Bucket Seat Survivor: 1979 Ford Thunderbird

This 1979 Ford Thunderbird is a nicely preserved driver-quality example, with a clean interior featuring the less-often-seen option of front bucket seats. A Thunderbird of practically any vintage is associated with bench seats and column shifters, but this one here on eBay has a proper floor shift with a full center console and the aforementioned buckets in excellent condition. The Buy-It-Now is $5,999 with the option of submitting an offer.

The interior really is a treat, not only for the unusual seating arrangement (for a T-Bird) but also because the pattern is quite unique and in excellent condition. Woodgrain insets in the dash look practically new, and the matching gray carpets show no signs of excessive stains or dirt. The woodgrain inserts even carry over to the steering wheel.

Under hood, the Thunderbird is packing a 302 V8 Windsor engine with just 74,000 miles. While not that powerful, the 302 will provide plenty of cheap, reliable miles while also making a nice noise if you choose to tweak the exhaust and give this luxo-barge some pipes. The seller notes the Thunderbird received a full paint job at some point in the past.

That included a silver base coat with clear and a black vinyl roof. The Thunderbird looks quite clean from end-to-end, and is said to run well. While it’s not a classic I would go out of my way to own, the small details – like the cloth bucket seats – make this one a standout, which is important when dealing in a car they made a lot of and with plenty still for sale.


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  1. KSwheatfarmer

    I’ve got a 78 with the same bucket seats,console and floor shift,does any one know about what percentage of the production of these cars were so equipped ? This is a nice one.

    Like 5
  2. Moparman Member

    Very sharp car, nicely optioned! Ford really cheaped out on the gauges though, (IMO) that has to be one of the chinziest looking dashes for a “luxury” car. I’d advise shampooing the seatbelts add to the interior appearance.GLWTA!! :-)

    Like 2
    • Superdessucke

      There was Sport Instrumentation Group as an option that is a completely different design and looked a lot better, but it is pretty rare.

      Like 1
      • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

        My 1979 Thunderbird had the sport instrumentation, with tachometer. This should have been standard equipment.

        Like 2
  3. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Just a few days ago I was looking online at the sales brochure for this generation T-Birds. I was specifically trying to find out how one was optioned to get the sportier looking instrument cluster with the tach. I noticed this upholstery pattern, and the thought crossed my mind that I hadn’t seen this upholstery in…. decades. And now, here it is. Quite cool and very period-correct. Not a bad car overall.

    Repaint: the Ford metallic silvers, grays, and light/medium blues of this era were terrible. My in-laws had a silver 1979 Fairmont Futura, the paint was gone on it within three years. They had it repainted a non-metallic dove gray.

    Like 4
  4. Arthell64 Member

    My mother drive one of these back in the 70’s. While the styling looked pretty good it handled like a boat and had no power. One afternoon I borrowed the car (GTO had a leaking heater core) and I raced a friend that had a stock 72 charger with a 318 single exhaust on the freeway and the dodge blew the doors off of the t-bird. I think that was the only car the dodge ever outran. I like these but I would have to have one with at least a 351.

    Like 4
    • bone

      The 351s these came with were the 351M/400 motors , you’d be better off with the 302 for dependability.

      Like 1
  5. Fred W

    “A Thunderbird of practically any vintage is associated with bench seats and column shift”

    Huh? I’ve owned a ’66 and seen photos of everything prior…can’t remember seeing either of those.

    Like 4
    • 86_Vette_Convertible

      I have a later T-Bird with bucket seats. In fact I’ve not seen a T-Bird with a bench seat.

      Like 3
  6. Pookie Jamie

    It’s not a classic? What defines a car as being a classic? I thought after 20 years, it’s considered a classic…. it’s 40 years old. Maybe it’s an antique status at 20 years.

    Like 2
    • Bhowe Member

      The author had to say that because there are some purists and know it alls on the site that will run you into the ground unless you’re attracted to the kind of classics only THEY consider to be a classic

      Like 2
  7. Superdessucke

    The 302 put down 133 horsepower after wheezing through it’s small 2-V carburetor and assorted emissions controls. That wasn’t enough to move this 4,000+ pound barge along with any authority whatsoever.

    It took about 14 seconds to reach 60 and about 20 seconds to clear the quarter mile. Arthell must have needed a pair of binoculars to see his friend’s license plate! The 149 horsepower 351 got you a little more oomph but not much more. Probably not enough to justify the extra gas…


    Awful. But then again, a T-Bird is supposed to be a cruiser not a bruiser!

    Like 2
    • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

      My Dad test drove a 77 T-Bird with a 302. It was sluggish. My 79 T-Bird had the 351 and it was more than adequate. Cruising at 60 MPH, the tach hovered at around 1,200 RMP and if I floored it while moved at 60 MPH, the rear tires chirped. I miss that car.

      • Superdessucke

        Are you sure you didn’t run over something?

        Like 3
  8. Joe P

    A Marti report would tell you…but you’re gonna pay $$$ for it.

  9. Husky

    The front overhang is ridiculously long, looks like the front bumper will touch ground if one only is thinking about touching the brake pedal.

    Like 2
    • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

      Nope, you’re wrong. Those were great road cars. It is unfair to compare a 70s car to a 2019 car. The long hood is something you get used to. And I like and appreciate those 5 MPH battering ram bumpers. Modern cars, a minor 5 MPH collision and there might $5,000+ in damages. ICBC (our province owned Public Auto Insurance Monopoly) might even refuse to pay for repairs if the car is an older model and the cost of repair exceeds the book value of the car. Car & Driver tested a 77 down sized T-Bird when it came out, and loved it, quote “handles the switchbacks with aplomb”.

      Like 2
      • Mike

        I own and drive a 2006 Freightliner Classic XL every day. I’d bet that the hood on this T-bird is nearly as long as my Freightliner hood. There’s NO WAY I’d buy any car or pickup built today. I too love the big bumpers of the 70s and I’d love to have the candy apple red 78 T-bird that my cool aunt used to take my cousin and I to the beach in back in the day! I don’t buy any vehicle for gas mileage. I buy it because I like it!

        Like 2
  10. Lynelle Nowlin

    Hey can somebody out there help me,maybe a paint and body man?..Did I read correctly, that the owner claims that the new paint job “cost twice” for his asking price..Are there really $12,000 paint jobs out there?Even for a dealership this sounds a bit much.Please educate me.

    Like 2
  11. JoeNYWF64

    I don’t understand what happened to these & the ’77 cutlasses – they were all OVER the place back then. Did they too rust real bad, like vegas, aspens, etc.?

    Like 1
    • Superdessucke

      I don’t think they especially rusted but it’s been over 40 years. The average life expectancy of a car back then was somewhere around 12 years. So by that stat, most of these were off the road by the dawn of the 1990s.

      Like 2
      • don

        Enduro racing killed lots of the mid 70s cars ; at our local track there was an average car count of over 200 each time there was a race

    • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

      The 77 Cutlass and 77-79 Thunderbirds were great cars, but people drove them until they flat out just wore out. I really miss my 79 Thunderbird and if I ever win the lottery, I would one built by one those garages that rebuild cars to better than when they rolled off the assembly line

  12. Mike

    Call me crazy, but, as a farm kid in the 70s and 80’s, these have always been my favorite T-birds. Probably because my “cool aunt” had a 78. It was candy apple red with a white top and interior. She used to pick me up and take my cousin and I to the beach on weekends. I could be mistaken, but, I’m pretty sure it had a 400 because I used to work on it after she gave it to my cousin as his first car when she bought a brand new Cougar in 85. This aunt was so cool that she bought my cousin 2 tickets to a KISS concert for his 15th B’day in 82, then dropped us off at the concert and picked us up when it was over! Even though she’s in her late 70s now, Aunt Suzy is still cool!

    Like 4
  13. dale schwartzkopf

    i had a 1977 t bird had a 351 windsor engine it a beautiful crusier

    Like 1
  14. Steve Bush Member

    Hey Ice! I’ve got to agree with Sup D; It seems somewhat unlikely you could chrip the rear tires flooring your 1977 T-bird at 60. It’s way too heavy and under powered. And Sup D-you’d have to be pretty lucky to get 12 years from a late 1970s car. Also, agree with the others that they were nice road cars, but the Car and Driver review was more than a little overboard in its praise. Some of the cars the author was testing at the time must have been awful.

    • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

      Speaking of vehicle longevity, my brother in Calgary bought a brand new 2012 Nissan Murano. Dealer maintenance by the book, always parked in parkade at work and at home condo.
      Just 116,000 KMs the engine failed this past August 2019 The CVT transmission was also failing. So much for modern car quality. He bought the Murano because it was Made in Japan, so no sloppy American or Canadian factory workmanship. So, it is back to Ford products for him, he acquired a new 2019 Lincoln Nautilus.

  15. ICEMAN from Winnipeg

    Well, I had that car for 8 years, it was two years old when I bought it. It was running fine but there was rust ( Winnipeg winters). Admittedly, at the time, I got rid of just because I wanted a NEW car. That new car was a 1989 Mercury Topaz, which I had for 16 years and 350,000 + KMs. 15 of those were in Vancouver, which obviously has a climate much kinder to cars than Winterpeg.

  16. JoeNYWF64

    Were any of these gen birds(or torinos, elites, LTD II’s) made with a manual trans?
    Some Granadas were.
    Was the 351 or 400 faster? Odd no 4 barrel available on 302, 351 or 400, since some early ’70s torinos used a quadrajet, which was emissions cleaner than autolite/holley, & got better mpg than some 2 barrels, as long as u didn’t put your foot into it.
    How mustang GT in ’80s with holley carb passed touger emissions & mpg standards is beyond me.

  17. Dane Usher

    Extremely original and a one owner, that kept their Thunderbird cared for. This 1s for me and taking very good cared for.:)

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