Automotive Mileposts  
FOREGROUND: 1968 Ford Thunderbird Fordor Landau; BACKGROUND: 1968 Ford Thunderbird Tudor Landau
Foreground: 1968 Ford Thunderbird Fordor Landau;
Background: 1968 Ford Thunderbird Tudor Landau
THUNDER FOR 5. THUNDER FOR 6.
Thunderbird emblem
1968 Ford Thunderbird
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1968 Thunderbird Auctions

Car Show

Production Numbers

ARTICLE:
Thunderbird 1968:
Room For the Family,
But At What Cost?


Mechanical Specifications

ARTICLE:
Farewell To the
390 Special V-8


Exterior Paint Colors

Interior Trim

Standard Equipment

Optional Equipment

FEATURE:
1968 Thunderbird Saturn Show Car

TRIVIA:
1968 Thunderbird -
Did You Know?


AUTO AUTHENTICITY:
1964-1971 Thunderbird Convenience Check Group

1968 Ford Thunderbird: Consumer Reports Road Test



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About the 1968 Ford Thunderbird

1968 was one of the biggest years of change for the Thunderbird even though it didn't seem so at first glance. Some would say the changes from 1967 to 1968 were much less intense than the ones from 1966 to 1967, but even without a major redesign or body style adjustment, the changes made going into the 1968 model year were more significant than they had been for many years. It's true that the '67 and '68 cars look very similar in appearance; and it's also true that the Thunderbird lineup changed considerably for 1967, but 1968 was truly a big year for change as well in the T-Bird, which we shall examine more closely in the paragraphs below.

While the outward appearance is similar, the only sheet metal that will directly interchange without major modifications between 1967 and 1968 is the hood, deck lid, and rear valance panel. That's it! The front bumper assembly had less chrome in '68, with a large color-keyed area below, and the front turn signal indicators were incorporated into the design differently. Front fenders had openings cut into them for the new-for-'68 side marker lights, as did the rear quarter panels. The interior door panels mounted to the inner door frame differently in '68, so '67 doors won't work on '68s if you want to use '68 trim. The interiors were completely different, although they retained a subtle similarity to 1967. But the similarities are not enough that parts can be used between the two years. tail lamp lenses and rear bumpers can be mixed and matched, but the trim around the tail lamps is different. The material and pattern lining the luggage compartment was changed.

To the casual observer, many of these details will go unnoticed. To the new luxury car shopper in 1968, they most likely didn't even garner a second glance. But to the collector, these differences become important because they serve to make certain years more unique than others. And when you consider the financial cost of all these changes to Ford, they were apparently very important changes.

The Thunderbird's main competition at this time was the Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Riviera, and Oldsmobile Toronado. All came with a front bench seat with center armrest as standard equipment, and none of them had a Tilt-Away Steering Wheel, although the Riviera did feature a tilt wheel as standard equipment. In an attempt to remain competitive, and open up the Thunderbird to even more customers, Ford did away with the formerly standard front bucket seats and installed a bench seat with center armrest, just like the competition offered. The buckets and console were still available at extra cost, but restrictions on certain colors and trim were made, so the choice wasn't as wide as it had been in, say, 1965.

And while Ford was shuffling around the seating configuration, it also shuffled around a few other things. For instance, the center fold down armrest in the rear seat became an option, part of the Brougham interior trim package. So did the door panel courtesy lights. And if you wanted bucket seats in a 4-door Thunderbird in 1968, you'd better like the standard vinyl upholstery or the optional leather, because the Brougham cloth and vinyl wasn't made available. You could get it in a 2-door, at extra cost, but not a 4-door.

Then came interior color. You like Aqua? If you wanted it in a 4-door, you had to go with the optional Brougham cloth and vinyl upholstery with a front bench seat. No vinyl, sorry. How about red? Available in bench or buckets in vinyl on 2-door cars, Brougham cloth buckets in 2-door cars, vinyl bench or Brougham cloth bench only on 4-door cars. Feeling a bit restricted in the choices available to you? Surely Thunderbird veterans, used to ordering just about anything they wanted in earlier years must have felt let down by these new limits placed on them.

1968 was also a big year for change in the power team department. Equipped on announcement day with the same, reliable 390 introduced as standard seven years earlier, the new 429 Thunder Jet became standard on January 1, 1968. This was done to keep the T-Bird competitive, as virtually all of its competition was fielding larger displacement engines in 1968. The 390 just wasn't impressive enough at this point, size-wise, to propel the Bird. Plus, with new emissions standards the 390 was fast becoming dated.

Want more proof that 1968 was a bigger year for change than you thought? OK...the vinyl pattern for the top on Landau models was changed from Levant grain to an Alligator grain. Along with this change came new S-Bars with the updated pattern stamped in them. The steering wheels were new. The radios, even the standard AM pushbutton unit, were all-new. Turn signal levers, transmission selectors, instrument panel knobs and controls were all changed. Power window switches were new; as were door panels; door armrests; interior door handles; air conditioning vents; seat belt buckles; and day/night rear view mirrors. The vacuum for the concealed headlamp covers now exhausted inside the car. Even the exterior remote mirror on the driver's door was changed for 1968, with an enlarged glass area.

It's important to remember that this all happened in the second year of this body cycle, and most of these components were new for 1967. Large changes were usually reserved for the third year of a cycle, and before 1968, were unheard of after just one year.

1968 was a great year to fly with the Bird, and Ford's advertising for the year was definitely groovy. (Which meant it was pretty spectacular in 1968 slang.) Thunderbirds were poised in desert settings, with dramatic sunsets in the background. Other ads showed the T-Bird at night, with the full-width tail lamps lit. There's little doubt that these ads propelled more than just a few new Birds off the showroom floors. If you were looking for a new car in the personal luxury market in 1968, making a decision was not easy. But if change was what it was all about, the 1968 Thunderbirds were much changed cars, even if they didn't look it on the surface.


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Production | Specifications | Paint | Trim | Standard Equipment | Optional Equipment

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