1972-1976 Big Bird Overview
Following the bigger is better formula, the 72-76 Thunderbirds are the largest thunderbirds ever built before or after this series. My late father-in-law owned a light blue seventy-three. I own a 72 Lincoln continental mark IV which shares the chassis, doors, and understructure with the t-bird. Early base engines for the 72 t-bird were the four hundred c.i.d., but the actual base engine became the 429 at mid-year. I drove a mark V with the four hundred, it was adequate but not overpowered. The 460 was standard in the mark IV. The 72 429-460 is the most powerful of the 72-76 engines with different heads and no e.g.r. valves, which came in 1973 and catalytic converters which came in 1975.
The 385 series 429-460 was in production from mid-1968-1997, it powered everything from fords, mercury’s, Lincolns, and ford trucks. It was Ford’s longest production big block. The early 429 and 460’s from mid-1968 to 1972 would deliver gas mileage in the mid-teens if driven conservatively. My seventy-two mark IV has delivered up to 15 m.p.g. on the highway. I had a friend that had a new seventy-six colony park wagon with a 460 that got 9 mpg. 1973 and later t-birds were hampered by the emission controls. Thunderbirds of this era were not cheap automobiles; the base price was $5,293 for the seventy-two and $7,701.00 for the seventy-six. This is the base price without options. So, one can imagine how expensive of the mark IV of this era was. I can attest this is the best riding car in my small collection. My seventy-two mark IV. With maintenance and replacement of wear items on the suspension, this series of t-bird is the smoothest riding and driving of all series.
Styling is a matter of personal choice. I prefer the 1972 t-birds and mark IV’s; they do not have the guard rail bumpers that became prevalent from seventy-three on. This year also does not have the later emission controls, and gaudy styling packages of later years. Many of these cars were sacrificed for their engines and used up in demolition derbies. I love my 1972 Mark IV, if I were picking a t-bird of this series, it would be a seventy-two with the optional wire wheel covers, vinyl top, landau bars, and a 429. It would also have the one year only tissue dispenser which Indianapolis Club member Bob Thomas has on his immaculate 72 T-bird.
After a five year hiatus, Ford introduced the 2002 Thunderbird. Returning to the original formula for the Thunderbird, the latest version had a two-passenger convertible/removable hardtop configuration like the first-generation Thunderbird and styling strongly recalling the original.
Searching for Classic Car Mechanics
Many members have approached me asking who works and maintains my classic cars. Almost every case, I maintain and repair my own cars. My grandfather, who was a mechanic, mentored me as a teenager on setting points, timing, and spark plug gaps. Brakes, water pumps, and other facets of auto repair and maintaince were learned from the school of hard knocks. Enough of my background.
Members of our club should look to fellow members to ask questions and advice. I have answered many questions concerning problems and maintenance on our classic cars. On occasion, I have worked on members cars on a limited basis because of time constraints.
When looking for a mechanic to work on your classic car, one must remember nearly all mechanics were not born when your car was manufactured. Many don’t know of the primitive systems of our cars. Many shops are not geared to working on older cars, and don’t want their lifts and shop space occupied while waiting on parts, which can be a hassle and time consuming for classic T-birds and other makes of cars. In having my engine rebuilt in my 58 T-bird, and my transmission rebuilt in my 64 T-bird, I experienced shoddy workmanship and many items I had to adjust and fix when my cars were returned. I now have a shop with a lift and have removed my own engines and transmissions and taken them to trusted shops for rebuilding.
I have spoken to members who have experienced arrogance and long wait times to have their cars worked on. In the future, we will have to rely on word of mouth to find mechanics to work on our vintage cars. I know of an old time mechanic that is good at rebuilding Old Holley tea pot carburetors and all ford carburetors. He lives north of Kendallville, IN. For engine, transmission, and rear end rebuilding, I remove these items and have them rebuilt by reputable small shops. Half of all costs of rebuilding these items is removal and replacement.
Soon we will be driving our T-birds. Before waking our cars up, check all fluids, tires, exhaust systems, and all belts and hoses. These are chores that everyone can do. Happy Motoring!
Larry L. Sneary