Last of The Big Birds: 1976 Ford Thunderbird

The seller of this 1976 Thunderbird refers to it as the last of the”Big Birds.” That is undoubtedly true because its 1977 replacement was smaller in virtually every dimension that mattered. This car appears to be in excellent condition for its age and is said to have a genuine 64,000 miles showing on its odometer. The owner has a collection of classics that needs reducing. Therefore, his son is offering the car for sale on his behalf. It is located in Newport Beach, California, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. Hand the owner $8,500, and you can drive away in this classic. I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Jack M for spotting this Ford for us.

The Thunderbird is a distinctive sight that features the Créme and Gold Luxury Group option. This package brought with it a combination of Gold Starfire paint on the vehicle sides, Cream paint on the remaining surfaces, aluminum wheels, and a Gold Odense Grain landau-style vinyl top. At this point, the Thunderbird was already a relatively expensive car, but this package would have added a further $793 to the sticker price. Looking at this Thunderbird reveals a classic that does present exceptionally well. The paint holds an impressive shine, while the trim, chrome, and the tinted glass, all appear to be free from flaws. The vinyl top has started to develop a slightly matte appearance, but I believe that this could be restored with few problems. The only other flaw that I have noticed is some minor oxidizing on the aluminum wheels. However, I believe that these could be polished successfully and returned to their original shiny appearance.

With the 1977 model year producing a significantly smaller car, the seller would seem to be justified in referring to this ’76 model as the last of the “big birds.” This is a car that is more than 18-feet in total length and tips the scales at over 5,000lbs. That demands appropriate levels of power, and this was the final year that the 460ci V8 would find its way under the hood of a T-Bird. That is what we see here, and it is backed by a 3-speed automatic transmission. This blessed the Thunderbird with 202hp, but all of that weight meant that the ¼ mile journey took 18.7 seconds. It also made it a thirsty beast, with an average fuel consumption of 10.4mpg. This is a T-Bird that appears to be in sound mechanical health. It has recently been treated to a new fuel tank, a new radiator, new tires, while the carburetor has also been rebuilt. The seller claims that the vehicle has a genuine 64,000 miles on the clock, but doesn’t indicate whether he holds any evidence to verify this claim. What he does say is that the Thunderbird runs and drives perfectly.

When the original buyer ticked the box beside the previously mentioned Luxury Group, they faced one further decision. The seats could either be upholstered in Gold Media Velour or as is the case with this car, Gold leather. It has to be said that the interior of this giant Ford is in impressive condition. The seller identifies a mark on the dash as the only apparent issue. He believes that it may have been caused by a towel being left in that spot for an extended period. However, this problem doesn’t show in the supplied photos. The leather on the seats looks soft and supple, with no signs of any wear or cracking. The remaining upholstered surfaces appear to be perfect, while there are no apparent issues with the carpet. As befits a luxury car, there are plenty of features designed to make life more pleasant on the road. These include air conditioning, power windows, power locks, remote exterior mirrors, cruise, a power driver’s seat, and a quadraphonic radio/tape player. This last item was a new feature for 1976 and added a further $382 to the vehicle’s price tag.

This 1976 Thunderbird is a giant of a car, and it marks the end of an interesting era in the model’s evolution. Moving forward, Ford would work to continually downsize the T-Bird in a bid to improve both vehicle efficiency and profit margins. It was also a very impressive year on the sales front, with 52,935 people handing over their money to park a Thunderbird in their driveway. It isn’t clear how many of these buyers chose to tick the box beside the Créme and Gold Luxury Group option, but the battle today is to find one out in the market. What I do know is that a regular Thunderbird can quite easily command prices of around $9,000 if they are in good condition. This one appears to meet those criteria, but it does come fully-loaded. If you like your luxury cars on the large side, then this is a T-Bird that might be worth serious consideration.


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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Yes, it’s way too big. Over-styled. Terrible space utilization. Loud two-tone paint. Big bumpers ruin the styling. Lousy gas mileage. But,….

    It sure does have presence. Like its Lincoln Mark brethren, you can’t miss it. One could have some fun with this for not much money, if you treated it as intended. Cruise to Cars & Coffee, ferry a couple grandkids in the back seat to get ice cream, take it for a pleasant drive in the country. A very nice example.

    Like 15
    • Mike W H

      Whenever I see one of the boats, I am reminded of the 6000-SUX from Robocop. Here’s an ad from the movie. PS I had a 77 Lincoln Mark, same platform I think.

    • Joel

      My Dad bought a 72 t-bird demo when I was in college in So. Ca. He let me and my buddies borrow it to go skiing in the winter to Park City Utah. What a great ride, but awful gas mileage. Back in the day we might have paid 40 cents a gallon.

  2. Barzini

    My late uncle tried to buy one of these new in 1973 but the salesman did not take him seriously because he worked as a mechanic for the same Ford dealership. He ended up with a 1973 Monte Carlo that had a 454, swivel seats, and nearly every option. So he kind of did him a favor.

    Years later the best salesman at the dealership where I worked said he never judged any customer by how they dressed. You just don’t know and aside from the morality, you can lose a lot of sales.

    Like 19
  3. Bob S

    That kind of stuff happened a lot in the 70s and 80s Barzini. I knew of a gentleman who showed up at a Caddy dealership wearing work clothes, nobody would come out to the lot to talk to him. He went to a different dealership, they sold him a new Fleetwood, the dealership called the 1st place he went to, and they said, “yeah, we remember him”, and they told them he paid cash for a brand new Fleetwood! Never judge a book by its cover!

    Like 18
  4. Jim C

    This thing is beautiful….and so 70s. Definitely worth the $8500 they are asking if the car is in as good of condition as the pictures indicate.

    Like 6
  5. Dave

    The bigger the better! Love this car! Great condition and garishly beautiful. Well priced for the condition and miles. Really de-tuned by 1976 and crappy gas mileage but who cares. I have a 76 Cadillac Eldorado ragtop in my garage now.

    Like 6
    • 1-MAC

      76 Eldo has the worst single exhaust set=up I have ever seen. 90 degree angles into a box before exit to single exhaust. You want better mileage and more power get a good true dual system or at least get rid of that “box and converter. Over 25 yrs old antique emission exempt.

      Like 1
  6. Jcs

    It would appear that the 4 inch wide and 3 inch thick body side moldings did their trick, not a door ding to be found!

    Like 3
  7. Claudio

    Last of the big turd
    I cant see the designer of this 4 wheeled fiasco bragging about his design …

    Like 1
    • Mr.BZ

      Here you go–start with a 76 Mark, don’t share any body panels, plop those mandated bumpers on and lets see what you can do!

  8. Keith Eisenbrei

    I had one of these and enjoyed every gas station i stopped at.That 460 was a cruiser motor but fuel used at those speeds did not last long. Wonder if fuel injection in one of these now would help?

    Like 2
    • Mike

      A Boss 429 crank gear advanced the cam timing by 6 degrees. Most of the carbs dropped the primary jets and were missed during overhaul because they were inside the brass emulsion tubes. Those two inexpensive repairs made a huge difference to performance and fuel economy

      Like 2
    • 1-MAC

      A true dual exhaust will do more than fuel injection, also remove air pump and other smog junk. 25 yrs. old antique no emission inspection.

      Like 1
  9. JoeNYWF64

    Is that a pts & condenser distributor?
    The back view seems to show the top of the back seat kind of light blueish in color & not complementing the paint – maybe it’s just the lighting?

    • John

      Electronic ignition. You can see the DuraSpark module on the top of the left inner fender

  10. John

    To each one’s own. I like ‘55-‘56.
    You may not.

  11. Mike

    Very nice! Great to see a car that isnt black, silver or white. Loved the colors of that era. Wish car companies would get creative again!!

    Like 4
  12. geoff

    Its always hard to know what to say when someone for whatever reason has chosen to preserve an immaculate example of a truly awful car. You either like it or you don’t. I had a 76 LTD as a work vehicle back then which shared most of the mechanicals. Early crude emission controls, de tuned engines hunt and pack transmissions and gigantic tacked on bumpers. Not a lot to revere. $8500.00 is probably reasonable albeit all the money

    Like 1
  13. Stevieg Member

    I love these cars but I feel the asking price is insane!
    I had one, a very nice (although not pristine) low mile example. It was burgundy in & out, gold pinstripes. Velour interior & a sunroof. Everything worked, including the gas gauge lol. It was a straight solid car with nice paint, interior & chrome. I couldn’t even get $3,000 out of it. I sold it to a friend for $2,500. This was only a couple years ago. I don’t believe the value has gone up this high, this quick. I hope they did, but I have strong doubts regarding that.

    Like 1

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