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Our 2002 in Thunderbird Blue with Performance White Top
The New Thunderbird
What was to be the
2006 Ford Thunderbird
is now officially dead.

Rumors & Misc. Info
 

updated June 25, 2005:
Apparently the decision to cancel the 2006 came too late to stop the publication of the order sheets for the 2006 Thunderbird.  They have shown up in the bundles of order sheets for the 2006 Ford models at dealers this June.  I have been able to obtain a copy of them.  They showed some interesting additions.  Mind you, it was only a draft copy, never double checked for accuracy before printing and several pages are marked as "drafts".  The partial white interior was brought back - for ALL color exteriors.  The perfformance white hardtop would have been available for ALL color exteriors.  The only oddity I found was the steel blue accent interior - it was listed as available for the Pewter and the lime sorbet.  Lime sorbet? - with a blue soft top?? very questionable as to looks.  I suspected it was a mistake and should have been listed as for the Pewter and the Dark Blue Pearl, the more logical choices... but after talking with a reliable source, it was correct - that was the plan, lime sorbet and blue accent interior combo would have been available.  apparently the lime sorbet would have been a light yellow color and the accent would have gone well with it.
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The 50th Anniversary blade on the front fenders were also listed - but apparently that was a mistake and probably would have been edited out of the draft copy.    Again, that came from a knowledgeable source.  The anniversary blade would have reverted back to the hash marks from the previous years.

Our own 2002 has the performance white hardtop and I love the color combo with it.  We also are buying a 2005 Inca Gold and will use the white hardtop for it.  It will make a lovely combo also.  Glad the designers would have come to their senses about using that white top for all the colors.  Our Inca Gold also has the partial white interior and it looks good against the black ink.  I only wish there was more "white" in the car.  I'll be working to get more white showing in our interior.  Ultra suede, here I come.

Breaking News March 10, 2005:
there will NOT be a 2006 Thunderbird.
see article link page
The Thunderbird is coming to the end of it's 4 year limited production.  It did not reach it's sales goal of 100,000 for the 4 years but instead will top out at about 67,000 or 33,000 short of it's goal - that's about 7250/year under it's predicted sales.  Production will end in July 2005.  With the lowered production rate on the 2005, that will be the least available model year on the market.

The following is my retrospective on the Dreambird:

Retrobird's Rise and Fall -- or was it really a Fall?

We are so used to a model coming on line with no announced end in sight that we cannot conceive of a model being brought out just to be a special limited edition even when the manufacturer says it will be, yet that's exactly what the "retrobird" was meant to be and it seemed to take journalists and many others by surprise when an end was confirmed and had journalists looking for so called "reasons" for an end to be called for.

 Let's look at the end of the 1997 Thunderbird.  As I recall, it was announced that the '97 would be the last Thunderbird about 2 years before the actual end of the car.  By the time it ended it still had sales of over 77,000/ year though the trend had been downward  - part of the reason why it was decided to discontinue that style model. Contrary to what some journalists would have you believe, it was not a bloated, oversized vehicle - that distinction belonged to the 70s designs, definitely not the 90s.  Ford, at the time, had no intention of marketing another body style to take it's place though there were those in the design arena that were already working on a "dream car" design.  The 2 door models were just not fairing well in the car market as customers favored the 4 door more.  Even the Camaro succumbed to the  market direction a few years later, leaving the Mustang one of the very few 2 doors left for the consumer to buy.

I'm not sure what conspired to bring the Thunderbird back as a 2-seater but I suspect that having a 50th anniversary model of the Thunderbird reminding one of the way it was originally configured was in the back of some heads at the time. It would be a fitting end if that was the direction that was to be taken. 

When the concept was introduced in January 1999, there was no indication of how many would be built or even if it would be built.  It was introduced solely as a Concept. People tend to forget that notion.   It was another year and a half of campaigning within Ford, to actually get approval to bring that car out as a real model.  The approval was not announced until May 21, 2000 yet some journalists look at the 1999 introduction as the moment when it was released as a new model for future buyers.

 In August 2000, the first special edition of the new model was announced, the Neiman Marcus, but it was never clear to the buying public as to when that model would actually be built and delivered.  It was pre-sold in September 2000 through the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog with little hint as to expected delivery.  Well, everyone was expecting that car to be delivered by Christmas that year as it had been in the Christmas catalog but that was not in the plan as production on the car did not even start until late spring of 2001.  I suppose it took Ford a year to get all their suppliers ready with their parts. 

Meanwhile the regular production colors were announced in January of 2001along with the ability for one to order one thru their local dealer.  There were some early indicators of what those colors would be back in October of 2000 (internet is very handy).  In January 2001 it was also announced that there would be 100,000 units built over the course of 4 years, AND limited to 25,000 per year - that puts 2005 as the last scheduled model however there was a small disclaimer on that number - that it "might" continue another year.  Therein lies the confusion - If sales were exceptional, would more be built?  or, as the case turned out, would sales be extended into another year to get to that 100,000?  In reality, sales lagged enough so it was decided to keep the original end date as planned from the start.  Would there have been more sales if people had been told upfront that there was no chance of more than 100,000 being built - that that would be it for this rendition of the Thunderbird?

We can go on and on about why sales lagged but here's some of the reasons I've come up with.
1 - Price - Even though Ford announced the price would be high compared to the previous model, the majority of people interested in the model were not prepared for how high, particularly when many dealers added on their own "price adjustments" - rather exorbitant for a mass marketed, even though "limited edition" auto.  Remember, Ford had been marketing the 1990s Thunderbird to the so-called "middle-class" American and they had not been going after the more affluent market with the Thunderbird. Ford had cultivated the middle class buyer for over 30 years and now they wanted the upper income levels to notice the car?  That takes some consistent advertising.

Some will say it doesn't live up to it's high initial cost but I disagree, - it fits the level it was supposed to bee promoted at but not the level many dealers promoted it at.  Though it was missing some amenities that lower priced vehicles take for granted,  there are others in it that make up for it such as the quick operating automatic softtop.  The quiet ride with either top on.  The 6CD changer.  The leather interior.  The climate control! heated seats with the 03s and newer,  the radio controls on the steering wheel, the removable porthole hardtop, and last but not the least, the V8.

2- Economy - I know, this is a cop out reason but it did play a part in the first orders made for the car.  The cars were released for sales during September 2001 - at the time of 9/11 and the Enron financial fiasco.  A number of people canceled their orders in September/October 2001.

3- Advertising - Though well advertised in the first year, the advertising dollars appeared to have dried up  by the end of 2003, with only magazine ads appearing from spring 2003 thru the fall of 2003.  I thought it real odd that the last major magazine ad campaign in the Fall of 2003, showcased a 2003 model color, not a 2004 model color.  Ford had released the beautiful Merlot color by then and no one got to see it unless they went into their Ford dealer  or saw it on the road.  Here lies the next problem.

4 - Visibility - Normally, an owner likes to show off their new cars by driving them, but not with the Thunderbird.  For some reason, it almost immediately became a "garage queen" with many of it's new owners.  Are they speculating?  Are they in awe of the car?  Auto manufacturers depend on their buyers to help sell their cars but when they don't show up at work and many times not even during play time, who sees them?  Just the owner.  For a car that has had more than 55,000 of them sold so far, it's just 
not seen that often being used as a work or even a play vehicle.

5 - Change of focus at Ford - 2004 and 2005 are considered the Mustang anniversary years too and the Mustang is a large part of Ford's current car market.  With the anniversary and new model style coming out for the Mustang, the advertising dollars for the Thunderbird were moved on over to the Mustang and also the Ford GT (another small niche auto)

6 - Slow down in sales of convertible models - there has been a notable trend downward in the last year or so for all car makers of convertibles.  Either there are more to choose from or the market is becoming saturated.

Now to get into some of the complaints I've seen on the net.

Shakes and rattles - I've been in a number of convertibles and this is something I don't understand where this complaint is coming from about the t-bird.  What are people comparing it to when they talk about shakes and rattles?  First, I don't have rattles with the softop up or down.  2nd, the only rattle I've noticed is with the hardtop and that is fixable.  Cowl shake?  again, what is it being compared to?  a hardtop auto? or other convertibles of similar size? I've never noticed any cowl shake in ours thus have nothing to compare it to. This is the smoothest driving car I've ever been in over rough roads.   I don't drive on smooth roads unless they're newly surfaced.  Some owners that have had a severe cowl shake in their 'birds have found loose cross braces and have tightened them to specs and smoothed out the ride again.  That problem appeared to have been concentrated amongst those built the first 6 months and some built during the later part of the 04 model year.

Power - this is a small V-8 compared to some others but it's not lacking in power.  It still is rated at 252 or 280 hp (depending on year).  That's more than the larger, standard engines in 1955-57 were producing unless they had the  supercharger on them. It does have a computer controlling its shift patterns though and this can be a learning experience for the driver.  It was designed to learn how you drive, how you feed gas to the motor  with either nice, easy, smooth shifts for that cruising feeling or quick fast starts ----but if you decide to change  your pattern from cruise to jackrabbit, it doesn't learn as fast you as want it to - it takes several quick starts to get it to recognize that you really want it get up and go.  You'll have no problem if you're already cruising at freeway speeds, it's response is quick for passing cars, but from a start, it needs that little bit of training.

Leaks - This car was designed not to leak and it doesn't - if the tops have been adjusted properly.  Most are adjusted correctly at the factory and this had been the most leak free convertible we've owned.  If you find one leaking, those leaks can be adjusted out. 

Interior - Some don't like the interior but I haven't found anything wrong with it.  I like the look of the dash, particularly when it's 2-toned.  The instruments are easy to reach, the look is smooth and curved, no sharp angles to put up with nor odd embellishments to get used to.

My only disappointment is that a supercharger was not offered for this car by Ford.  It would have been the icing on the cake since a powerful engine of some sort has always been associated with the Thunderbird.

The car is a "dream car" and has lived up to that designation,  I'd much prefer to call it a Dream bird  than a retrobird.
 

Below are the chronological rumors that surfaced while it was still thought that Ford might bring out a 2006 T-bird.

Update March 14, 2005 -  The following colors were never made official but leaked thru various sources.  A dark blue pearl has been spotted at the Wixom plant on March 14, 2005, but you will probably never see it.  The exact shade/color/hue of the lime sorbet  & Pewter was never made public so what is below was only speculation.  The dark blue pearl is a color already available on other Ford vehicles using the same color name.

update Feb. 24, 2005, not to worry about 2006 rumors anymore.  Colors have been named: Dark Blue Pearl,"  "Pewter"; "Lime Sorbet; PLUS one more "fashion" color to be introduced later. Not to mention that there'll most likely be a special edition color. Hmm!, that's 3 new colors, wonder which color is replacing which color?  Will one of those colors be the special edition color?   Is there still a chance for pink?  Galpin Ford, Calif., has done a beautiful light pink Jaguar with pink and white interior.  Looks smashing.  when I can find a color chart, I'll try to post the colors as close to what I think they will be but for now, here's my speculations on what those colors will look like.
Update - May 2005 - After listening (at Thunder Fever) to Jim Youngs, retired Ford Thunderbird Management Team member, I've been able to update the colors that would have been on the 2006 T-birds.  He confirmed that the pewter would replace the platinum silver and that the last spring color/special edition would have been "Black Cherry" in an edition of 2000.   The Lime Sorbet would have been a very pale green.  In other words, the colors for 2006 would have been very striking.
.Dark Blue Pearl Pewter
(Metallic)
Lime Sorbet Torch Red Evening Black Spring 06 
Black Cherry metallic 
He did confirm that pink was never considered as a color for this car.  What a shame.

Update Feb. 19, 2005  UH OH, rumors are surfacing.  Ford negotiating with Union to drop the 06 T-bird?  We'll have to watch this.  It's getting awfully close to job1 date though they could extend the 05 past the scheduled last day.  Will we know colors by mid April or will we hear news from Ford by then about the end of this model? 

Update January 22, 2005 - Job 1 date for the 2006 Thunderbird is July 18, 2005  - We'll know the colors sometime late March or April.

Update December 12, 2004 - rumors are circulating about colors for next year. - dark blue, another light green, We won't know for sure until spring of 2005.

Update November 5, 2004:   The 2006 Ford Thunderbird will be built - word direct from the plant.

Update Sept. 08, 04 - rumor starting to surface that not only will there be a 2006 but maybe even a 2007?  not sure about this rumor since sub-contractors were only given the go ahead thru April 2006.

Update June 14, 2004 - Reliable Ford sources indicate that there will indeed be a 2006 T-bird with the Thunderbird due to end in July 2006.  With no changes in model design, this is likely to happen as there is no need to retool so parts will be available at no extra cost and the only changes would be colors of interior/exterior.

Update June 1, 2004: 
will this happen?
Motor Trend predicts this about the 2006 Ford Thunderbird: "The retro-flavored T-bird is expected to be retired in 2005 due to declining sales, with no replacement on the drawing boards."
 

Food for thought - Since it's quite possible that there will be a 2006 Thunderbird, I would hope they would continue the 50th anniversary theme somehow - after all, it will be the 50th anniversary for the 1956 Thunderbird.

update February 5, 2004 - Looks like the Ford T-bird may continue into the 2006 model year.  It has now been moved off of it's separate line at Wixom (think the Ford GT took it's place there) and will be produced in line with the Lincoln LS.  According to source, it's continued production is tied into the new union contract for the Wixom workers. If the Lincoln Mark X goes to production for 2007, it will probably replace the T-bird in line. 
You just might see me keeping track of the T-bird for another year now.

Hey - I gotta keep after this color!
This color  WON' T happen except as a custom.


There are now rumors floating:

The Thunderbird may stay on line for 2006 with the Lincoln LS which is not due for a major change until the 2007s - that's a very remote chance but it's still a chance.  Since they share some of the same parts, the t-bird line can still be run.  Will it just be an extended run of 05s? Will there be more than 1 special editions slated for 05.  From latest reports, the supercharged program has been shelved for the Thunderbird (that's shelved not thrown out).  If you are interested in a supercharged version, visit my Saleen/Bonspeed page for more information.

On another related subject is the Wixom plant itself.  Read this article for future plans for the plant.  It also has a couple of nice graphics - aerial view of the plant and the plant's location within the Town of Wixom.

A thought to remember - until it's in an official document, it's a rumor - remember that.
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© 2003 Dot Lang
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A Line of Dot's