Of all the early 2000s money-grab throwback car designs crafted to relieve Baby Boomers of their money, I firmly believe it is Ford’s 11th generation Thunderbird that has best stood the test of time. This car is now 17 years old, and it still looks as good to me as it did when I first saw it at the North American International Auto Show circa 2002.
If nothing else, you’ve got to admit it was a far sight better looking than the totally meh 10th gen car.
No, it is not an objectively good driving experience. The suspension is as soft as a pear that has sat at the back of your refrigerator for two weeks. The Jaguar-sourced 3.9-liter V8 is severely underpowered, as Jag didn’t want it to compete with the XK8—as if it even could.
It’s hardly a sports car, but it has a sense of occasion that is rarely found in vehicles from this era. It’s substantial and it makes you sit up and take note of it.
The early 2000s were, for a little while, an incredible time. Before the economic collapse, everyone had access to cheap and easy money. Everything had a dot com and jobs fell from the sky. You didn’t need a side hustle to afford this big boy.
This car embodies the optimism of my younger years. I could aspire to own this, because while it was expensive, it was within reach. As a Michigan teen, I saw this as similarly accessible to a C5 Corvette (which I also still love, thank you very much.)
This was a comfortable weekend cruise mobile that reminded buyers of their youth. I wasn’t around for the 1950s, but I still adore this design. It’s simplicity on wheels, with some harsh lines combined with smooth curves. It seriously should not work, and if you look at it with cynical eyes, it is probably an abomination.
I don’t really believe in the concept of guilty pleasures. If you like something, you shouldn’t be ashamed to say it. Therefore, this is my declaration that the 11th generation Thunderbird deserves more love than it gets. It’s a pretty car that I’d be proud to drive regularly. I’ll toss some Nickelback in the CD changer and just float down main street in my midwest hometown before stopping by the local Sizzler for an early evening meal and heading home to watch my favorite movie—Master and Commander—on VHS.
This particular car sold yesterday on Bring A Trailer for a mere $10,500. It feels to me like this car should be worth more than that paltry number. Just 15 years ago, this car had an MSRP just shy of 40 grand, and dealers were charging crazy markups for them. If you paid, say $50,000 in 2003 for this bad motor, inflation corrected, that’s nearly $70,000 today!
Don’t be guilty about your pleasures. Just enjoy the fact that your tastes don’t have to be the same as anyone else.
If you’re into retro T-Birds like me and want to head down a rabbit hole, or should I say, a porthole, Porthole Authority appears to be where it’s at for all things Thunderbird.