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FUN FUN FUN

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Oct 2, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

FREE AS A 'BIRD By REED BERRY

While driving a sporty little Ford Thunderbird convertible through the streets of Malibu, I can't help but think...this is the life! Unfortunately it isn't my life, but it is fun to pretend. And who wouldn't put the top down and head for the coast in a car that epitomizes the carefree California lifestyle? A retro style two-seater introduced three years ago, the T-Bird continues to turn heads and, on more than one occasion during my drive, other motorists have rolled down their windows to ask questions such as "How do you like the car?" or "What do you call that beautiful color?" OK, I admit it - I like the attention I get in this car!

After decades of affixing the Thunderbird name to cars that were fairly unexciting, Ford has created a car that captures the essence of what the Thunderbird was originally designed to be - sporty, fast and fun to drive. The car is sleek and attractive, combining the look of a 50's T-Bird with modern day performance and features. The convertible top can be raised or lowered quickly and effortlessly at the touch of a button. For an evening out or when attending a special event, simply attach the optional hardtop to give the car a more sophisticated look. The 83-pound removable top features Thunderbird's trademark porthole windows. The interior of the Thunderbird is quite comfortable. Both the driver and passenger seats are heated (I wonder if you can pay extra and make them vibrate too?), and dual-zone temperature controls for the heat and air conditioning will keep each person at just the right temperature. An optional color accent package places inserts in the seats, steering wheel and shifter to match the exterior color of the car.

If a little music would make your drive more enjoyable, an Audiophile AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer comes standard in the Thunderbird. Strategically placed speakers, including two in a panel behind the seats, provide exceptional sound quality. While the center console is functional, I am a little disappointed by it's drab appearance, which looks more like something you would see in a car costing much less. Hey, in a vehicle like the Thunderbird where the focus is clearly on styling, give me a console with some color, some flashing lights, maybe even a hologram or two. I must admit, as much as I dislike some of the Fords I've driven in the past, the Thunderbird's performance is impressive. With four-wheel independent suspension and traction control, the car handles and corners beautifully. There's plenty of power under the hood with a 3.9-liter, 280-horspower V-8 engine. When accelerating to pass a slower moving car, I did notice a slight hesitation as I stepped on the gas. I quickly learned that I could avoid this by switching from the five-speed automatic to the optional SelectShift feature that allows you to shift manually without a clutch.

The T-Bird is loaded with safety features including front and side airbags as well as antilock brakes. But there's yet another item in the plus column when discussing safety: Put the convertible top down, look back over your shoulder and you will notice that between the low profile and downward slant of the rear of the vehicle, visibility is outstanding! Backing out of driveways or into curbside parking spaces is almost effortless thanks to the clever design of this car. The downward slant of the trunk lid does limit the amount of cargo space, but the trunk is big enough for a couple sets of golf clubs or a few bags of groceries. With a price tag in the low 40's, including options and delivery charges, I consider the Thunderbird an outstanding value for the money. So if you are looking for a car that is aggressive, fun to drive and gets a few looks along the way, get a Ford Thunderbird Roadster Convertible, put the top down and head for the beach. I'll look for you on my next trip to Malibu!

For more information on Ford products, go to www.ford.com.

SPECIFICATIONS

Name of vehicle: 2004 Ford Thunderbird Roadster Convertible Price: $37,970 MSRP Engine type: 3.9 liter V8 with SEFI (Sequential Electronic Fuel Injection) Horsepower: 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 286 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive Transmission type: Five-speed automatic with overdrive; optional SelectShift semi-manual shifting feature Front suspension: Independent short- and long-arm (SLA) type with a long spindle and coil-over-shock absorbers attached to the lower control arm, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent short- and long-arm (SLA) type with anti-lift, coil-over-shock absorber design, stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: 16-spoke 17-in painted aluminum; P235/50VR17 Brakes: Front: 11.8-in vented disc Rear: 11.3-in vented disc Assist type: Vacuum, ABS Overall length: 186.3" Overall width: 72.0" Overall height: 52.1" Curb weight (lbs.): 3,780 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 17/23

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