Automotive Mileposts  
Production Numbers
1970 Thunderbird

INTRODUCTION: September 19, 1969
Two-Door Hardtop roofline
65C - Bench Seat 3,191
65A - Bucket Seats 1,925
Two-Door Landau roofline
TWO-DOOR LANDAU 36,847 Total
65D - Bench Seat 19,894
65B - Bucket Seats 16,953
Four-Door Landau roofline
57C - Bench Seat 3,396
57B - Split Bench Seats 5,005
Note: For the first time, the Two-Door Landau model did not feature S-Bars on its rear roof quarter panels. This would again be the case for 1971, after which the S-Bars would make a very brief return in 1972 before being gone forever as one of the Thunderbird's most distinctive and recognizable styling touches.
1970 Thunderbird: Is It A Bird, A Plane, Or A Pontiac?

Thunderbird for 1970: another year for change. Or lack of it. Customers entering their Ford dealerships in the Fall of 1969 had a good reason to be disappointed. Even though all of the sheet metal from the windshield forward was new, the new 1970 Thunderbirds looked like the same old Bird. And yet, there was something else oddly familiar about it. It looked like...a...Pontiac!

And there's a reason for that perception. Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudson had joined Ford as Chief Executive Officer in 1968. He came to Ford after holding similar positions at Chevrolet and Pontiac. Apparently, he thought the T-Bird needed a few Pontiac styling touches, and he set about making sure they were applied to the new model. Perhaps that explains the protruding center grille section, and the inverted "U" taillights--both styling touches that adorned Pontiacs in the 1967-1968 model years. And Knudson didn't stop with the Thunderbird. The 1970 Ford LTD, Galaxie 500, Custom 500, and Torino all got the Pontiac treatment in varying degrees.

Bunkie was somewhat limited as to what touches he could put on the T-Bird, as it shared its Four Door platform with the Continental Mark III. And, since the Mark was just introduced in the Spring of 1968 as a 1969 model, it wasn't due for a restyle until 1972. The cost of building two totally different limited production cars wouldn't cut it with the Ford numbers people, so the Thunderbird was left to fly wearing its modified 1967 styling through 1971.

Fortunately for Ford, none of the Thunderbird's competition was restyled for 1970, although virtually all of them were due. The Riviera, which beat the T-Bird in production in 1969, entered the 1970 model year with what was essentially 1966 styling. The Toronado, introduced in 1966, also bore styling very similar to its first year. Even the Eldorado was mildly warmed over, carrying styling from 1967, the first year of the new and improved personal luxury Eldorado.

By the time the 1970 models were presented to the public, Bunkie was gone. So he never had the opportunity to hear what people thought of his styling taste. But the Ford Dealers gave him an earful when they saw the prototypes during the Spring of 1969. To say they weren't happy is an understatement. The man assigned to take his place was Lee A. Iacocca. At this point, it was apparent that the Thunderbird and the Continental Mark programs would be pretty much tied in together from this point forward. There were big changes ahead for the Bird, but 1970 and 1971 would be sales disappointments.

However, on the bright side, the 1970 and 1971 Thunderbirds were the best overall Thunderbirds to date. After three years in production with one body style, virtually all of the bugs were eliminated. Ford's quality control on these cars was more rigid than ever. Suspension refinements made these Birds the best-handling of the flock. Ford upgraded the T-Bird insulation package to the same as the 1970 Continental Mark III, making it even quieter than before. The standard radio antenna was moved to the windshield, and consisted of two very fine wires embedded within the glass that were almost invisible, a feature introduced a year earlier on the Pontiac Grand Prix. Poor reception rather abruptly moved the antenna back to the left front fender for 1971, and an optional power antenna was available for those interested in good reception. The windshield wipers were concealed behind the rear edge of the hood, and radial-ply tires became standard.

Motor Trend Magazine performed a road test of the 1970 Thunderbird, and described its driver control as "uncanny". Whether one liked the styling or not, the Thunderbird had become very adept at providing its passengers with silky silence, its drivers with excellent handling and acceleration, and it still turned heads as it headed down the road. Not bad for a car that had so many outside influences affecting it. The Thunderbird brochure stated that the 1970 model was "the most beautiful Thunderbird ever built". And these models do have their admirers, just as the 1962-1963 Sports Roadsters have theirs. It's interesting to note that the roadster program has to be considered a failure, and that happened at a time when the T-Bird had very little competition. The 1970-1971 models had a lot of competition to contend with, as well as pollution control, safety, and a lot of other outside influences that had to be considered in the overall design and performance of these models. And Ford was still selling more T-Birds than its competition was selling Rivs, Toros, and Eldos.

The Thunderbird of Thunderbirds for, more than ever...unique in all the world!
1970 Ford Thunderbird Two Door Landau
1970 Thunderbird: shaped to slice the wind. Two-Door Landau model
shown above in Green Fire, one of four optional paint colors.