In its final year of production, the Thunderbird comes with only minor changes: Bronze and Medium Steel blue replace Merlot, Vintage Mint Green and Light Ice Blue; there are two new partial colour packages; there’s a new style aluminum appliqué on the centre stack and doors; and map pockets have been added to the seatbacks. The removable hardtop, with wheeled storage cart and storage cover, was previously an extra-charge option; it’s now included in the price, although there is no price increase over the 2004 model.

Because 2005 marks the model’s 50th anniversary – it was introduced to the public on October 22, 1954 – the fender chevrons carry a 50th Anniversary designation.

The Thunderbird comes standard with a 3.9-litre V8, five-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, seven-spoke 17-inch chrome aluminum wheels, power retractable top with semi-soft boot, dual power mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, dual-zone climate control, power locks, HomeLink universal garage door opener, heated leather bucket seats with six-way power driver seat and two-way power passenger seat, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls and power tilt/telescoping steering column, and power windows with drop-glass function when lowering the top.

Available options include a five-speed SelectShift automatic with manual mode, Light Sand appearance package, 17-inch 16-spoke wheels, and black, full colour or partial colour interior packages.

Based on the Lincoln LS, the Thunderbird is more a luxurious two-seater than sports car. Enthusiasts may long for a slightly stiffer suspension, but the Thunderbird is geared toward those more taken with its retro appearance than its handling considerations – and given the number of times Ford stresses the fact that the shallow trunk will hold two sets of golf clubs, it’s a safe bet that the company is counting on the Myrtle Beach crowd. A relatively high price tag for what is essentially a third car – after a daily driver and a spouse’s vehicle – has mostly kept Thunderbird sales below expectations.

But there’s no denying the Bird’s appeal; styled loosely on the 1955 version, but roomier, the car coddles two passengers in comfort. The 280 hp V8 is smooth and superb for all-day cruising, and while you have to pack lightly, it’s still the perfect weekend getaway car. With its styling and traditional Detroit “personal luxury”, it really stands alone in the field. If it’s calling your name, you’d better answer soon: it’s being discontinued at the end of 2005, and there are currently no plans for a replacement.

The Thunderbird is built in Wixom, Michigan.

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