|THE VIEW THIS YEAR IS HIGH, WIDE AND HEAVENLY
1969 Ford Thunderbird
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1969 Thunderbird -
Did You Know?
1964-1971 Thunderbird Convenience Check Group
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About the 1969 Ford Thunderbird
1969 is probably the most misunderstood and least appreciated year of the classic Ford Thunderbird era. However, a close inspection of the car shows that Ford nearly achieved perfection in 1969. And it was all in the details. Instead of trying to recreate the car completely, Ford stylists and engineers took all the strengths of the 1967 and 1968 models, and fine tuned them. Then they took all the negatives and improved on them. The result? Likely the finest T-bird of the 1960s, as far as reliability, ease of service, convenience, and drivability are concerned.
There are those who will scoff at this statement, but they have missed the point, and they have overlooked the details. Details like the gorgeous jeweled turquoise insets in the new grille ornament, S-Bars and tail lamp emblems. The fine black painted detailing that surrounds the jeweled insets. Even the eye of the Bird is touched by this detail, and seems to be looking you straight in the eye, putting you on notice that this car will show you how to fly. New rocker moldings that match the grille and rear tail lamp panel, with distinctive linear chrome lines set against a black background which make the sides of the car visually flow around to meet the tail panel. Separate tail lamps that hearken back to the rear appearance of the popular 1964-1965 cars, with sequential turn signals, of course, to make sure others know which direction you are headed. And for '69, to ensure better reliability of this feature, the rear signals were controlled by a transistorized solid state control box, eliminating the troublesome motor and cam unit. The back-up lights are concealed behind the horizontal bright bars on the rear panel, and even the rear side marker lights have a T-bird emblem mounted on the surface of the red lens, its silhouette illuminated at night to inform others that this is no ordinary automobile!
Open one of the front doors, and you'll notice that "Thunderbird" appears in flowing metallic blue script on the sill plates, an elegant invitation to step inside, and delight in the tailored luxury that abounds for all the senses. The standard pleated vinyl upholstery uses no less than three different vinyl patterns on the seats alone, and is so soft, supple, and realistic in its appearance that many believe it is genuine leather. Front bench seats, introduced as standard equipment on all models in 1968, were the most popular seating option for the year, and were able seat three people comfortably, but include a fold down armrest in the center to give the feeling of buckets seats when the middle position isn't needed. The trademark coved rear seats on two door models provide a cozy cocktail bar atmosphere for those lucky enough to find themselves ensconced in the rear compartment, and the blind quarter roof panels ensure privacy for rear passengers. On four door Landau models, interior courtesy lights are ingeniously integrated into the interior roof quarter S-Bars to light the way in and out.
New simulated Teak-patterned woodgrained inserts dressed up the instrument panel and steering wheel padded hub, and if one of the optional Brougham interiors were ordered, additional Teak inserts were added to the steering wheel rim, lower instrument panel area, and door trim panels. The Teak pattern replaced the Burled Walnut used in 1968, and would be retained through the 1971 model year.
Underway, the car is swift footed, sure, lean and mean. You feel confident driving it. It has an aggressive stance, due in part to the new segmented front grille, and rectangular turn signal indicators mounted below the bumper, which simulate the road lamps found on some high performance muscle cars of the time. The powerful 360 horsepower 429 Thunder Jet V-8 engine that soars high above other cars on the road set new standards for smoothness and performance. A new standard heavy duty suspension system was installed on both two door models, and made sure the tires gripped the road with an improved level of authority and assurance, while still providing the quiet and smooth ride Thunderbird is known for.
Standard front cornering lamps light the way around dark corners, and spring-loaded motors open the headlamp doors quickly and automatically (shown at left) to make sure the Bird's beams are always available to light the way, even if the vacuum system fails or the doors are covered with snow or ice. If you forget to turn off the lights, an optional warning light and buzzer, a new feature included as part of the optional Convenience Check Group [links in this article open in new windows], remind you to do so.
A Power Sunroof option was added to the list of optional equipment for the first time, and takes occupants closer than ever to the heavens above. This feature was heavily advertised for the year, but was a rarely ordered item. As such, cars so equipped are highly coveted today, and are not often seen. Operated at the touch of a button mounted just in front of the opening, an electric motor mounted in the roof header area glides the panel open and closed with dual steel cables. The rear of the panel drops down and slides backward into an open area under the roof panel. When open, the panel is almost completely concealed between the roof of the car and the headliner. With the Power Sunroof, the open air exhilaration of a convertible is yours for the asking, yet the protection, safety, and comfort of a hardtop is just a few seconds away, just press the switch and you're done, with no top boot to install or rear window to unzip, and the panel can be opened or closed while underway. Check out a few of the survivors listed in the Thunderbird Sunroof Registry, a record of 1967-1979 cars equipped with this feature, or the T-Roof Convertible option offered in 1978-1979.
Other options first introduced in '69 include Electric Defrost, which melts frost and ice from the rear window in just minutes at the touch of a switch, by heating the rear glass through wires embedded in a ceramic grid embedded on the inside surface, and Kelsey-Hays state of the art technology ensures emergency stops, especially on slick roads, are more controlled and precise than ever before with SureTrack anti-lock brakes, an important safety feature available for the first time on any production car, and shared only with the Continental Mark III, which was introduced in the spring of 1968 as a 1969 model.
In its February 1969 edition, Motor Trend Magazine road tested and compared a 2-Door Landau with a Buick Riviera, Oldsmobile Toronado, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Mercury Marauder. The Bird got high marks for acceleration and stopping ability, even though it was the heaviest of the group. MT also praised the placement of the interior door handles, the full instrumentation, and the comfort and support of the front bucket seats. Emphasis was placed on the fact that Ford had made definite, worthwhile improvements right down the line—in ride, comfort, handling, and convenience. The T-Bird was the best all-around car of those tested based on its versatility, comfort, minimum noise levels, performance, handling, and features. Despite the rave press reviews, this was the only year to date that Buick's Riviera would outsell the Thunderbird, and it would be the only time that this would happen.
Several unique, one year only paint colors were available, which widened the spectrum of possibilities for car buyers, and just about any color one could want was available. Two shades of purple were offered, as was a shimmery metallic copper that looks up to date even today. Add to that three shades of blue, three shades of green, two hues of aqua, and you get the idea: picking just one color was not an easy task.
Small touches not even noticed by many enhanced the long list of changes for the year. For instance, the door lock plunger was conveniently moved forward on the front door panel on two door models to make locking and unlocking the doors easier. Considerations were given to how people used their cars, and what could be done to make them more functional and usable. Attention to the details made the '69 T-Bird a masterpiece to be admired and cherished from behind the wheel as well as from the curb. Like no other before or after, the 1969 Thunderbird truly was and is unique in all the world.