I’m not sure who thought color coordination meant elegance in 1979. It’s also covered in Thunderbird logos, but I guess that’s always been a model trademark.
This particular ‘bird appears to be in great shape and a great example of what the Heritage Edition looked like to motive customers in 1979. With so much blue going on, though, I’m not sure if it’s really my style.
Style isn’t something you’d say the 1981 Imperial was blessed with, though. The 1981-83 Imperial was, in a way, a very special Chrysler Cordoba that was Lee Iacocca wanting to show the best Chrysler could offer at the time – the hood ornament is made from Cartier crystal, so, class there. So why did they decide to put the back of a different car on it? Who said, “Yes, this is a well-designed car”?
This one is even more special, since it’s one of only 278 Frank Sinatra Edition Imperials ever made. Aside from Frank’s initials, these cars also got 16 of his cassette tapes as standard equipment, but I’m not sure this particular Imperial fs Edition is still equipped with them.
Get past the looks and the Imperial is a much more ambitious car than that old T-Bird ever was. Its engine is an electronic fuel-injected 5.2 V8 that apparently runs, which is unusual. The interior is loaded with LCD displays and trip computers and things that are common place in a Hyundai Accent, but bold for 1981.
I appreciate the Imperial’s audacity, but I’d have the T-Bird and just grit my teeth a bit having to look at the blueness of it all. Because the alternative would be shaking my head in dismay at the back of the Imperial and that seems like more work.