FORD THUN­DER­BIRD

Clas­sic T-birds are svelte and joyful beasts, the per­fect an­ti­dote to mod­ern Bri­tish claus­tro­pho­bia. Let’s get more of them cruis­ing our high­ways!

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling - Theo Ford- Sagers

New reg­is­tra­tions of clas­sic Thun­der­birds in the UK hit a peak in 2015 and 2016, with records in­di­cat­ing that 34 ve­hi­cles joined Bri­tish roads each year – but anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests there’s been a de­cline in in­ter­est this year. You cer­tainly won’t find many newly-im­ported Thun­der­birds – in any of its ten clas­sic gen­er­a­tions – on UK fore­courts right now.

‘A high per­cent­age of them are brought in for in­di­vid­ual cus­tomers, rather than spe­cial­ist deal­ers,’ says Jamie Hill of Hill Ship­ping on the Isle of Shep­pey, Kent ( hill­ship­ping. com) who reg­u­larly im­ports Amer­i­can clas­sic cars, in­clud­ing a few T-birds. He adds: ‘Thun­der­bird im­ports are very niche.’ Pro­duc­tion peaked in the late 1970s, reach­ing 350,000 in 1978 alone, then took a sharp dive, and the model even­tu­ally met its demise in 1997. An at­tempt was made at re­vival with a retro-themed eleventh gen­er­a­tion model in 2002, but de­spite some crit­i­cal ac­claim Ford fi­nally ditched the name in 2005.

In spite of its mas­sive early pro­duc­tion, num­bers are scarce in the UK. The Thun­der­bird was never of­fi­cially im­ported here, and pro­duc­tion took place al­most ex­clu­sively in the USA, with the ex­cep­tion of some sev­en­th­gen­er­a­tion cars that were made in Venezuela. A good num­ber of to­day’s clas­sic sur­vivors – both in the UK and over­seas – are of the ear­lier gen­er­a­tions. Ex­am­ples from the 1970s and 1980s are al­most non-ex­is­tent in Bri­tain, so there’s def­i­nitely some­thing to be said for scout­ing over­seas, ei­ther us­ing your own ini­tia­tive, or by com­mis­sion­ing a spe­cial­ist im­porter.

If you can af­ford to ig­nore the cur­rent ex­change rate, Amer­ica is nat­u­rally the go-to op­tion, es­pe­cially dry states where the steel struc­ture tends to es­cape cor­ro­sion. You’ll also find plenty in Aus­tralia, es­pe­cially 1960s ex­am­ples.

For a bud­get slice of Yankie sump­tu­ous­ness, you could do worse than to look for a ninth- or tenth-gen­er­a­tion Thun­der­bird from Europe, de­cent ex­am­ples of which can be found for less than £5000. Just re­mem­ber that if you’re sourc­ing from out­side the EU, the car will need to be over 30 years old to at­tract the re­duced VAT rate of 5%, so T-birds from the late ninth gen­er­a­tion on­wards are at a dis­ad­van­tage.

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