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1974 Ford Thunderbird shown in White with Silver Power Moonroof option
1974 Thunderbird with Power Moonroof
 This is your year. Make a little Thunder of your own.
1974 Ford Thunderbird
1974 Thunderbird hood ornament

CONTENTS:

1974 Thunderbird Auctions

Production/Specifications

ARTICLE:
Big Brother Is Watching

Exterior Paint Colors

Interior Trim

Standard Equipment

Optional Equipment

Burgundy Luxury Group

White and Gold Luxury Group

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1974 THUNDERBIRD:
Make A Little Thunder of Your Own

1974 was not a good year for the Thunderbird. Or for any big car, for that matter. The 1974 Thunderbird was introduced in September 1973, and expectations were high that another good sales year was ahead. Then on October 17, 1973, just weeks after introduction, what is now commonly known as the oil crisis of 1973 began. This was because members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC, which consisted of the Arab members of OPEC as well as Egypt and Syria), announced that they would immediately cease shipment of oil to all nations that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War, which was Israel's ongoing conflict with Syria and Egypt. This meant that the United States and its allies in Western Europe, along with Japan, all found themselves with an oil shortage virtually overnight.

And very quickly, this became big news because gas prices increased, gas stations started running out of fuel, and the nightly news opened with images of long lines of cars waiting sometimes hours just to buy gas. And after waiting for hours, customers would learn that the station had just run out, so they had to start the process all over again. Fuel efficiency became an immediate concern, and people started buying cars that got good gas mileage, which left the Thunderbird off the short list of possibilities for many.

1974 was the first year for the new down sized Ford Mustang II, which was advertised as "the right car at the right time." Ford certainly couldn't have predicted the oil crisis years earlier when the Mustang II first went into development, but they were right on target with their ad slogan.

Thunderbird sales dropped to 58,443, a drop of 33 percent over 1973. With prices starting at $7,221, most people considering a Thunderbird probably didn't care WHAT gas cost, but the issue was could they find it? The T-bird had never been known for its fuel economy, but what good would it do to have a new T-bird if you couldn't find any gas to fill the tank?

And it's a pity, too, because the 1974 Thunderbird offered a couple of Special Edition models that were quite unique. The Burgundy Luxury Group consisted of deep, sparkling, Burgundy Fire paint with a matching vinyl roof and Dark Red Victoria Velour or Dark Red Leather seating surfaces. Discreet gold stripes and wire wheel covers added even more sparkle. This was a very rich-looking automobile.

The other was the White and Gold Luxury Group, which featured an upper body finished in Polar White, with Gold Metallic Glamour Paint on the lower body sides. A Gold Levant grain vinyl roof and gold wide bodyside moldings complimented the Gold accent stripes on the hood, bodyside, and deck lid. Even the Thunderbird insignia in the opera windows was Gold. Inside, two tone seating with white leather upholstery and Gold Flare vinyl appointments throughout was a harbinger of things to come, as striking two toned interiors would become more popular in future models. Even the Deluxe Wheel Covers were color-keyed with Gold paint. Very flashy, and very rare.

With the oil crisis, having a newly-standardized 460 V-8 engine to propel you around isn't exactly a good thing. But that is all that was available for the 1974 Thunderbird. Standard equipment was upgraded late in the 1973 model year to include many items commonly ordered anyway, so not a lot changed there. But there were some interesting new options for 1974, including a silver or gold tinted glass Moonroof, a gold tinted Quick Defrost Windshield/Rear Window that used an electrically charged film between the glass layers to melt frost and ice quickly, an Autolamp On/Off Delay System for the headlights, and wire wheel covers, among others.

Upholstery ranged from the standard Aurora cloth to optional Super-Soft vinyl, Picardy velour, or genuine leather. The individually-adjustable split bench front seats with dual fold-down arm rests returned as the only offering, and they were really all that was needed or expected on a luxury car of the Thunderbird's caliber. Driver and passenger could choose to lower their arm rest, or leave it up for additional room on the cushion. And anyone who's ever taken a long trip in one of these cars can testify to the fact that they are as comfortable after 6 hours on the road as they were when you first began the trip.

Image: 1974 Ford ThunderbirdExterior appearance was nearly identical to 1973, except for the all-new taillamp and rear bumper treatment. The full-width lights remained, but they no longer were a solid band of red. In the middle was a clear back-up light with Thunderbird insignia mounted at center. It did not illuminate unless the car was in reverse gear. This left four segmented taillamps on either side. All illuminated with the running lights, but only the two outboard segments lit up brighter when brake lights or turn signals were on. The new rear bumper jutted out away from the car in order to comply with the new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which required the rear bumpers to withstand a 5 mph impact into a flat surface without without damage to latching devices, fuel, exhaust, propulsion, suspension, or braking systems. A bit clunky looking compared to past designs, but the Bird wore them better than most.

As if an oil crisis and new bumper impact requirements weren't enough to contend with, one of government's all-time most bone headed, idiotic ideas ever hit the showrooms in the Fall of 1973. That would be the Ignition/Seat Belt Interlock System. In an attempt to force people to wear seat belts, it was ordered that 1974 model automobiles destined for U.S. delivery be equipped with this device that prevented the engine from starting if the driver and front seat passenger hadn't buckled up before attempting to start the car! A logic circuit prevented the belts from being permanently buckled behind the seat, or before the occupant sat down on the seat. What that logic circuit couldn't determine was if the weight in the front passenger seat was actually a passenger or a bag of groceries!

If the system failed, a button was provided in the engine compartment that would by-pass the interlock system and allow the car to start, but it had to be pressed each time the car was to be started until repairs were made. Pity the fool in a rush to get his wife to the hospital when the baby decides it's time to make an appearance if the interlock system fails. Or the frantic woman trying to escape from the hoodlum trying to hold her up! It was a bad, bad, bad idea all around, and thankfully it didn't last long. Mechanics soon found ways to permanently disable the system, and did so at the request of their irate customers who would probably have worn seat belts anyway, but didn't like being FORCED to do so.

Thunderbird print advertising for 1974 frequently showed an attractive couple posed with the car. The woman was normally found sitting in the passenger seat looking at the camera which was located outside of the open driver's door. The man was looking down at the camera through the Moonroof. Both were, of course, thrilled with their new Thunderbird.

A catchy song was recorded for the television ads in which a female voice sang, "This is your year, make a little Thunder...of your own."

The 1974 Thunderbird sales brochures were quite slick. Printed on high gloss stock, the brochure actually consisted of a folder with interior pockets that held individual sheets. Each sheet addressed one topic, such as standard features, options, interior trims, paint finishes, etc. One sheet featured the two Special Editions, one on each side. A very clever piece of art work that probably stood out from the rest with new car shoppers at the time.

The 1972-1976 Thunderbirds are still a bit cool in the collector car market today. In order to have a really valuable one, it must be in perfect condition with very low miles. And if it's a Special Edition, or equipped with rare options, even better. These are large, heavy cars that do like to consume fuel. Driven carefully, they aren't much worse than modern SUVs, but if you put your foot into it often, you'll pay dearly for it at the pump, especially if the majority of driving is in city traffic.

These cars can be somewhat rust prone. The lower front fenders seem especially susceptible. Check the front overhang lower edge as well as the fenders behind the wheel well; the area around the cornering lamp fixture is normally one of the worst. Rust under the vinyl roof is a concern, too. Check carefully under and around the vinyl roof moldings as well as under the rear window and at the tops of the rear quarter panels where the vinyl roof molding is located.

If sheer comfort, luxury, and quiet are what you seek in a collectible car, there's no better automobile than the 1974 Thunderbird to pamper you, and take you back to a time when owning a new Thunderbird was still a dream come true.


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

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