Automotive Mileposts  

1978 Ford Thunderbird
Production Numbers/Specifications

October 7, 1977
Chicago: 260,792 (G)
Los Angeles: 91,959 (J)
Model 87/Style 60H Thunderbird $5,411
Weight: 4,082 Built: 333,757
Model 87/Style 60H Town Landau $8,420
Weight: 4,104 Built: (incl. above)
Model 87/Style 60H Diamond Jubilee Edition $10,106
Weight: 4,200 Built: 18,994

1. F


2. H (351 Windsor)

3. Q

4. S

Note: 5.8L (351 CID) or 6.6L (400 CID) engine required in California

1. 5.0L/302 CID 2V V-8
Bore and Stroke: 4.00 x 3.00 in.
Compression Ratio: 8.4:1
Brake Horsepower: 134 @ 3400 rpm
Torque: 248 lb.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
Carburetor: Motorcraft 2150 2V


2. 5.8L/351 CID 2V V-8 (Windsor)
Bore and Stroke: 4.00 x 3.50 in.
Compression Ratio: 8.3:1
Horsepower: 145 @ 3400 rpm
Torque: 277 lb.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
Carburetor: Motorcraft 2150 2V

3. 5.8L/351 CID 2V V-8
Bore and Stroke: 4.00 x 3.50 in.
Compression Ratio: 8.0:1
Horsepower: 152 @ 3600 rpm
Torque: 278 lb.-ft. @ 1800 rpm
Carburetor: Motorcraft 2150 2V

4. 6.6L/400 CID 2V V-8
Bore and Stroke: 4.00 x 4.00 in.
Compression Ratio: 8.0:1
Horsepower: 166 @ 3800 rpm
Torque: 319 lb.-ft. @ 1800 rpm
Carburetor: Motorcraft 2150 2V
SelectShift XPL Automatic
FMX Automatic
2.50:1 Traction-Lok
3.00:1 (400 V-8 only)
3:00:1 (400 V-8/Traction-Lok)
HR 78 x 15 Steel Belted Radial Blackwall
Wheels: 15 x 6.5"
Front: Power Disc
Rear: Power Drum
Total swept area: 372.3 sq. in.
114.0 inches
Front Tread: 63.2"
Rear Tread: 63.1"
Steering ratio: 21.9:1
Turning diameter: 43.1 ft.
Weight distribution: 57/43
Length: 215.5"
Width: 78.5"
Height: 53.0"
Trunk: 15.6 cu. ft. (16.8 with Inflatable Spare tire)
Front headroom: 37.3"
Front legroom: 42.1"
Rear headroom: 36.2"
Rear legroom: 32.6"
Fuel Tank: 21.0 gals. (22.0 on standard 351 V-8 California model)
Cooling System: --
T-bird Trivia:
The power antenna returned to the options list for 1978, and was even made standard on Diamond Jubilee Edition cars sold in the U.S.
The 1978 Thunderbird became the best selling Thunderbird of all time, good for 3.3 percent of the American automobile industry total!

The 1978 Thunderbird was the first since 1960 to run in NASCAR events. Bobby Allison, Dick Brooks, and Jody Ridley all drove T-birds.

1978 Thunderbird:
The Highest Flier of Them All

Image: 1978 Thunderbird with Sports Decor Group

Above: 1978 Ford Thunderbird shown in Russet Metallic with Sports Decor Group and Chamois contrasting accents. Note the T-Roof Convertible option.

For 1978, the really big Thunderbird news were the sales figures. An incredible 352,751 cars were sold, which meant the Thunderbird's share of the industry was 3.3 percent for the year. This represented an increase of 34,611 cars over the previous year, for a 10.9 percent improvement! Considering 1978 was not a new body style, this was pretty remarkable. Contributing to these numbers were the Town Landau model, introduced mid-year for 1977, which offered numerous luxuries and features as standard equipment. Another new model, the Diamond Jubilee Edition, provided even more standard features and unique touches not available on other T-birds. Built to commemorate Ford Motor Company's 75th Anniversary, the Diamond Jubilee Edition was offered initially in just two monochromatic color combinations, although additional colors were made available late in the model year, but are rarely seen today.

A few new options were made available for the 1978 Thunderbirds, including the T-Roof Convertible option, shown above, that featured two tinted, removable tempered glass hatch panels situated over the front seat area. Two padded vinyl storage bags were provided in the luggage compartment to store the hatches when they weren't in place on the roof. A restraining strap on the right side of the luggage compartment secured the hatches in place and prevented them from being damaged during storage.

A power antenna was made available again after mysteriously going missing for 1977, and a new Sports Decor Group (also shown above) offered a contrasting Black or Chamois-colored accent for the vinyl roof, as well as wheels, vinyl-insert bodyside molding, and deck lid straps. Dual accent stripes on hood, fender louvers, and bodysides were color-keyed to match the other components as well. The vertical grille bars were also blacked out to complete the sporty appearance.

A new 40-Channel Citizen's Band Radio was available with any radio installation, although the popularity of this item was already beginning to wane somewhat across the country.

Some of Thunderbird's traditional customers were in shock when they saw the new smaller mid-sized Birds for 1977, but once they realized that smaller was the trend among luxury cars, many returned to purchase 1978 models. Cadillac had gone on record stating that the 1978 Fleetwood Eldorado would be the last full-sized model, and most realized that Lincoln wouldn't be far behind (they weren't—1979 was the last year for the "traditional sized" Lincoln).

In reality, the smaller Birds were every bit as luxurious as the bigger Birds that preceded them. Interior dimensions were comparable, and so were the seating configurations, instrument panel layout, luxury accessories, and the availability to choose exactly what one wanted. Plus, they were easier to park and handle, didn't take up as much room in the garage or driveway, and offered better fuel efficiency.

The Thunderbird maintained the stunning styling it had always been known for, carrying over styling touches that it had made famous, as well as introducing a few new ones. One of the luxuries Thunderbird always offered its customers was the luxury of choice, and that certainly remained for 1978. Consider the interior choices alone: bench front seat, split bench seats, or bucket seats and console. Then choose between cloth and vinyl, all-vinyl, knit cloth, striped cloth, or genuine leather seating surfaces. Then choose color, and in some cases, the component color for the carpeting, instrument panel, etc. All were color-keyed to compliment the exterior paint colors.

All of these things came together to make the 1978 Thunderbird the most popular of them all, which allowed more people than ever before to bring home a new Thunderbird to impress the neighbors. But there were other reasons as well, of course, one being resale value, which was quite good and the T-bird still had one of the smoothest, quietest rides you could get without buying a Lincoln.

The 1978 Thunderbird was a great car to begin with. Add to that distinctive luxury, something for the sporty set, the ability to personalize with color, a long list of options for added pleasure and more individuality, and you have a winning combination.