My Car Quest

December 12, 2018

A Factory Hot Rodded Two Seater T-Bird By Chip Foose

The One Ford Should have built…

by Wallace Wyss –

Photos by Richard Bartholomew –

There has to be a high point as a car designer, and I think one of them is being able to tool around in a car you designed.

At the Enderle Cars & Coffee in Tustin, CA only last week I saw “Chip” Foose, ace designer at one time for both Ford and Chrysler, and star of the Velocity reality show called “Overhaulin” toodle by in a two seater that was the car that Ford should have built.

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

Oh, they built a two seater Bird but he didn’t design the mass produced one. But he did design and build this special version, a concept car. (At one time he had his own separate shop for building automaker prototypes, but now concentrates on his own designs).

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

The revived T-bird had potential for greatness. It had a very interesting chassis shared with a Jaguar, but alas, remained namby-pamby, not developed as a performance car.

The same lightweight aluminum-intensive rear wheel drive platform code-named DEW-98 was under the Jaguar S-Type, Lincoln LS, and Ford Thunderbird. There was talk back then of building the Mustang on it but it would have upped the price of the ‘Stang too much.

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

Some parts were used in the Mustang but not the SLA front suspension and the independent rear suspension.

Ford had originally brought out the two seater ‘Bird in ’55 as a two years too late rival to the Corvette. Several times thereafter they revived it, the last version re-introduced for 2002.

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

The eleventh generation Thunderbird was built at Ford’s Wixom Assembly Plant. It didn’t have a sporty dash because the instrument panel, steering wheel and other trim pieces were borrowed from Lincoln LS. There was only one engine, a Jaguar-designed AJ-30 3.9 L DOHC V8, a short-stroke (85mm) variant of the Jaguar AJ-26 4.0 L V8, rated at 252 horsepower (188 kW) and 267 lb⋅ft (362 N⋅m) of torque.

The engine was mated to Ford’s 5R55N 5-speed automatic transmission. The AJ-30 V8 was replaced by the AJ-35 in 2003 and later Thunderbirds, bringing with it variable valve timing (VVT) and electronic throttle control (ETC) as well as 280 horsepower (210 kW) and 286 lb⋅ft (388 N⋅m) of torque. Though it didn’t have a manual shift version, it had a manual shift feature for the 5-speed automatic called SelectShift eventually.

When sales dropped like a rock after the first year, Ford decided to make the 2005 model year the last year. Little known is that the engine was shared with Aston Martin (which had a higher flow intake and unique tuning). Another idea was to go with a V6 but a twin turbo 3.5 liter V-6. And mate that to an OEM-shelf Getrag 8-speed automatic.

Looking back some insiders say that there were hotter T-birds in the plans, well, if not for young driving enthusiasts, then millennials who at least wanted something sporting even if they weren’t going to take it to the track on weekends.

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

I am talking Brembo brakes, a handling package, a 6-speed manual, a V-6 option for the base model and–dreaming all the way—a supercharged V-8 model.

Jacques Nasser, then heading Ford, wanted this car built and approved several running driving prototypes. It is even hinted some places that he took one home with him.

This tricked out version could have been ready for market year 2006, when it would have received its own more sporty dashboard. But the car was never really completed, there is for example no working convertible top or even a place to stow the convertible top.

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

All for naught. The two seater Thunderbird died out and “Chip” Foose ended up with this car. Though it looks the same as one auctioned on August 12, 2010 we don’t know if it is the exact same car, we just know we saw him driving it near his Orange County, CA office.

I think it must be fun for such a driver when someone asks “Who designed that?” to be able to say in response, “Well, as a matter of fact…”

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss co-hosts the Autotalk show on KUCR-FM Riverside.

 
 
 
 
 

THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Richard Bartholomew is an artist and photographer based in Southern California.

UPDATE

Below is a photo of the Buddy Pepp hot rodded 2002 Thunderbird.

Buddy writes,

Mike,

I own one of the other hot rodded 2002 T-birds. (The other one was done by Pete Chapouris). Mine was restyled by Roy Brizio and looks just as cool as the Foose design. Fabulous design. Great cars to drive. Have absolutely no idea why they did not sell.

Buddy

Buddy Pepp is a former chairman of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Buddy Pepp Hot Rod Thunderbird

Buddy Pepp Hot Rod Thunderbird

 

 

Chip Foose Ford Thunderbird

Summary
A Factory Hot Rodded Two Seater T-Bird By Chip Foose
Article Name
A Factory Hot Rodded Two Seater T-Bird By Chip Foose
Description
This is the Chip Foose designed Ford Thunderbird concept car - the one Ford should have built.
Author

Comments

  1. ~ I firmly agree that this was an opportunity lost. But you’d better not build them if they aren’t selling. [sigh] I would like to have an example of the last T’bird to play with.

  2. Colin Young says:

    Ford has back out of many sporty opportunities over the years. It’s sad that some of these didn’t come to fruition but understandable with the last couple decades financial worries. I still think the 55 to 57 was the icon of Thunderbird.

  3. Buddy Pepp says:

    Mike,

    I own one of the other hot rodded 2002 T-birds. (The other one was done by Pete Chapouris). Mine was restyled by Roy Brizio and looks just as cool as the Foose design. Fabulous design. Great cars to drive. Have absolutely no idea why they did not sell.

    Buddy

    • Thank you Buddy,

      I have posted a photo of Buddy’s Thunderbird at the end of the article.

      BTW, Buddy Pepp is a former chairman of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

  4. Tirefriar says:

    Ford had a great idea to bring back the T-bird nameplate and the design it was affixed to was the homage paid to the first generation. They did a good job at capturing the visuals, but were completely off the mark on the spirit it embodied which was sort of,um, missing. Or did the Ford just assume that its target audience was not able to drive stick or favored cushy vs sporty agressive suspension? Whatever the case, the execution was half hearted at best.

    BTW, most of the factory oem body panels and model specific mechanical components are nla. These are dismantler sourced who in turn charge significantly higher price than OEM list. So be extra careful when driving these on the street….

Speak Your Mind

*

Find us on Google+