One Owner Survivor: 1979 Ford Thunderbird

They don’t come much cleaner than this one! This 1979 Ford Thunderbird’s original owner died about 10 years ago, but his wife didn’t get around to selling his two cars until recently (more about the other one later). It’s been carefully garage stored since new and is only showing 11,766 miles–it’s even still wearing its original tires! Parked in the garage next to it was a similarly nice 1983 Lincoln. Both cars have been cleaned up and are up for grabs. You can read the story of how they were found here on the Chicago Car Club. The car is listed for sale here on eBay, with a buy it now set at $13,500 but lower offers are welcomed.

Although I remember at the time these Thunderbirds & Cougars were new thinking how huge they were, as I’ve gotten older the design has grown on me. I like the styling of the unusual B-pillar and (now) appreciate the effortless ride and comfort the cars offer. Gas mileage, not so much, but I can’t see many folks daily driving one of these now. Especially considering the low mileage of this one. There are a few chips and one set of minor scratches in the paint, but the selling dealer has posted high-resolution pictures of both and neither worry me at all.

I am a sucker for a nice red interior. If you’ve read my posts much before, you’ll have seen me ranting on how boring most car interior colors are now. I’d jump at the chance to purchase a new car with a bright red interior! Anyway, we’re told this is leather, and that everything works–even the air conditioning has been converted to R134A and blows cold!

This picture (apart from the stripes left by the vacuum cleaner) could be straight out of a 1979 Thunderbird brochure. It’s hard to believe the dash and rest of the interior have survived this long without any damage at all!

Naturally, the two-barrel 351 looks barely used. You can see the R-134 conversion decal for the air conditioning system on the fan shroud. I can only see one minor issue with this car–room in the rear seats! But hey, remember when I said this owner had two cars?

Here’s the other car, also for sale by the same dealer here on eBay, and at the same asking price. This 1983 Lincoln Mark VI Bill Blass edition has a little more room in the rear, and about 28,000 more miles, but it’s still a stellar example of this generation of FoMoCo products.

And here’s the pair when they were still in the garage, with the original owner’s widow Yolanda standing next to them. I’m sure seeing them go was a bittersweet moment for her, but knowing they will go to good homes is likely a bright side given how much care her husband gave these cars. Be sure to check them both out and tell us which one you would prefer?

Fast Finds


  1. karu

    Nice Thunderbird. I wonder if this one is not affected by the 4 speed auto malfunction that would cause some Ford cars using it to stall when cold.

    • Del

      I doubt if a 79 T-bird had a 4 speed auto. Too early for that.

    • Mike H. Mike H

      Yeah, it should still be a C6.

      • Bryan

        Likely an FMX transmission for the T-Bird…the 4 speed AOD transmission didn’t arrive until 1980 (the Lincoln has that one).

  2. Don

    Should be a c4 .don’t no about the Lincoln pry the same

    • Del

      It may be a C4 tranny. But a C4 is not a 4 speed auto. Its only a 3 speed

      • Ray Smith

        I believe these all ran a C6.

      • Rocco

        It should have an FMX tranny with the 351W. The AOD(Automatic Over Drive) tranny didn’t start production until 1980.

  3. Luke Fitzgerald

    Neat find – I could say something like “wrong years” , but that’s not how it works, does it

  4. Luke Fitzgerald

    Neat find – I could say something like “wrong years” , but that’s not how it works, does it – imagine what he had before

  5. RoselandPete

    For the same money, I’d have to go with the Lincoln but the T-bird is tempting.

  6. John M.

    The Lincoln was sold but the T-Bird is still up for grabs.

  7. Sam

    Both are great finds. One of neighbors was a steel mill executive…he bought a 79 T-Bird and 79 Cougar for his kids as high school graduation gifts.

  8. Kevin Wernick

    The T-Bird is the better of the two without question. The 80s weren’t exactly banner years for Lincoln. Or much of anything else for that matter

  9. Jim Marshall

    I sold these cars new and when they came out in 1977 we sold them like hotcakes. Ford was on some sort of strike when they were introduced and it took several weeks to fill up the demand pipeline again. I had 27 of them ordered and only lost one due to the strike. Sold my Mom one in 1979 and the first day she had it it wouldn’t start. Something shorted in the ignition system. Basically a Grand Torino spinoff with a different body but a good car for the times.

    • Bill Owens BillO Staff

      Hi Jim, I was in my senior year of college when the 1977 T-Bird came out. I started working in May 1977 and immediately started looking for a T-Bird, but was waiting awhile to save up more money. They were hard to find. Most dealers only had about 1 or 2 if any. Finally, the last day of the year 1977, I walked into a dealership and bought a new 1978 T-Bird, black with dove grey top. Kept it 19 years, and kicked myself for getting rid of it. Bought a 1978 Diamond Jubilee in 2003, but it was hit by a drunk driver 2 1/2 years later and totaled. In March 2017, while reading Barn Finds, in a post concerning a 1974 T-Bird, someone had a link to a 1978 T-Bird in Georgia. I’m in North Carolina. Looked at it online for about a week before I called. Went to Georgia and bought it. Here are the pictures of my 3 Birds, a heavily optioned base model, a Diamond Jubilee, and my latest, the Town Landau.

      • Bill Owens BillO Staff

        Could only load one picture at a time; here is my new black and grey

      • Bill Owens BillO Staff

        And here is the Diamond Jubilee before it was hit.

      • Jim Marshall

        Hi Bill, I see you are a big fan of these Birds. The Burgundy Town Landau is a nice one and I always liked this model and color. I ordered one for myself for my wife to drive in 77 that was a hot color combination, light Chamois with the dark brown vinyl top, but changed my mind and switched to a LTD Landau 2 dr in dark jade with a white vinyl top both with the 351 windsor. I drove many Birds as a demo from 77 to 79 but gave up when the 80 came out. That one was a joke.

      • Sandy

        Looking for a 1979 Town Landau, purchased mine in 1980, unfortunately was totaled by someone running a stop sign. See Pictures attached,
        Totally loaded even had sunshade and moon roof, brown leather interior
        burlwood accents, power everything, v8. Just posting incase someone has one to sell or knows of someone that has exactly that, photos posted are one from the internet and the other back in 80’s in my backyard.

    • Bill Owens BillO Staff

      I had thought seriously about trading my first 1978 in for a 1982, but I was about to get married and decided it wasn’t wise to trade at the time. The 1982 actually drove and handled better than the 1978, but it seemed too much a gussied up Fairmont. Kept the 1978 instead, probably a wise move.

      • Jim Marshall

        When the 80 square bird as it was known as came out, to call it then a gussied up Fairmont was being kind. Horrible car and an insult to the 77 to 79 models. By 1982 the last year of this model they had tweaked it up very nicely and it was not a bad car at all. The Areo Birds from 83 on were superior cars and sold very well.

  10. Matt St

    The T-Bird. Waaay cleaner underneath, especially in the motor/trans area.

  11. Tom

    I had a 77 LTD II . They came with either a C4 or FMX transmission. Mine typically got 17 -19 mpg. Not bad for a 2 ton cruiser. There was always plenty of room for me and my girl.

    • Rocco

      The 302’s came with a C-4, and the 351W came with an FMX. Good recollection.

  12. KevinR

    My early driving years were spent in a ’75 Mercury Montego MX Brougham 2 door (that was a mouthful…). No question, give me the Thunderbird. Same basic car with a slightly more modern (for the times) body.

    The cup holder drilled into the dashboard is disappointing, but certainly not the end of the world. A bigger question is where to find a set of pinstripe whitewall tires so the car can be driven.

    It makes me wish I had plenty of spare cash and an equal amount of garage space.

  13. PJ

    When I was real young my cousin was on a local drug task force and she bought a black one with the fifth wheel kit trunk lid, she had enough room for her kids (all 4) my other cousin, me and my mom. She got rid of it because she had a long commute. I often wonder what happened to that car…

    • MrBlueOval 57

      P.J. ,I got it. Seriously, I still have the Lincoln trunklid from my 78 T-bird in my storage shed waiting to install it on my next T-Top with bucket seats equipped ’77 to ’79 T-Bird. BTW, it was called a continental trunklid, like the ones that were used on the Lincoln Continental Mark V’s at the time. They called those T-Birds “Mini-Marks”. I had one back in the mid 1980’s. The humped trunklids were a popular fiberglass add-on accessory at the time on not only the T-Birds but many other Ford cars as well. A continental “kit” was actually a kit that extended the rear bumper out enough to accommodate the spare tire and was popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s into the early 1960’s. In contrast, a fifth wheel is actually what connects the trailer to the tractor on a semi truck tractor-trailer. Kenny/ MrBlueOval

      • Kevin Wernick

        And let’s not forget our beloved Versailles, they too, were equipped with a Continental trunk lid. Btw, in all my years of wrenching at Ford dealers, I don’t recall them ever being referred to as 5th wheels, gotta wonder who dreamed that one up.

      • Bill Owens BillO Staff

        I never saw this on the 77-79 T-Bird, but have seen many on the 73-74 LTD’s. Those also usually included an oval opera window like the Mark IV’s at the time. My brother-in-law’s uncle had one. Maybe many people didn’t put them on the T-Bird in 77-79, because the Cougar XR-7 had it factory built in a more squarish style.

  14. Nova Scotian

    Nice find. Wow. Top shelf find. While not the most desirable cars, these are in excellent condition. And perfect time warp to the 70s. hope the widow was paid fairly.

  15. John

    I’m saving up to bid on the RSR, otherwise, i’ like to have the Tbird.

  16. moosie Craig

    I was “stuck” for a car & needed one quickly , working at a Chevy dealer as a parts counterman, I looked over the used car inventory for a suitable candidate in my price range & all they had was this ’77 Lipstick Red T-Bird, interior and roof to match, a lotta red ! Up to that point I had never owned a Ford or a Red car, with gobs of hesitation I wound up with that RED car, couldnt stand it at first but as the miles piled up I came to really like it, smooth ride, handled fairly well for a barge, decent fuel mileage, comfortable interior. It pained me to sell it but it went away after 2 years . This was back in 1980, the T-Bird was 3 years old. I’d like another one someday.But maybe not so much Red.

    • moosie Craig

      BTW, The E-BAY listing states the car is equipped with an FMX transmission.

  17. Jaygryph

    I have fond memories of these cars. They just eat up highway miles and get reasonable mpg for what they are. I think I got around 20 out on the highway typically which is about as good as my modern pickup. I think with some engine tweaking the mpg and power both could be brought up substantially.

    I think these are sort of a vastly undervalued old car. They have very quirky 70’s styling and stand out in a crowd of modern aero cars, that’s for sure. They drive nice and are reasonably modern enough to not feel like you’re driving an ox cart, and can be had with power seats and windows and FM radios. Parts are still reasonably easy to find, and the drivetrain stuff is dirt standard and most any auto parts place will have much of that just sitting on their shelves still.

    I’ve loved the 78 Mercury Cougar version of this that I’ve owned. Would own another.

    EDIT: Wow I just noticed the 13k price tag on a car they probably paid $1200 for. That’s kinda annoying. These cars can be had in nice running driving shape for about $4k all day long on craigslist. It looks nice all shined up, but man, that markup is outrageous. Must be expensive wax.

    Like 1
    • MrBlueOval 57

      Yeah, I’m sure they didn’t give that old widow more than $3000 for both of her dead husband’s cars if that. I wouldn’t pay their asking prices. Way too inflated even with the low, low mileage. Like you said, expensive wax job.

      Like 1
  18. David Miraglia

    Like them both. classic 1970 and 1980 land barges. If I had a place to put them I would grab them.

    Like 1
  19. MrBlueOval 57

    I worked at the Chicago Ford plant building these cars. We worked 6 days, 58 hours a week. A brand new T-bird came off that line every 58 minutes. Ford couldn’t build them fast enough either. Yes, we went on strike in September of ’77. lasted a couple months if I remember correctly. Ended up with a huge pay raise from $6.50 an hour to $8.05 an hour. That was a lot of money at the time. A new T-Bird cost about $5,995 in ’77. The ’78 D.J. was about $11K. BTW, most of those Birds came with an FMX transmission and some had the C-4. The C-6 wasn’t available on the small-block Fords in those years. I love these ’77-’79 Birds. I’m looking for a low mileage loaded Burgundy ’78 D.J. or a ’79 Heritage ‘Bird with the factory T-Roof T-Tops and Bucket seats with the Floor console and shifter. Email me if you can help at Kenny.

    Like 1
  20. C Carl

    Those wheels look good on a big Ford.

    Like 1

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