Here at RK Motors Charlotte, you know we're famous for finding unbelievable cars, and this 1979 Thunderbird certainly qualifies. On the one hand, you might be thinking that with over 100,000 T-Birds built in '79, this one can't be rare, but on the other hand, how many have just 4219 original miles?
Yes, 4219 miles from new. This car is completely untouched, unmodified, and 100% original in every way save for the battery. And I don't care what your favorite car is, survivors like this are way cool because they're a snapshot in time, an opportunity to see how the cars we love were actually built. Forget restored perfection, survior status is red hot right now, and this T-Bird is as nice as they get and is loaded with options. According to the original window sticker, in addition to the standard Thunderbird features, this one also includes:
5.8 liter V8 engine
Dual accent paint stripes
Deluxe seat belts
15-inch whitewall radials
Bumper rub strips
Selectaire air conditioning
Dual sport mirrors
Wire wheel covers
Bright body side moldings
Still sporting 100% original Light Medium Blue over Midnight Blue Metallic two-tone paint, you'll probably be as surprised as we were at how good paint looked in 1979. Everyone remembers these as the dark days of motoring, but the truth of the matter is that upscale cars like this T-Bird were awfully darned nice. 1979 was the last year of the seventh generation Thunderbird, and what many refer to as the last of the “big birds.” In 1980, it was drastically downsized, making this one the last of the full-sized personal luxury cars from Ford. Styling is angular, yet elegant, and the steeply raked greenhouse gives the 'Bird a sporty look. The optional two-tone color scheme masks the car's size, visually lengthening the body without adding bulk. Gaps are remarkably good, and those long doors, which were typical of the era, open and close easily. The paint shows no flaws, no signs of age, and no road rash, meaning that this one has been carefully preserved since Day One. Lots of waxing, polishing, and buffing are in this car's past, however, and the surface glows the way only original paint can. A contrasting dark blue pinstripe highlights the shape of the Thunderbird's fenders and hood, recalling the Lincoln Mark IV, its upscale cousin. The pictures aren't lying—this car really is as amazing as it appears.
Of course, this being 1979, there was a lot of chrome. The grille was new for '79, with a bolder, simpler design, still flanked by a pair of hidden headlights (which are fully functional, of course). The big chrome bumpers are astoundingly nice, with no rust, dings, or scratches, and you know this big 'Bird was never “parked by feel.” The big tail light lenses were new for '79, splitting the single large unit into two separate lamps with the back-up light between them. All the windows are ringed with bright stainless, including the way-cool little opera window in the B-pillar. Glass is all original and exceptionally nice—have the wipers ever been used? Impossible to say—that's how nice it is.
The original buyer of this Thunderbird went heavy on the options list, and chief among them was the larger 5.8 liter (351 cubic inch) Windsor V8. With a modest two-barrel carburetor, it generated 152 horsepower and a substantial 278 pounds of torque, which, combined with a 3-speed automatic was good for sprightly performance appropriate to the luxury coupe's mission. You'll note that the engine bay in this car is almost completely untouched by time, with bright Ford Blue paint on the engine itself, the aluminum air cleaner is still bright and shiny, and all the hoses and fittings are OEM. Even the tar-paper strip that seals the radiator against the hood is in excellent condition, and it's always the first thing to go when these cars get out on the road. It's quite likely that even things like the belts and hoses are original, since there are original hose clamps throughout. The only components showing their age might be the bare cast iron exhaust manifolds, but these tended to rust before the car was even out the factory door, so I don't necessarily view it as a defect. It starts easily and idles smoothly like only a big, low-compression V8 can, and wafts the Thunderbird along the road effortlessly like a true luxury power plant should.
The transmission is a 3-speed automatic, which was the only transmission available in the T-Bird in 1979. Out back, you'll find a very highway-friendly code B 2.47 gear ratio, which gives this car exceptionally long legs if you're inclined to drive it. Like many cars in 1979, this one got a shot of undercoating and as a result, it's solid and rust-free, but not especially detailed. The brakes have been maintained, but probably still wear the original pads and shoes, while everything else is original, including the shocks. Undoubtedly stored in a climate-controlled facility all its life, the bushings are in good condition and this car is ready to hit the road (although you and I both know this car's cruising days are over). The original wheels still wear the optional wire wheel covers and it's likely that those are even the original GR78-15 General whitewall radials.
You've never seen an original interior this nice. There's not a scuff or a stray thread anywhere, and the seats are still as firm and comfortable as they were 32 years ago. The fabric is still vivid and blue, perfectly contrasting with the Medium Light Blue paint. Faux burled walnut covers the dash, but it actually looks pretty good, and the gauges, while basic, attempt to look sporty and give the illusion of a comprehensive set. Overhead, the headliner is flawless, while the door panels don't even look like anyone has rested an elbow on them. The steering wheel is 1970s skinny with a bit of matching faux walnut on the horn button, but you'll find that this one can be driven with just your fingertips. The original radio and A/C controls are mounted low on the dash, and the handles and knobs are in first-rate shape. In the trunk you'll find the original mat, spare tire, jack assembly and jacking instructions decal on the deck lid.
Documentation, as you can imagine for a car that was destined for collectability from the start, is extensive. We have the original window sticker, purchase agreement from B.J. Maurer Motor Company, quality control punch card, consumer information sticker, owner's manual and even the original Ownercar, which is Ford's version of the Protect-O-Plate. And thanks to the General Tire warranty booklet, we can say with some confidence that those are the original tires.
I bet you've never thought of a 1979 Thunderbird as a collectable car before, but there's no question that this one is very special. Welcome at virtually any show, be it the Thunderbird Nationals or an AACA meet (this car meets their definition of “antique” and definitely qualifies for HPOF status), this car will amaze onlookers just as it has amazed all of us here at RK Motors Charlotte. Astoundingly original, beautifully preserved, and wonderfully documented, this is quite likely the nicest 1979 Thunderbird in the world. Better yet, it will never, ever be duplicated—you can't “restore” a car to make it original again, and for historians, a car like this is the Holy Grail. And that's overlooking the fact that it really is a nice looking car that drives superbly. If you're a Thunderbird collector or just a fan of the unusual and the amazing, your collection isn't complete without the last of the big 'Birds. Call today!
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