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Ford Thunderbird

Behind the Bird's stately, retro-looking façade lies a state of the art automobile. A 3.9 litre DOHC 32-valve V8 that produces 252 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque is a prime example. While it does not use variable valve timing, in the T-Bird's application, it is more than up to the job of providing the needed power. Likewise the 5-speed automatic. While it does not feature any sort of do-it-yourself feature, the car does not lack for it. The reason is that this team works as a team, delivering more than enough performance and a satisfying drive. It is quiet, yet, top down the exhaust note brings a pleasant growl when you pour the coals on.

The secret to the structural integrity lies in three under car X braces - one beneath the engine, one large one under the passenger compartment and a third brace that supported by 76 mm diameter tube that spans the rear of the car. Add to that several other stiffeners and reinforced side sills and the T-Bird ranks with the best in the world. This strong structure, long wheelbase and 50/50 weight distribution gives the suspension a good base of operations. The fully-independent double wishbone design is tuned to deliver a softer ride. That, however, is not to say the car is overly cushy. Through the pylons, body roll and understeer are benign and the response to drive input suitably fast. While it will never be mistaken for a Porsche, the Thunderbird is more than capable of holding its own while delivering a comfortable, cruise night ride.

Stopping power comes from a 4-wheel disc brakes and a decent anti-lock brake system. Dropping the anchor at 80 K brings a fast halt in just 112 feet. The pedal is easily modulated and, thanks to the anti-dive front geometry, well controlled. The ABS also forms the basis for the traction control system. It can apply the brakes to one or both rear wheels as well as reducing engine output to ease the risk of unwanted wheelspin.

Safety-wise, the Thunderbird ranks well bringing dual second generation front airbags and seat mounted side bags, thankfully both on the passenger side can be deactivated to accommodate a child seat. Finally, the anti-theft system uses an electronically coded ignition key with 72 quadrillion possible codes. Now, how's a thief supposed to make a living?

PAS: $51,550

Tire Tally
Performance: 3
Ride/handling: 3
Interior: 3
Touchy/feely/cargo: 4
Safety: 3
Bang for buck: 4

Immediate Competition
Plymouth Prowler, Mercedes-Benz CLK, Volvo C70

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