2002 Ford Thunderbird

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2002 Ford Thunderbird
RCR Ford Thunderbird Thumb.jpg
Car Details
Make Ford
Model Thunderbird
Year 2002
Owner SaabKyle04
Episode Details
Episode Link Watch
Season The Southern Stab
Air Date February 3, 2014
Credits u/kirbs2002

Behold! the 11th Generation Thunderbird. All that "modern-retro look that Mopar and GM are doing today, began with Ford over a decade ago.

Thunderbird provided by SaabKyle

This review is mostly narrated by The Roman, with the intro narrated and themes 'sung' by The Regular.


Mr. Regular:
This is a new old Thunderbird for the man who pays for Microsoft Word.
It's Baz Lurhmann ten years before, with two seats it's the car you buy to reheat time gone by.
The kids have moved out, now my wife puts out.
And although it's night, I'm full of beta blockers
And we're on a Southwest flight and I get to stare at her knockers.
A five book box set complete with DVD's was a super rare option.
It showed the hard sweat of Americans, not Japanese, working without exhaustion.
You'll be on-par with the guys at the bar because in the set you sure can bet was included a toy car.
You're now turning 50 and the war has begun but never you mind, leave politics behind, let's drive to Atlantic City and have some fun.
It's 2002 with a Ford, baby blue, just me and the Mrs. sharing parking lot kisses and she shows her affection right on my erection.
Regular Car Reviews is just made by us two and we will soon get on a plane for the west coast and L.A.
That sounds different, not the same. Now Roman, take it away.
Roman sings the songs, but today is backwards. You won't come along, these rhymes are hazards.

*Intro theme*

The Roman:
In one of the New York Auto Show videos, I noted how I wished Ford would bring back the Thunderbird and that was long before I thought I'd ever end up getting to drive one, so imagine my excitement getting to drive this. Sure it's not the first gen, it's not even within the first ten generations, but I don't really care. No seriously, I don't really care, just like when I make my nephew lunch and he doesn't want to eat it. “Finish your chicken breast! Don't leave all those GAINS on the plate!”

Now, in its day this was the car, the car you needed a varsity letter to drive, the car you needed a successful dental practice to own. There's reverence here because you know it's just out of reach, it's always out of reach like Tom Landry's hat; or a girlfriend who when you ask her where she wants to go eat responds with the name of an actual restaurant, instead of “Uhh, I don't know, whatever.”

But the reverence is not just from a financial prohibition, it's from the notion that you can never have this like the way it was in its glory days. Look at the Vagabond Falcon for instance; people honk and wave and say nice things and ask questions, and they're usually old people and they love the Falcon because it lets them know that the things they liked when they were young are still appreciated today. Their youth still exists and even if their grandchildren don't appreciate it, somebody's grandkid does. And if you're lucky a car like a Falcon or a Thunderbird will draw the reverence out of people. Hell, driving a Thunderbird today is an invitation to an unsolicited history lesson from a stranger.

In its first three years the Thunderbird outsold the Corvette by four-to-one, and by '58 sales increased by 77% all because Ford just went and added a back seat. You see, this was a part of consumer demand, this was the trend chaser because Ford would change whatever it needed about the Thunderbird to go along with whatever trend the consumers were chasing.

Back seats? Why not?
Make it larger? Sure!
Make it smaller? You bet your sweet, succulent asshole!

Because cognitive dissonance means holding two irreconcilable beliefs and feeling weird about it. And yet in the '50s Ford didn't rest on its laurels, it changed its practices to meet consumer demand but that type of attitude didn't stick. In fact, if you want to know how attitudes changed at Ford you don't need to look any further than the brochure for this thing. This is literally what the 1957 Thunderbird sales brochure says:

“Strictly personal... some people frankly admit they're just plain proud to be seen in this American classic.
“And certainly, those graceful, sweeping lines‒admired the world over‒are a complement to your taste and judgment.”

Now compare that with the sales brochure for the 2002 model:

“All together, one heavenly idea.”

See what I mean? In 1957 Ford wasn't resting on its laurels, it was pushing to make the damn thing a success, but by 2002 the Thunderbird had ten generations under its belt. It had a name, it had a legacy and a history to use as a fulcrum on which to pivot the entire brand. So Ford didn't feel the need to push this in the market any harder than, say, any other car. But you know what? It worked, for a time.

The 2002 Ford Thunderbird was so hard to find at launch because it was instantly popular with enthusiasts, casuals, and especially journalists who praised the retro exterior while finding polite ways to beat around the bush about the Lincoln MS interior, and how the instrument cluster was too similar, and how the dash gave the impression of the car having gotten sloppy seconds from the Lincoln. Like, and I'm making air quotes because this is a Motor Trend quote (and apparently Motor Trend missed the irony because they named the Chevy Citation their car of the year in 1980, which like the Thunderbird did well enough at launch but unlike the Thunderbird became a laughing stock and got its shit pushed in by the Camry). Not everyone who came first is better, Motor Trend! Hell, even my ex-girlfriend would probably agree!

The real kicker is that Motor Trend actually named the Thunderbird the 2002 car of the year and got raked over the coals for it seven years later when Car & Driver published their list of the Ten Most Embarrassing Award Winners in Automotive History. To quote the article, “If anyone were to drive this T-Bird, it would be platinum haired women prone to carrying small dogs wherever they go. It turns out there weren't that many of those women out there.”

And that's all well and good but what did I actually think about it when I drove it myself? The exterior is one of the more striking things about it, I'll say that right away. Is it flawless? Well no, but nothing can attain that sort of aesthetic perfection of Angela White. This is a car that was intended to give us back what we had lost in the 40 years since the Thunderbird's glory days.

On the outside it's blue like Mr Meeseeks (look at me!), a car for taking the scenic route rolling past the beach , blasting Smokey Robinson on a cool summer day, the ocean spray fragrant in the distance. With a steering wheel that moves into place like the  Batmobile, and balanced touring car steering and handling it recaptures the original '55-'57 models even without really reaching the same pinnacle because it can be hard to reclaim an automotive past that doesn't really exist anymore. This Thunderbird isn't going to be spanking Corvettes like the Thunderbird of old or the way old beefy men spank Angela White on a scene overlooking... Damnit! Sorry, sorry, this is what happens when I'm...

To be honest this was smaller than expected and not really as fast as I thought it would be, but admittedly I didn't give her the beans. But what I do like is that it's not a boisterous car, it doesn't feel the need to announce its presence every time you hit the accelerator or anytime you hit the brakes. This is a car of remarkable subtlety, and I had fun driving it.

And you know what else? I'd buy one if I had the money! Yeah the body is stiffer with the top on but you could say the same thing about Spring Break girls at Dewey Beach. This is the ideal car for the person who wants to reclaim the past but without any of the issues that go along with time travel. I mean, sure, you can go back to 1950 but that also means giving up the internet and the cure for polio. Basically, this is for the guy who wants a Mustang but with a longer history behind it so he can hold court at Cars and Coffee for just a little longer. And you know what, I don't blame him for that.

Mr. Regular:
Aww crap, I broke a key. Aww man, I like this keyboard.