One-Owner Barn Find: 1978 Ford Thunderbird

Who remembers 1978? I’m guessing that at least half of the Barn Finds family of readers were alive 42+ years ago, but how many of you were of driving age back then? This 1978 Ford Thunderbird is posted here on craigslist in Fountain City, Wisconsin on the banks of the Mississippi River and home of “The Rock in the House” – literally a 55-ton boulder that rolled down a hill and smashed into a house and it’s still there. The seller is asking $2,200 or best offer.

If you were alive and of driving age, do you remember seeing cars like this one-owner barn bird on the roads? I was and I do remember seeing them, lots of them. My brother had the fraternal twin to this car but in silver with a maroon split-vinyl top. It was a great car and he got it from some friends who lived on a farm in Iowa who bought it new a decade earlier.

I have to believe that there are hundreds if not thousands of hidden seventh-generation Ford Thunderbirds hidden in barns and garages all over farm country, they were very popular as most small towns had a Ford dealership. They were made for the 1977, 1978, and 1979 model years and they were about 8-inches smaller and lighter than the previous-generation Thunderbirds were. But, the next-generation T-Bird was almost 18-inches shorter. This car looks like it’s in amazing condition other than one crunch behind the driver’s door on the quarter panel.

If there was ever a classic 1970s green this has to be it. It doesn’t always go over well when I say how surprised I am to see a luxury car without power windows or power locks, but here we are again. My brother’s Thunderbird didn’t have them either. And, is that a CB radio mic draped over the steering column? It is, cool. The interior looks dusty but as close to perfect as it gets, including the seats both in the front and in the back.

The seller says that this is a one-owner Thunderbird with 78,000 miles and no rust, which is great, but they don’t talk about the engine. I’m assuming that it’s a 302 V8 but one of you may know by looking at it – although there aren’t any close-up engine photos and there is no VIN listed. They say that it runs and drives so that’s a good sign. Hagerty is at $2,600 for a #4 fair condition car as a reference. Have any of you owned a seventh-generation Thunderbird?

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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Scotty is right, this generation of T-Birds was very popular. So there are probably lots of them still hiding, just waiting for us Barn Finders to uncover them.

    Not much info in the ad, so who knows what mechanical fixes it needs. Plus a crunched rear wheel area. Otherwise I wonder what a thorough clean-up would yield; one might end up with a fun mint green/ green cruiser for not much money.

    I remember, the owner of my small-town Ford dealer drove a emerald green/ green loaded 1977 as a demo. Sharp car.

    Like 2
  2. Jeff Fitzgerald

    In 1986 when I was a wee lad of 21, I worked at a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile Dealership in the detail dept. An older gentleman traded in a beautiful 1977 Thunderbird. It was white with the split dark blue vinyl top and dark blue cloth interior and wire wheel hubcaps. I snatched that car up fast and drove it for 2 years. One of the best cars I ever owned. If it was not so far away I would consider buying this Thunderbird.

    Like 1
  3. Steve R

    The seller claims it runs and drives, that seems like a stretch since the pictures in the ad show it covered in dust and sitting on jack stands. If they lie about one thing they will lie about everything.

    Steve R

    Like 3
  4. Curtis

    When I was 7 in 1978, my dad bought a 1979 Ford Thunderbird pre ordered from the Ford dealership with factory T- bar roof, yes that was an option on the ‘ 79’s back then with blue interior and he also specially ordered a blue jewel inserted hood ornament, that the thug kids in my area ended up breaking off twice.That was a nice car and went for many road trips like one in 1982 down to Florida with a stop at Graceland among others that summer.One day when I have the space, id love to get another one to remember the trips, the time and my dad.

    Like 3
  5. Bhowe Member

    Just a guess but looking at the air filter housing I’m guess6ots a 351W

    Like 1
  6. Bob Prescott

    I’ve an 89 TBird SuperCoupe sitting out by my garage. Less than 70,000 on the odometer but a real rust bucket that came from near Buffalo NY. 3.9 litre V6 with a 5 Speed manual tranny and independent rear suspension. Bought it to strip down to use drivetrain in a kit car but every time I got in it I couldn’t bring myself to tear it apart. Last time I ran it I pulled it out on the street and torqued it up till the boost was up and let it loose. Very impressive especially when I went for the brakes and the pedal went to the floor. Rotted lines. It’s sat since. I’m in NE Pa. if anyones interested.

  7. Spiritbird75

    If its green why does the outside paint look blue. Been repainted? Don’t think I would believe whats said here. My red 77 did come out of a garage after sitting for years an anew battery,fluids, new tires drove like a charm. I have own 2 in my life time. Great cars. Super cool.

    • Joe

      I think it’s a really pale green if you study it close enough. You can see the green under the hood. Light trick maybe?

  8. joe franks

    out here in montana l got one with 351M that woke up when l got rid of the smog junk and put a 4 bbl intake and carb on it. gears were awful so we put lower ones in and overload springs out back. finally a car that l,m afraid will twist the speedo off one day.

  9. MLM

    Yes I had one of these T-Birds and traded it for a Pontiac GP.The GP was nice but that Bird was one of the best cars I have ever owned. Smooth riding from Ft. Rucker,Ala to Fayetteville NC.

  10. Tommy T-Tops

    My parents owned this exact car and I learned to drive on it around exterior, green interior- those gauges with the bulls-eye cross hairs bring back memories. My parents car had the 351..for some reason the distributor gear and the camshaft gear sheared each other and my parents got rid of I’d probably have it back running in a day. Nice car and fond memories of practicing parallel parking at Royal Oak park on Staten Island..oh boy I’m getting old

  11. timothy herrod

    I wanted one of these back in the early 80’s but never found one that i could afford then my interest changed, but i would still buy one if i could find one local and affordable

  12. Blake Green

    Had a 78. White/chamois (orange) got t-boned, totaled, cried, luv luv luved that car. Had 3 of the birds cousins. The mercury cougar xr7,aka, the mini mark. 77,78,79 models. All loaded silver cars with power everything, moonroof, cb, all the bells and whistles. The 351s were pretty quick. Truly miss those land barges! Ps, one too many beers and that cougar head and the end of the hood tries to run to the ditch ha ha!

  13. Bryan

    I was a teenager when these cars came out and they were everywhere. The best selling Thunderbird of all time as a matter of fact! I’d hold out for the limited (and expensive) 1978 blue Diamond Jubilee or 1979 Heritage editions; both had the blind C-pillar (no opera window).

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