Lots Of New Parts! 1969 Ford Thunderbird

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One American automobile model that has been through a significant number of body-style iterations has to be Ford’s Thunderbird. Today’s find, a 1969 coupe, represents the fifth generation (’67-’71) and a time when the ‘Bird had the audacity to spring an extra set of reverse-opening rear doors for those who wanted the sedan experience. This is obviously not a four-door sedan but it is a significant step change over its previous ’64-’66 variation. Hanging out in Culver City, California, this estate sale refugee is available, here on craigslist for $6,000.

I actually appreciate these two-door versions from this era; the four-door? Not so much so – I find them awkward-looking. And the follow-on generation, with their full-disco treatment, were more like Blunderbirds than a worthy representative of Ford’s iconic luxury/sports model. This example shows pretty well, it’s a shade of green that saw duty on a lot of kitchen appliances back in the day. The seller mentions that it has been off the road since ’82 so I gather it was well stored. Also noted is some rear end damage and as can be seen, the rear roll pan is only half hanging on and both taillamp lenses are broken. I appreciate the lack of a vinyl top covering. Not only do I prefer the look but its absence helps to eliminate roof panel rust damage that seems inherent with that feature.

Thunder indeed, in the form of a 360 gross HP, 429 CI V8 “Thunderjet” engine is what helps this Ford reach, well not quite liftoff, but it will pull this big coupe smartly down the road. This one is a runner and has undergone an extensive array of parts replacement – be sure to review the listing for full details. A three-speed automatic transmission was the only available gearbox and the seller does note a tail shaft leak which is believed to be the rear seal.

The black vinyl interior has a musty-dusty look to it but the upholstery, except for the driver’s seat bottom of the front bench, shows as sound. The instrument panel has a very wide and functional layout to it but it’s not remarkable the way a ’69 Pontiac Grand Prix’s is. One notable styling cue is the curved rear seat backrest – not sure if that helps or hurts the rear seat shoulder room. The seller mentions that the heater core needs to be replaced and the A/C system, while complete, is looking for a recharge. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if it will ultimately need more than that.

Let’s talk numbers. Ford built about 49K Thunderbirds in ’69 and only 5,900 of that total were non-Landau coupes such as our subject. I’m a bit torn over this generation of Ford’s personal luxury coupe. We won’t see another like it, again, especially with a 7.0 liter V8 engine. This example, however, doesn’t really seem to be anything special – the Thunderbird “pizazz” just seems to be missing. How about that ask of $6,000? What do you think, priced right or not quite?

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  1. Terry M

    Not sure about this one but the heater core might be a 2 day project @ today’s shop rates.

    Like 7
    • Frank Drackman

      Lost me at “Heater Core” love the first step in Chiltons
      “Remove the Dash”
      and the last step
      “Reassembly is reverse of Disassembly”


      Like 19
  2. scrapyard john

    I actually like this body style a lot. Apparently, I’m somewhat in the minority because you never see them around anymore. There was a guy several years ago that fooled around with scrap vehicles that drove up to the scrap yard in one similar to this to pick up a check. It was black and looked in similar shape to this one. Pretty sinister looking car in black with the 7 liter burbling.

    Like 15
    • Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      This is my least favorite version of the fifth (5th) generation T-Birds, even less so than the 70-71 “Bunkie Beak” versions. The Federally mandated side marker lamps, with integral cornering lamps in front, look like giant pimples on the car’s chin. The front turn signals look like a direct copy of the ones on a ’69 Firebird. The rear taillight assembly, with that ugly pot metal and chrome panel between the turn signals, is just butt ugly, literally like a big divot on the car’s butt! Note that the pot metal panel only lasted one (1) year, and the full-width sequential turn signals, that went away in 1968, were back for 1970. Oh, and BTW, the bench seat is a big turn-off for me. The optional front bucket seats and center console, which were standard equipment until the 1968 Model Year, would be my choice. The first year 1967 example was, and still is, my favorite fifth (5th) generation T-Bird.

      The good news here is that the painted steel roof, with the tasteful T-Bird Badge, sporting a body-color matching insert, was chosen in place of the awful vinyl roof and phony Landau Bars that most of these were born with. My Mom’s ’67 was a steel roof car, Thank God. “Fordor” T-Birds, as Ford called them, could only be had from the factory with a vinyl roof. Yuck!

      Like 0
  3. Rickirick

    Front end reminds me of the 69-70 Shelbys. Concerned about that rear end/panel damage unless it’s just minor as JO describes it. I like this Bird myself. Wish there were more pics.

    Like 7
  4. BA

    I assure you I appreciated the curved backseat in the day as it affords you more leverage in certain positions lol. I always liked this series of thunderbird for it sharp styling & that 429 is some good kit as well . I think like C3 corvettes they are a great value & one day I will have another & trust me the 4 door version is where it’s at!

    Like 3
  5. Ken

    Lots of new parts but still needs a radiator hope somebody wants it

    Like 5
  6. Mike76

    I replaced a heater core in a burgundy and white ’69 Bird when I was 17. It put the letters “S – U – C” in the word suck. I’ve had an extreme case of phobia for failing heater cores since. Actually, that T-Bird was a hot mess of a car. I expected it to be a quick flip to make a few bucks after I got it running strong and if I added up all of the hours alone that I, my dad and a buddy of mine had in it, not including the parts, I may have been lucky to have broke even. I’ll say this about that Bird, we got it running so good that I could spin the right rear down the entire block in first gear.

    Like 6
  7. Dan

    Given the lack of rust and that mighty 429, this one seems fairly priced, but it’ll take at least double that $6k investment to get this close to show worthy. Parts, especially trim parts, for 5th-gen T-birds aren’t exactly growing on trees and just getting the a/c working will probably cost an arm and a leg. But I can’t remember the last time I saw a ‘69 T-bird in person; this one looks worth restoring.

    Like 4
    • Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      Finding replacement turn signals for the ’69-only back end will be tricky. You’ll searching lots of junkyards for them, or hoping for a stash of NOS items, to replace those turn signals and trim panel on this car. The full-width tail lights on the 67-68 and 70-71 examples are much easier to find, and better looking, iMHO.

      Like 1
      • rudiger

        Taillight lenses are one of the primary pieces of unobtanium for which 3-D printing is used. Just ask Jay Leno.

        Like 1
      • JoeNYWF64

        Took me <minute to find some nice rear lenses & some entire rear
        panels – 1 with keys! & 1 NOS. Just google tail lights for 1969 thunderbird & click Shopping.

        Like 1
  8. Robert Atkinson, Jr.

    The turn signals on these cars must have been supplied by the same company that supplied them to Pontiac for the 1969 Firebird! It’s not exactly a shock, since former Pontiac General Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen was hired as President of Ford Motor Company in 1968 by “Hank the Deuce”, in an attempt to get some GM magic to rub off on Ford. Spoiler Alert: It didn’t work, and Bunkie was gone by 1970!

    Like 0
  9. Michael Smith

    The best thing about this generation Thunderbird is the 429. My mother had one when I was in high school. It was faster than my ‘66 Olds 442, rated at 335 hp. Ford rated the 429 at 360 hp, but it felt stronger than that to me.

    Like 3
    • Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      The “FE” block 390 in my Mom’s ’67 was no slouch, either! Not many people upgraded to the 428 at the time, and when the 429 replaced the 428 “FE” block and became the only engine choice in 1968 or ’69, it was a significant upgrade. The 429 morphed into a 460 by 1975, due to declining power output as the anti-smog rules tightened up as the decade progressed. The only difference between the 429 and the 460 is the stroke, so if you want more displacement, swap in a stroker crank. Crate versions of the big-block “385” engine family are available from Ford Performance at displacements of up to 572 cubic inches! Whee!

      Like 0
  10. Robt

    I like this body thunderbird. No vinyl, no landeau … those tail lights work for me. Simple clean bird in decent shape. Motivated by a big old 429. Easy motor to hop up.
    Heater core replacement looks like more work than not. Lots of new parts but why didn’t owner swap in the heater core while he was at it?
    Asking price seems a little rich for what it still needs. But if it is running well maybe not a deal breaker?, especially if you live in southern states.

    Like 0

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