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Ford Thunderbird Being Considered As Possible Corvette Rival: Exclusive

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When the Ford Thunderbird launched for the 1955 model year, it did so as a sporty, two-seat convertible that served as a direct Chevrolet Corvette rival, albeit one that was marketed as a more upscale alternative. That soon changed, however, as the Thunderbird gained another row of seating in 1958 and proceeded to grow in size in subsequent years. The long-running model was ultimately discontinued after ten generations, only to return as a retro two-seat convertible in 2002 before it bowed again following the 2005 model year. Now, sources familiar with the matter have told Ford Authority that the Ford Thunderbird is once again being considered for a comeback.

This time around, Ford is considering reviving the Thunderbird as a somewhat indirect Corvette rival. The new T-Bird would reportedly be more of a grand touring coupe, though it wouldn’t boast a mid-engine layout like the current-gen C8 Corvette, and as such, wouldn’t exactly be a direct competitor to its original rival.

As Ford Authority reported in January of 2021, Ford filed to trademark “Thunderbird” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office last year, signaling a potential return for the beloved model. Such a comeback would be the latest in a long line of them, as The Blue Oval just resurrected the Ford Bronco, as well as the Ford Maverick – albeit as a compact pickup, not a passenger car like the original.

Additionally, in June 2021, Ford Authority spies spotted Ford benchmarking a C8 Corvette Stingray, which raised a lot of eyebrows. Presumably, Ford was benchmarking the C8 against the the Ford Mustang GT500 – its closest Blue Oval rival – but it’s also possible that this was being done with an eye toward building a more suitable competitor, such as a new Thunderbird.

Sales Numbers - Premium Sports Cars - 2021 - USA

MODEL YTD 21 / YTD 20 YTD 21 YTD 20 YTD 21 SHARE YTD 20 SHARE
CHEVROLET CORVETTE +52.78% 33,041 21,626 63% 51%
PORSCHE 911 +13.60% 10,042 8,840 19% 21%
PORSCHE 718 +24.51% 4,292 3,447 8% 8%
MERCEDES-BENZ AMG GT -10.86% 3,110 3,489 6% 8%
AUDI R8 +11.70% 649 581 1% 1%
MERCEDES-BENZ SL-CLASS -74.07% 462 1,782 1% 4%
MERCEDES-BENZ SLC-CLASS -89.21% 229 2,122 0% 5%
NISSAN GT-R -25.33% 227 304 0% 1%
FORD GT -18.29% 143 175 0% 0%
ACURA NSX -3.13% 124 128 0% 0%
BMW I8 -90.58% 18 191 0% 0%
TOTAL +22.61% 52,337 42,685

Currently, the C8 Corvette remains in high demand since its launch in 2019 for the 2020 model year, and it dominates the premium sports car segment after finishing with a 63 percent market share last year. There’s certainly room for competition in this segment – particularly for vehicles that represent a great value, like the Corvette, which is precisely what a new Thunderbird could be.

We’ll have more on this very soon, so be sure to subscribe to Ford Authority for the latest Ford Thunderbird news and ongoing Ford news coverage.

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Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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Comments

  1. William Thomas Kircher

    Going to have to be an electric Thunderbird version. Otherwise, one is looking at a short run of production vehicles due to emission mandates.

    Reply
    1. Nonspecific Motors

      All the comments so far on here suck. The Ford GT is the competitor to the current Chevrolet Corvette. It’s not my fault they don’t put the 2.7 in the GT as a base engine to compete with the base 6.2 Corvette. The 5.5 is on par with the 3.5. A front engine rwd two seater at this point would just be a Mustang without the two rear seats. A new Thunderbird would have to be Miata sized to be feasible. We already have a V8 rwd sports car from Ford. That’s also a dying market. The key here is THUNDERbird. Just like LIGHTNING. An electric Miata competitor could be a possibility. Another sporty crossover like the Mach-E is a possibility. But what would all the Ford faithful really want? Probably a Thunderbird that competes with a Mercedes SL Class but has Ford’s rumored 6.8 V8 under the hood, hooked up to a 7 speed manual or 10 speed automatic with 175 mph top speed. Front engine rwd all the way. Maybe a hybrid model. Think luxury and freedom over the GT’s max track performance.

      Reply
  2. cobra

    Will never buy any vehicle that demands electricity. They are not cheap and they are worse than a gas powered vehicle due to producing more polution needing the power produced by coal and oil.

    Reply
    1. Common sense

      Right on!! I’m with you. Problem is people are so stupid. We can’t produce enough electricity to power the whole northeast in the summer OR California ever!!

      Reply
    2. Ford Owner

      So you get gasoline free from the sky? I know I get free electricity from the Sun. And I charge my car parked in my garage overnight . Can you, Cobra, do that with gas?? And how do you pump gas to your car without electricity? Do you use a hand pump with a crank?

      Reply
      1. Tigger

        I can fill up my tank in five minutes and I know there are gas stations down the road. Solar is not feasible in Northern climates where only half the days are sunny.

        Reply
    3. jdgpro

      You should actually drive one.

      Reply
    4. jaz

      Obviously, you have never owned aTesla or any of the more current E Cars such as the Ford Mach E. My Model 3 gets the equivalent or just over 100 MPG ! (Do the math) The cost is roughly the same as any other car in the upper end of the medium segment. The power comes out of the box in my garage . My electric bill shot up around $10. As for the other stuff you are talking about, I don’t know where you are getting it. I also have an 03 T Bird which only comes out in the warm weather months, its a blast. Hope the new one is electric.

      Reply
  3. Charles Mozingo

    In August 2002 I took the delivery of my Red & White/ Black interior/ White removal port hole top. I had med size White walls installed on the All Black Tires., Therefore It looked like at RETRO. I kept it till 2010, it had 7489 miles on it. It was always garaged & oil was changed each year& fluid levels checked. My wife & I are Seniors, we didn’t drive it all the time so sat in the garage. Taxes, insurance ate us alive, so we sold it.

    Reply
  4. Harv

    Why not complete the orders you already have rather than introducing a new model every week, afterall, there are still people who have been waiting for 2 years on a Bronco order.

    Reply
    1. Robert.Walter

      Nothing like letting product lines age and the new product pipeline go dry to satisfy a commenter who doesn’t understand the nature of new product development cycles and global supply line shortages.

      Reply
      1. John

        This. All day, every day. Thanks Robert.

        Reply
        1. Explorer ST

          I second this!

          Reply
  5. Robert.Walter

    Front-, mid- and rear-engine configurations are rendered irrelevant with electric power trains.

    Reply
    1. Ford Owner

      Electric motors ride directly on the axles, so you can get FWD, RWD or AWD on the same body.

      Reply
  6. Keith D Vogt

    Bring it back! Rekindle the old feelings of American Graffiti! :)))

    Reply
  7. Kenny D

    Well, FORD!!!!!! Swell Thinking, How’s about you Just Pull your HEADS OUT….. And start Building my F-150??????? “EH”??????? No Wonder I’am Seeing some BAD Feelings against The FoMoCo on You Tube and Such???? Come On “MAN”. You know the Thing???

    Reply
    1. John

      Lol what are you 88? Or just 8?

      Reply
  8. Harry Hunold

    Okay yes a new thunderbird

    Reply
  9. greg strain

    bring it back as a rear engine electric hybrid. something on the lines of a porsche layout. with a light weight small block V8. and all wheel drive…..watch em sell like hot cakes!!

    Reply
    1. Robert.Walter

      Can’t get the performance out of a gas hogging, mass penalty, ICE engine or that electric drive delivers.

      When are folks going to learn that with electric it’s instant torque and gobs of HP all day every day?

      Time to stop worrying and love the BEV.

      Reply
      1. Apexer

        EV’s may offer prodigious acceleration, but the drive can be rather antiseptic. I own an electric car and the power can be eye-opener at first, but it becomes one-dimensional over time. A combustion engine would deliver the sound, vibration and feel of a sports car faithful to the legacy of a retro interpretation. A hybrid approach would make sense for the Thunderbird. Besides, EV’s will rule the roost one day, so let the old bird have one more pass. 🙂

        Reply
      2. Tigger

        It’s time we allow people to buy what they want. If electricity works for 9ne person doesn’t mean it will work for another.

        Reply
  10. Greg

    Yea Ford just mad that Chevy has a better seller than them. Yes the Mustang outsells the Camaro and the F150 out sells Silverado but they have never been able to touch the greatest American built Sports car. The Corvette is heads and shoulders above all the rest at the right price point.

    Reply
  11. Edward Munday

    Give the new Thunderbird a fold down hardtop and run flat tires and load all of them with the best of everything .

    Reply
  12. Stanley Frank Simons

    I want to hear more about the Thunderbird and the better always wonderd why ford didn’t have nothing

    Reply
  13. Stanley Frank Simons

    The vette and thunderbird why ford hasn’t built something to compete against them.

    Reply
  14. Dave Mathers

    Please, please, please keep the ‘design team’ that butchered the 02 model far, far away from the new one. I went to buy one but, at 6’1″ I could not sit without my head touching the roof. We deserve better, MUCH better.

    Reply
    1. Robert.Walter

      J Mays retired long ago. Thankfully.

      Reply
    2. Dori Webb

      Dave, may I make a suggestion for your head room problem?
      PUT THE TOP DOWN.

      Reply
  15. Larry Sorenson

    Wonderful . Let’ make a big bloated “coupe” on an existing platform ( there are so many to chose from). Oops, tried this in ‘58. Better try harder this time.

    Reply
    1. MBibby

      It made Ford more money than the 2 seater did.

      Reply
  16. Tina soldano

    Why don’t you bring back impala.1968.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Ah yes, my first car, a Ford Impala…wait a minute

      Reply
  17. Tigger

    The Thunderbird will not be an EV- at least to start. The article said it is to be a Corvette rival. I would expect this vehicle to be built on the new Mustang S 550 platform.

    Reply
  18. FoMoCo

    Last generation of T-bird was a d absolute pile of garbage on wheels. Slow, unreliable, and poorly designed.

    Reply
    1. Dori Webb

      The 11th generation Thunderbird is a blast to drive, very affordable, head-snaps to jealous passerbys. Naysayers never had the privilege to own or even drive one.

      Reply
    2. Bill K

      I agree it was a “chick car”. Not impressive at all. Humiliating putting the name Thunderbird on it. Reminded me of the 1980 version. It was a $hitbox Granada with the name Thunderbird on it.

      Reply
  19. Sean

    Why don’t they make a more affordable version of Ford GT to compete with the Vette?

    Reply
    1. Michael

      I second that!!!!

      Reply
    2. COBRA THERAPY!!!

      The FORD GT was NEVER meant to compete against a vette.The FORD GT was meant to be a ferrari killer.Back in the days a vetter couldnt even beat the BOSS 302 on the track.And the vette was no where near in the same class as the 427 COBRA!!

      Reply
    3. Terry

      Agreed. Key word affordable.

      Reply
  20. COBRA THERAPY!!!

    To compete with the ugly c8 ford needs a mid engined car with a good V8,DCT or 6 speed Manual!!No stupid electric crap!!

    Reply
    1. Terry

      Can I hear an Amen!

      Reply
  21. Kaeden

    I’ve got a 1988 thunderbird for sale in Hermon Maine!! If interested give me a text/call at 207 930 0683.

    Reply
  22. James

    All I have to say is, Ford Motor Company, if you’re going to do Thunderbird again, Please….you better do it right. By this I mean you have to reach out to perspective consumers ask what they want and expect in a performance oriented GT and engineer, build what they want at a reasonable price. And for God’s sakes, don’t make it limited numbers to individuals that have 7 figure incomes that are obligated by contract to not sell it within a specified time frame. Don’t rely solely on your marketing people to tell you what the North American consumer wants. Build what they want at a reasonable cost/profit and it will sell. I’m old school retired FMC Mgnt. Started working on 400 cid engine line in Windsor and worked my ass off for this company. I want Ford to be part of the future of global automotive leadership.

    Reply
  23. Mr.Thunderbird

    Please oh please…Yess!! Make it like they were, not like the 02-05 version. Also, reasonable price please! Use the Mustang drivetrain, and give it power!!

    Reply
  24. Bill K

    The headline is a bit misleading.
    “Ford Thunderbird Being Considered As Possible Corvette Rival: Exclusive”

    Then in the 2nd paragraph:
    “The new T-Bird would reportedly be more of a grand touring coupe, though it wouldn’t boast a mid-engine layout like the current-gen C8 Corvette, and as such, wouldn’t exactly be a direct competitor to its original rival.”

    I hope they make the new version more manly or masculine than the most recent retro version (2002-05) That was clearly a CHICK CAR.

    It is very difficult to be impressed with a guy driving that Barbie car.
    A far cry from honoring the name Thunderbird.

    Reply
  25. 2nd gen Ford

    Whomever ate the forward thinkers in the F150 product engineering group need to lead the Thunderbird project. I was sooooo disappointed after reading this article. If the T- Bird is going to be a grand touring, don’t waste our time. 👎🏿

    Reply
  26. Mf

    I think a 2 seat higher performance version of the thunderbird would be a good move, and would allow for mustang to grow a bit and be a more practical vehicle. Alternatively, a thunderbird that was bigger than mustang would give Ford something that dodge has been selling tons of challengers due to, a size that works for people.

    I just hope it’s RWD and V8, maybe with a Turbo Coupe version that has the Ecoboost v6.

    Reply
  27. KevinKI

    Going further, a great start is to take S650 and make the Thunderbird a longer wheelbase to allow for backseat room THEN go even longer to allow for a real Lincoln Mark9 4-door European coupe and LS sedan. This way development costs a spread through four different models. It’s a no-brainer considering this is how it was done with Mustang, Thunderbird/Cougar and Mark7 back in the 1980’s.

    No SUV Thunderbird’s allowed thank you.

    Reply
  28. Jack

    Electric, gas, hydrogen, …who cares? There are no roads worth driving on anymore thanks to unchecked construction expansion across this once great nation. Each generation sells property out to predatory development contractors and everybody keeps reproducing in fear of losing their fortunes to the government. So, where can we drive these cars? To cars and coffee?

    Reply
  29. Joe R

    I want the EV T-Bird to be chromed-out retro extravaganza.
    Don’t be a boring blob with AWD, huge torque and 314 miles in the battery.

    Reply
    1. Joe R

      Maybe take the Gen 3 (61-63) or Gen 2 (58-60) for styling inspiration and really turn some heads.

      Reply
  30. Glen62

    In keeping with the SUV/Truck trend at Ford, why not make the Thunderbird a luxury personal truck based off the Maverick. How stupid is that?? But SUV’s are the way to go, no? Why not just take an F150 and make a Continental Town Truck while we are at it.

    Reply
  31. MJ

    The T-bird name should’ve been badged to what is now the Mach-e.

    Reply

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