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429 Thunderjet! 1968 Ford Thunderbird

If the original Ford Thunderbird is known as the “Baby Bird” and the second generation (1958-1960) is the “Square Bird”, then the fifth generation (1967-1971) must be the “Big Bird”. And horror of horrors, the Big Bird was available with four-doors!  With that in mind, let’s review a 1968 variant of Big Bird and see what’s what with this substantial version of  Ford’s popular personal luxury car. Our subject car is located in Jurupa Valley, California and is available, here on Facebook Marketplace for $4,800. Thanks to Steve C for this find!

While the jet age was in full representative force with the introduction of the ’61 Thunderbird and continued with refinement through 1966, the ’67 T-Bird took on an “all-growed-up” persona (carona?) as a luxury coupe and sedan. Bigger and heavier was better right? While technically debatable, and it’s a trend that continues today with outrageously sized SUVs, it was all the rage in the ’60s. And Ford followed suit by building the Big Bird on a perimeter frame and added the previously mentioned extra pair of reverse-opening or “suicide” (not a great descriptor IMO) doors for discriminating buyers that wanted Thunderbird panache with four-door convenience. Unfortunately, the T-Bird convertible has consigned to history with the exception of the debatable eleventh generation (2002-2005).

One thing definitely not consigned to history was horsepower. Starting in 1968, Ford’s new “385” series V8 engine was made available and this T-Bird is rocking one in the form of a 360 gross HP, 429 CI unit. Ford’s tried and true 390 CI “FE” powerplant was still the standard motivator. The seller states that this ‘Bird, while it will start, has been a no-go for four years and the fuel tank will need to be dropped, drained, and cleaned. The recorded mileage is 72K, (the odometer shows 67K) though not authenticated, it could be indicative of the amount of life the big V8 still possesses. Of course, it’s ultimately based on how the engine was maintained and operated over the years. The sole transmission available was a three-speed automatic.

This two-door T-Bird is well balanced, a feat that can be a challenge on such a large car – the front, mid-section and rear portion hang together perfectly. The four-door sedan is another matter entirely – it just doesn’t flow as smoothly. The exterior appearance of this Thunderbird is a bit of a conundrum – it looks great, when wet, not as much so in au naturel mode. But the body is straight and corrosion-free, it’s the finish that has just naturally given up the ghost and a repaint would work wonders! The chrome and trim still show well though the landau bars are a matter of subjective taste. Also good to see are the retractable headlight doors that look to be properly aligned and not subject to winking. Interesting to note is the roof, it appears to be painted black as opposed to being typically clad in vinyl. The wheel covers are a bit of a throw-back in that they are in the form of Magnum 500 styled wheels, they work fine, however.

I chose this particular image of the interior because of the cool wrap-around rear seat, I had completely forgotten about this T-Bird feature. The interior is in fair shape though the headliner and right sail panel have become a bit wrinkled.

The carpet is dirty and worn and the passenger seat upholstery is becoming unstuffed but the instrument panel,  with its ever-present faux wood, looks OK and there’s just a single split in the dash pad. As is often the case, a good deep cleaning will work wonders for the interior and give a potential new owner an idea of what’s good and what needs attention.

It seems true that the old cars with the best bones originate from California, at least that’s the trend that I have noticed after reviewing hundreds of old car listings and this Big Bird is no exception. This example has good bones and the optional 429 engine just makes it that much more of a draw. Hmmm, $4,800? Probably worth a closer look wouldn’t you agree?

Comments

  1. Pit st Pauly

    I despised these when they first came out, but 10 years later I rode in a friend’s and grew more fond of them. Very smooth ride, good power and very nice interior. I personally like the 4 door version even more but would love to own either one.

    Like 13
    • Dwcisme

      The small, Oh! So very small, town I lived in in 69 had a 2 man police force that was given one of the local company’s 4 dr T-Birds to use as a cruiser after one of them wrecked the previous car. As a kid, I thought it was cool. They were probably the only cops who had A/C and leather interior.

      Like 1
  2. DocW

    As an 18 year old high school student, my older brother bought a 68 Tbird with a 429. His was a 4 door thought. He let me take it to school one day. Boy could that car get up and go! Lucky I didn’t wrap it around a tree!
    This one looks like it will take a lot of hard work to get back in shape. Good luck to the new owner.

    Like 7
    • paul

      I had a 67 with a 390 when I was 18. It was perfect, no rust red with white top. White interior. My brother crashed it while I was in the Navy. What a waste. I was keeping it.

      Like 4
  3. Nash Bridges

    I dare say this is a dodo bird.

    Like 1
  4. Allen L

    Sequential tail lights!
    Another rare feature in its day.

    Like 8
  5. Mr.BZ

    I was an 8 year old that thought the T-bird had flown the coop when these hit the streets. But I have a new respect for these 2 doors and could enjoy cruising in one like this. Column-shift with a nice console is just a crime, though.

    Like 4
    • DJ Brown

      Hi I had a 1968 Thunderbird 2 door with 429 cobra Jet engine, I loved that car, that’s when I was 17, I am now older, and Now I am restoring that same 1968 Thunderbird. The engine still in excellent shape, I am so excited to get my bird back on the road, I am restoring the whole inside, with a paint job of a pearlized Teal with silver undercoat. I don’t know much about painting a car, but this color got me, it must be for me and my Thunderbird. Thanks for letting me share, it’s a rare thing to get something back after many years, I am so pumped up about my car.

      Like 1
  6. Luke Fitzgerald

    Pretty hideous generation – but it does have the real HP 429

    Like 1
  7. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    I agree with Jim O’D on the styling of the ’68 T-Bird in that the 2 doors looked well balanced while the 4 doors looked awkward and ungainly. Overall, this ‘Bird looks like a decent buy for the ask though it does look pretty tired in and out. However, it’s a sporty 2 door with a big block 429 and a car not often seen. I think I’d just clean it up as best I could, address any mechanical issues and enjoy it as-is.

    Like 10
  8. matt kennell

    Our family inherited a baby blue one of these T birds
    in the late 70’s and later sold it. Was a blast to drive, one of the most powerful cars I have ever driven and loved the wrap around back seat.

    Like 5
  9. OIL SLICK

    Looks like the old Hot Wheel. Same color, just needs the wheels

    Like 6
  10. Denny

    I have a maroon two door in my garage ,same drive train as this one 429 auto, had this 68 T bird for 16 years now.

    Like 11
  11. Keith D.

    Are these 5th generation T-Bird’s the models with the side to side tilt steering wheels?

    Like 0
  12. sluggo

    Thunderbirds Are Go!!!

    Like 2
  13. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Allen L, As I recall, sequential turn signals were only on the Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar at the time.
    More luxury than sporty, these are an aquired taste. But I like them. Even in 4 door. At least Ford was smart enough to make the rear doors “suicide.”
    I also find the ’70 Tbird interesting with that hugh “beak” on the front.
    But. Where are the whitewalls?? All luxobarges of the time had whitewall tires. Would certainly jazz up this dark color find.¹

    Like 6
    • Mel

      Hi Angel I have a 1971 T- Bird in black with gold interior, 39Miles 429 thunder jet! Also suicide doors

      Like 2
  14. JoeNYWF64

    IMO the t-bird should never have been a 4 door – call it something else with some changes if u want a 4 door. Imagine the wildly popular ’77-79 bird as a 4 door. Or even worse, the horrible ’80 2 door as a 4 door. lol
    I’ve seen some new “cars” with automatic & a brake pedal 1/2 the size of the one on this ’68 bird! & too close to the accelerator too. Unintended acceleration – into buildlings? The feds should do somethin.

    Like 1
  15. Kevin

    I like these,very classy,and a tad gangster..lol and the 429 I’m sure is a beast,I’d clean it up,fix the issues and enjoy.

    Like 2
  16. Robt

    Love it. Sport coupe? As a teenagers in the 70’s we had 71 Marquis wagon with a 460 inder the hood. Man did I have fun with that car. Acceleration anytime and every time you want it.
    But the t-bird, smaller? lighter? quicker? There was something about that effortless power when the 4-barrel kicked in. Yes I’d do it. Price seems realistic considering.
    Too bad the logistics are what they are, LA to the the great N. East. Need to start a savings acct.

    Like 0
  17. Subalou Subalou

    Can you say Pro Touring candidate! I love this thing and its affordable.

    Like 1
  18. Randy Birchfield

    These were known as Glamorbirds since they went upscale on the luxury meter. I have a ’67 with a 428 and it mirrors the Hot Wheels I had as a kid. Great cars, very under appreciated. Rides as well as anything today with plenty of power in reserve.

    Like 3

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