The accusation that American car producers couldn’t construct a sports car—even if they tried—is no lengthier legitimate. The first indication was the Chevrolet Corvette. And though the Ford Motor Co. is the very first one to deny it, they have a sports activities auto in the Thunderbird, and it can be a very good a person.
Ford prefers to call it a “personal car.” The wondering behind this, as introduced out in a dialogue with W. R. Burnett, Main Passenger Motor vehicle Engineer for Ford, is that “whilst the Thunderbird has the functionality and attributes of most sports cars, administration also felt that it really should have a couple additional comforts to make it far more captivating to a broader segment of the community.” Apart from getting the electricity-operated 4-way seat (which is really for building the car or truck usable for more individuals of various builds and heights, rather than just consolation), the Thunderbird has electric power steering (optional) for a lot more ease in town driving, ability brakes, and finish weather conditions protection in the variety of a conventional Fiberglas hardtop (that can be placed over the optional delicate major when it truly is folded up driving the seat), and roll-up windows (electrical power optional). This follows our pondering about the new form of sports motor vehicle. You’ll recall that we pointed out at the time of Thunderbird introduction (June MT), “The pattern [of sports car acceptance in this country] turned obvious. The usa was undoubtedly interested in a own auto that was pleasurable to generate and feasible to personal.”
More than enough for that. The car’s been kicking around lengthy enough for pretty much every person to know most of the tales about it (besides some of the finer factors we are heading to convey out listed here). So let’s get on to the hottest information about the car or truck. Wot’ll she do? To find out, Don MacDonald and I frequented the Ford Proving Ground (Dearborn, Mich.) on 1 spottily sunny day in involving two rainy ones. Owning the auto for the greater portion of the afternoon enabled us to turn out to be common with it rapidly.
Vision in excess of the low hood is superior, while there is a slight total of distortion in the corners of the wrap-about windshield. With leading up you really feel very shut in, generally due to the fact it is not like most of the new motor vehicle “glass bowls.”
All instruments (which include a tach) are nicely-positioned and easy to go through. Of fascination to rally motorists is the sweep-next clock. The crisis brake is up under the dash, like passenger autos, alternatively of becoming “fly-off” a la sports activities automobiles. The foot pedals are significantly enough apart so that you you should not get your ft tangled. You will not even have to reach across the extensive bench-sort seat to raise or decreased the passenger’s window, if you pay back the more loot for power-procedure of it.
Following acquiring it out on the grounds and receiving acclimated to the motor vehicle (with a Ford engineer beside me), I began to place it through its paces. The additional I drove it, the far more I favored it. The happiest issue to me was not that it could burn up rubber from a standstill (which it will), nor that it can burn off rubber when switching gears (even with a Fordomatic), nor that it feels so good to driver and passenger alike, but—that it handles so beautifully.
You can find definite oversteer crafted into the car or truck (which means that it will break unfastened in a turn right before it drifts, as opposed to the genuine level of competition sports activities car or truck). It hangs so effectively in the corners that you can choose any supplied curve at 10-15 mph much more than the ’55 Ford (an enhanced version of the best dealing with automobile of ’54). Most essential is the feeling of stability you get from the automobile. Ater pushing it close to the handling class (asphalt, various-radii turns) a several moments I quickly bought self-assured plenty of to get started getting them at 55-65 mph. With much more observe driving the wheel I felt absolutely sure that I could up the speed—that’s how the vehicle impresses you.
With all of these fantastic dealing with characteristics, the Thunderbird is also simple to push, getting an exceptionally quick turning radius, a steering ratio of 20 to 1 (3.5 turns lock to lock, both with and without the need of ability steering). You can adjust the wheel to your very own liking simply by loosening the adjustment on the column and pushing in or pulling out the wheel (3 inches of motion).
The ride is not like that which the diehard sporting activities auto addict has appear to hope from a athletics vehicle. It can be agency more than enough to avert far too much bobbing coming out of a dip or traveling around a bump, nonetheless it’s tender more than enough to be kind to a weak sacroiliac. There’s a specified first lean going by means of a corner, but it will not maximize appreciably during significant cornering.
The typical electric power brakes make the Thunderbird squat down proper now. Past year Ford brakes had been amongst the finest in their course, though the mix of greater brakes (11-inch drums rather of 10-inch) and the lighter body weight make the Thunderbird brakes well over average.
Drag? Why not? The Thunderbird will go with the greatest of them, even with Fordomatic. Commonly, a quick pace-shifter could outdrag an computerized auto, but here is one circumstance where by they’re even. Right after driving the Fordomatic task I experienced a chance to travel a few with stick shifts. From first to second the gate was not exceptionally smooth, and although you can preserve your foot down on the throttle all the way, it is really asking a good deal of the clutch, working day-in and working day-out. In shifting from 2nd to third, you can preserve your foot down and just “pop” the clutch. Heading by way of this technique, you can wind up just about even with a Fordomatic ‘Bird. Why? With Fordomatic, a hotter motor, rated at 198 horsepower, is made use of. The stick-shift engine has 190 hp.
A time of 11 seconds is what we got for to 60 mph, placing it into sports activities automobile firm. The needle of the electric powered speedometer hit 80 mph just 19.4 seconds right after the standing begin. Axle “wind-up” is held to a minimum amount by the use of rubber bumpers on the frame which the semi-elliptic rear springs call on unexpected take-offs in advance of the springs distort also significantly.
Fordomatic for ’55 now uses the minimal-gear setting up feature (readily available on all ’55 Ford products and solutions), which permits you to start out in lower gear instead of next by pushing the throttle all the way to the ground. It will then change to 2nd at about 30 mph, and to third gear all over 60 mph. This is all attained although the selector is in Generate it is not vital to use Low, then to manually change to Drive.
Downshifts can be built to Minimal at any velocity. This puts you manually into 2nd equipment, then an computerized downshift to Reduced arrives at all-around 20 mph. Downshifts are substantially smoother.
The Fordomatic transmission lever, located over the driveshaft tunnel, is brief and stubby (like that of most sports activities automobiles), providing you the come to feel of a common transmission. An exciting safety characteristic integrated in the lever knob is a pushbutton lock on major of it to avert inadvertent shifts from Drive to REVERSE or vice versa. You can go from Minimal to Push, but not through NEUTRAL into REVERSE until you drive the button.
Acceleration at passing speeds is impressive. We averaged instances of 4.2 seconds to get from 30 to 50 mph, and 11 seconds from 50 to 80 mph. That’s more than enough to suggest that the ‘Bird meets its advertising promises of “sports auto … performance.”
Inspite of statements to the opposite, no a single outside of Ford staff experienced analyzed the vehicle for leading-speed at push time—and Ford people today usually are not speaking. My guess, even though (and I have explanation to consider it is really relatively accurate) is that it will fly together in the variety of 120-mph-moreover (if overdrive-outfitted). That is as speedy as most well known sports activities autos, or more quickly.
As I see it, the Ford Thunderbird has a few basic factors in its favor: a rakish, ground-hugging design and style effectiveness to match excellent sports activities cars and a design and style that has crafted-in consolation for driver and passenger, with no penalty in anyway to pay for their entertaining. It surely would seem like the appropriate mix to make the vehicle attractive to a relatively wide cross-segment of the motoring general public