Back then . . .’80 Ford T-Bird

The redesigned 1980 Ford Thunderbird, left, beside an original ’55 model. (Bud Wells photo)

The redesigned 1980 Ford Thunderbird, left, beside an original ’55 model. (Bud Wells photo)

Thirty-five years ago this week, I reviewed in The Denver Post the 25th anniversary 1980 Ford Thunderbird and the original ’55 model. Excerpts:

The stylish new 1980 Ford Thunderbird marks 25 years since introduction of one of the most prestigious model names in automotive history.

The year 1955 was a glamorous one for cars. When the ‘55s hit the showroom floors they were the most colorful and powerful, and displayed the most significant styling changes, of any one-year changeover before or since (to that time).

Every carmaker joined the move, but the big scene-stealer was the first Thunderbird, a little two-seater convertible with a removable hardtop. The 52-inch-high ’55 T-Bird was a sports car for those wanting something different. Built on a 102-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 175 inches, it was powered by a Y-block 292-cubic-inch-displacement V-8 engine with 193 horsepower. Base price was $2,695.

To provide better rear visibility, the famed porthole was designed into the hardtop of the ’56 T-Bird and tailfins were added in 1957.

To appeal to a broader segment of the public, a rear seat was added in 1958, sales tripled, and it was named “Car of the Year” by Motor Trend. The Birds continued to grow in size and by 1976 the car was 225 inches long with a curb weight of 5,100 pounds.

A sharp increase in fuel mileage and the best design since the early T-Birds highlight the smaller 1980 Thunderbird.

The comfort level in the high-seated ’80 model is unmatched in previous T-Birds. It is on a wheelbase of 108 inches and weighs 3,270 pounds. Handling is good with the McPherson struts, coil springs and variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering.

The big boost in gas mileages comes with an automatic overdrive transmission, available with the Thunderbird’s optional 302-cubic-inch V-8 engine (standard is a 255 V-8). An electronically controlled keyless entry system locks and unlocks the doors and unlocks the decklid by depressing calculator-type pushbuttons in a programmed five-digit sequence.