1981 Ford Thunderbird Overview


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Have you driven a 1981 Ford Thunderbird?

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35 stars

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I Have One In Good Shape, by harrycat
 — the car drives good, it has the rear swaybar,leather interior,underpowered 302 engine,good selection of electric goodies.it has a fake convertible top that looks pretty convincing. i would like to fin... Read More

1981 Ford Thunderbird Overview

Overall User Score

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Based on 1 review

1981 Ford Thunderbird

The 1981 Ford Thunderbird was not one of Ford's great successes.  The squared-off 'Box Bird' models didn't have much appeal for Thunderbird loyalists; without the cool Jet Age stylings or the powerful engines that had made the earlier T-Birds into an icon of the great American muscle car, the '81 Thunderbird was just another midsized sedan.

To be fair, the 1981 Thunderbird wasn't a bad little car.  It got great gas mileage (up to 32 mpg highway from the 4-cylinder, 30 mpg highway from the V6, and 25 mpg highway from the V-8).  It had a sturdy but agile platform, and it offered a sleek, luxurious interior.  But the Thunderbird name was a lot to live up to, and this incarnation just didn't cut it.

One big problem was the radically downsized engine offerings.  Yes, the new Thunderbird was a lot lighter and more nimble, but the entry-level inline-4 engine, a 2.3 liter model designed for the Pinto, wasn't worth of the TBird's performance sport heritage.  Upgrade options (a 3.3 liter V-6 and a choice of 4.2 liter or 5.0 liter Windsor V8s) brought more power, but even the biggest V-8 choice topped out at a paltry 130 horsepower.

For all that, the '81 Ford Thunderbird had its charms.  It had a bunch of electric options that were state of the art for its day, including flip-up headlights, digital readouts, and the then-fancy power windows.  Interior options included racing-style bucket seats (I don't quite see how this illusion would have worked unless the car was parked, though) and a variety of cool console trims.  If you weren't actually expecting a sports car, there were quite a few things to like!


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Looking for a Used Thunderbird in your area?
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Ford Thunderbird Questions


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49 views with 2 answers (last answer 4 years ago)

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I Have A81 T Bird With A Fake Convertable Roof, It Really Looks Real. What ...

104 views with 2 answers (last answer 7 years ago)

I Have 1981 Ford T-bird 5.0 L, 4 Spd.auto Loses Heat.

loses heat after 25-30 minutes running , has heat up till then , park and let set 30 minutes or so and heat comes back but quits again. heater hose are hot even when no heat inside, no running hot p...

87 views with 6 answers (last answer 2 years ago)