Mint Condition With T-Tops: 1978 Ford Thunderbird

T1

With T-tops, two-tone paint, polycast wheels and a brown velour interior, this 1978 Ford Thunderbird couldn’t be any more late 1970’s! It’s located in Lakeland, Florida and is being sold here on eBay with an opening bid of $7,500.

t2

I didn’t remember seeing a T-Bird with the T-top option before, so after a bit of research I was able to find that it was only offered on 1978 and 1979 models. According to automotivemilestones.com it’s a pretty rare option, although no one seems to know exactly how many were made. This car is a fresh repaint on what was apparently a mint condition, less than 40,000 mile example that spent most of it’s life in Arizona and is very striking in appearance.

t4

As best as I can tell from pictures, the paint, chrome, and total exterior appear as new. Even the body seams are relatively straight, something 1970’s Fords aren’t known for. The T-tops tie the unusual B-pillar and partial vinyl roof together as a complete design; I remember wondering “what were they thinking” when these first came out with that design, but somehow I find myself really liking this with the T-tops.

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As with cars we’ve seen from this seller before, the interior really looks great! The seller also tells us that everything works perfectly, from the factory air conditioning to the 8-track tape player (!). Normally I’m not a fan of brown velour, but in this car it just fits. I wonder how they kept the dash top from cracking in Arizona – maybe only taking it out of the garage at night? My parents had a 1978 Elite at one point, on a similar platform, and I remember being crammed (yes, crammed) into the back for a trip from North Carolina to Washington DC. I could barely walk once we got there; it’s amazing how little room there was in the back seat. I’m guessing this Thunderbird is similar back there? That’s a lot of car for only two people!

t6

It looks just like Dad’s Elite under here, at least as best as I can remember. The 351 2-bbl. engine just kind of loafs along, and with power steering, power brakes, tilt wheel, air conditioning, power windows and seats, so would you in the driver’s seat. If this is the kind of car you want, I sure can’t imagine a nicer one to have. Let us know if you’re interested!

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Comments

  1. Paul Hudson

    1976 Was the last year for the Elite. My brother had a new one in 1976. Same color scheme as this car. The LTDII took over and the new T-Bird in 1977. The Elite was originally a Gran Torino Elite but later became just the Elite. I think they were 1974-1976 Only. My brother had Bucket seats instead of the Split Bench Seats. Dark Brown Vinyl. It was a very nice car.

    Like 2
    • Ronniecarlo

      I like it. Not the color for Mr though. I’ve a ’78 Couger XR-7 and a ’79 Couger XR-7.He’s right when he says it just loafs along.I remember having to sling those cars in a turn in a futile effort to lift the back wheel so maybe it would break loose, it never did. But had teenage fun anyway.Never knew you could get T-Tops in one.I like the look.I want one….

  2. Fred

    Much better looking car then I remember, and you can sort of tell what a nice convertible it would have made.

  3. Al8apex

    “As with cars we’ve seen from this seller (flipper) before … ”

    That says it all

    Why anyone would feel compelled to repaint a ” … apparently a mint condition, less than 40,000 mile example … ” is beyond comprehension

    Like 2
  4. randy

    Flipper or not, he has a lot of FINE cars on ebay. I’m going to be nice on this particular car, as it has sentimental value to me.

  5. Steve

    I remember these cars from when I was a kid. I always thought they were butt ugly. But I like seeing a mint original one is refreshing. The only cool thing about these is no two are alike 100%. You could order one up from bare bones to Lincoln levels of luxury.

  6. AMCFAN

    Ford hit a home run with this body style with the Thunderbird and Cougar everywhere you looked in the late 70’s early 80’s you saw one. Now almost all are long gone. I think this car presents itself very well. There are very few restoration parts available for these cars. I can live with a repaint and if from AZ is easy enough to explain why. OEM paint in this time frame was thin. Not hard to understand. This car is a pretty standard optioned car with the exception of the glass tops. I would want a closer look at them BTW as there were aftermarket installs on about any vehicle. Would want assured they are a factory option. A Marti would be available for production breakdown. If I was twenty years younger I would have white lettered tires on these Polycasts but the more I look at it I am fine with the white walls. A nice car for a change.

    Like 1
  7. Blueprint

    I actually saw one of these in Switzerland this summer… Imagine the fuel bill over there!

  8. Charles H.

    I think a convertible would have been the optimal look for this platform….if they had only built them! I was never a fan of these cars, but this one does present itself very well for what they were……and boy you really did see a lot of them in the late 70’s and early 80’s!, so clearly there were a lot of fans of these, just not myself so much.

    • Karl

      There was a convertible version of this T-bird, but it was done in the aftermarket (ASC maybe?). It was pretty good looking. I believe that Lamarque Ford in the New Orleans suburbs advertised them. This was a car right up Ronnie Lamarque’s alley (for years he had a white ’58 Bird hardtop in the center of his showroom).

      I had one of these, but it was the plain-Jane Bird, no T-tops and with the 302. Mine was a flood recovery (if you’ve never repaired a flood car, you just haven’t lived–in purgatory). The 302 was a gas guzzler pulling this boat around–I got 12mpg–but it had decent performance, and once I upgraded the shocks to the finest offered by Sears Roadhandler, it actually drove pretty well. The back seat was small, but not as bad my mother’s LTD II, which was the direct replacement of the Elite. Only a contortionist or a masochist could be happy back there.

      I’ve gone through phases with how I feel about the styling. Back when I had it (’79 to ’82) I liked it. Later on, I thought it was a hopelessly gaudy mess from the disco era. Now I guess I’m mellowing, because I find this well-presented example pretty attractive.

  9. Mark

    I worked at an electronics shop in the late seventies installing car stereo, speakers and of course CB’s. I must have put radios and speakers in dozens of variations of these Ford and Mercury cars. What I’m commenting on is the wheels. If I remember they weren’t metal, rather some sort of plastic or something. What reminded me of this was in the cars write-up above, they were called “polycast”. I was looking at one of the cars on day and touched a wheel, the spokes were malleable a bit, like rubber.

    Like 1
    • randy

      It was a coating on steel wheels.
      Maybe aluminum, I’m no expert.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Mark, that’s exactly right; it was a polyurethane bonded to a regular steel wheel…

      • randy

        That would be, randy, ;>) Mark thought the wheels were all plastic or something. Mark says “they weren’t metal”

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Thanks, Randy, for setting me straight ;-)

      • randy

        My pleasure! I love your sight, I don’t read so much doom and gloom any more.

    • dave

      I worked at Ford Engineering in Dearborn when these cars came out. You had to carry a BIG hammer in the trunk. These wheels had dissimilar metal and if your in the North bad weather, The wheels would fused to the axle.

      Like 1
      • randy

        Lovely, an already fun job of fixing a flat on the side of the road in the rain or snow made even more fun. You gotta hand it to the engineers, always reinventing the wheel. I’ve had similar problems at the tire shop on dually’s, knocking off the inner wheel on the rear. Thanks for the memories!! ;>)

  10. Charles H.

    I’m thinking those wheels were some type of special process of casting polyurethane and maybe some type of alloy such as aluminum or magnesium……maybe? Or maybe just a special process of casting straight polyurethane?

  11. jim s

    seller has 55 listing, all interesting. this car looks great. if interested you could always make the seller an offer. nice find.

  12. Nova Scotian

    Polycast is common. I believe an alternative when designing a complicated “look”, while still keeping strength of steel. We owned a 1996 Chrysler intrepid…polys on them too (a swirly design).
    FYI..that 96 would really haul ass with its catalytic converter yanked out. Impressive, in fact that you could use your right foot on the go pedal to up shift during hard acceleration. Very large fun sedan….it would put ya into your seat…unfortunately they used the same product to anchor/isolate the front clip to the body, and that poly material falls apart when coated in oil/grease/undercoating. Shame. Had them replaced once. Car was totalled when a 96 Taurus blew through a stop sign and t-boned her…..drag. Well, the Taurus was totalled too, and no one died. Thankfully.

  13. Bill Owens Bill O Staff

    1978 T-Bird was my first new car. I had decided to order a dark brown with brown velour interior. I went into the showroom and saw a black one with dove grey vinyl top and interior, and it was very striking, so much that I bought it. Kept it 19 years, and kicked myself for getting rid of it. I found a white Diamond Jubilee (most were blue or ember) but they made some white ones with blue top. I bought it in 2003. Then 2 1/2 years later, it was time for son # 1 to get his driver’s license. I decided to sell it, but before I could sell it, a drunk came along and hit it parked at the end of my street for sale. Still keep my eyes open, may get another one, one of these days.

  14. Mark S Member

    This is a nice car even if it is being sold by a flipper. At least he put some money in it and is selling a decent car. Not a POS with all kinds of issues. There is a house not far from me where the owner has collected 5 of these 78/79 Tbirds. Sadly all 5 of them are sitting outside. And have been for years, fortunately Alberta Ca. Is a fairly dry place, even when it snows it usually is a very dry powder.

  15. Jim Marshall

    I was with Ford in the 70’s and when this Bird came out it was one hot selling car. Ford was on strike in August 76 and I had 28 of them on order. I did get every one them delivered except one as the buyer needed a car and couldn’t wait.

  16. 64 bonneville

    I seem to remember the number 9600 combined total of T-top T-birds and Cougars built between 78-79. ASC did a convertible version, as did some place in Florida. I believe that Hess and Eisenhart (funeral coaches) built some convertibles out of Thunderbirds and also Lincoln Continentals in Ohio. they were all very stylish looking and did not look hacked up, since the conversion was in the $10-12K price range over and above the price of the car. all had reinforced frames with an “X” bracing in the center.

  17. Jack

    The seller of this car is a crook………. RUN!

    • dave

      Based on?

      Like 1
      • TVC15

        Right ! a nice car at a nice price ? Why A crook ?

  18. piper62j

    Sweet.. Especially the T-Tops… Interior seems spotless and sofa soft.. If only it was closer..

    Like 1
    • dave

      Have it transported.

    • james burton

      my old boss had one of these back in the late 80s’ it was a two tone blue t-tops and all with the 351 modifyed. no power and $10. everytime you took it up town. took him a year to sell it and then he had to sell it on payments so you had to keep it running for free till they payed it off.people would buy it and two days later would bring it back saying they couldn’t aford to drive it. i worked on alot of these tbirds an man they weren’t much.

  19. TVC15

    Nice car , Looks like another car ready to be photographed parked down the street !

  20. Adam Tereska

    I wish I could afford it. I love these cars. I own a Dove Grey ’77 and it is wonderful to drive. One of the previous owners removed the 2.50 gear and replaced it with a 3.00 gear. It really wakes it up.

  21. Doug

    Great car except for the leak and squeak t-tops. I worked as body shop manager for a Ford dealer, everytime it rained we were inundated with t-top leaks. An absolute nightmare!

  22. Terry Muzzarelli

    If anyone could lead me towards finding out who purchased this car I’d be very thankful. I had this EXACT car as my first car back in 1987. Same paint scheme, t-tops, EVERYTHING!! T-tops were factory and not many 78’s with them, they were more popular on 79 models. I am interested in finding out if current owner would sell it. I think it would be awesome to have my first car again, who wouldn’t right?

    Like 1
  23. dave

    When I had my tow company back then, I would be called out for road service to help get the wheel off from the axle. The wheel would weld them selves to the axle. We carried a big hammer.

    • MrBlueOval 57

      It’s a chemical reaction between steel and aluminum. This chemical action is galvanic corrosion between the dissimilar metals (Fe and Al). a thick coating of the less noble material (FE) with enamel paint, is a good solution to stop it from happening again. If I run any alloy wheels on my vehicles whether aftermarket mag wheels or factory installed like turbine wheels, I ALWAYS remove the wheel, spray some black enamel on the hub and then reinstall the wheel and put anti-seize on the threads of the lugs before I spin on the lugnuts. Also using a high content of chromium in chrome wheel lugnuts like Gorilla brand or McGard brand will also save you some grief from corrosion later on down the road as they will not rust up like the cheap ones do. Living in the Midwest Chicago area I’ve learned these tricks over the years and they have saved me many times on the side of the road or even in my own garage taking off aluminum wheels from steel hubs.

  24. ICEMAN from Winnipeg

    I had a 1979 Thunderbird, purchased from Dominion Motors, on Fort and Graham, in Winnipeg. Pretty much all options except power windows; 351 V8 had decent power for the era. Mine had the sport instrument package so was cool to see the tachometer hover at about 1,400 RPM while cruising at 100 KMs aka 60 miles per hour. Wish I had kept that car.

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