Today In Manufacturing History: The Last Ford Thunderbird

On this day in 2005, Ford's iconic sports car, the Thunderbird, ceased production — 50 years after its introduction.

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On this day in 2005, Ford's iconic sports car, the Thunderbird, ceased production — 50 years after its introduction.

General Motors released the first American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, in 1953 after men in service during World War II had been observing European sports cars. The attention the Corvette gained from both the media and the public motivated Ford to respond with competition quickly, introducing the Thunderbird in 1955. 

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The T-Bird was immediately popular, selling more than 14,000 that year in comparison to just 700 rival Corvettes. It continued to gain popularity and recognition in pop culture throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but in the 1990s, sales started to slow down. The T-Bird was discontinued in 1997. 

It made a return in 2002, however, as Ford attempted to elicit nostalgia among car buyers. Following a lot of the styling seen in the original model, the company produced a retro Thunderbird — a two-seater convertible. 

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus offered a special version in the 2000 Christmas catalog at just under $42,000. The 200 that were available sold out in just two hours and 15 minutes. Although there were rapid early sales and positive reviews on the new Thunderbird, Ford could not justify continuing production due to ongoing sales, and the T-Bird retired once more in 2005. 

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