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by Steve Siler

Ford Thunderbird
2003 Ford Thunderbird
Given just how winsome Ford's "heritage-inspired" Thunderbird is (it's not retro, Ford insists…), some may find it surprising that the T-Bird will fly home for the winter in 2005 and not come back. Slow sales of the decidedly not-cheap luxury roadster have cast a dark cloud over the 'bird's future. Sad news? Not necessarily. In fact, now could be your time to cash in and get a collectible car with timeless beauty and sex appeal in droves for a very reasonable price (thanks to attractive dealer incentives).

From a design standpoint, no one can really argue with the classic proportions of the T-Bird's saucy body. Its steep, low windshield adds raciness to its already low-flying fuselage. The sparing but effective use of straight, longitudinal cutlines and body seams add optical length and visual extravagance. We particularly like how the contours introduced at the big, round headlights stretches back all the way back to the similarly sized and shaped "afterburner" taillights. Twin exhaust tips add a touch of attitude to an overall design that is conveys more elegance than sportiness, just like the classic 'Birds from the Fifties.

The big 'Bird features an interior that is a nice blend of contemporary and classic elements. The dashboard will look familiar to anyone who has been in a Lincoln LS before, although only that of the Thunderbird is decorated with broad swaths of aluminum trim. The instruments are ivory-faced with black lettering and turquoise needles. Some well-placed and [thankfully] subtle Thunderbird icons also have turquoise stripes along the wings, including one located in the handy storage space found just aft of the seats. Speaking of seats, the Thunderbird's comfy buckets can be ordered in all-black, or a black with contrasting inserts in white, red or blue. New for 2003, however, is the addition of an elegant saddle leather hue that is quite evocative not of past T-Birds but old Italian sports cars.

The 2003 Thunderbird performs like no 'Bird before it, thanks to the standard 3.9-liter, 280-hp V-8. The suspension does a fine job of keeping you planted, albeit coupled with some floatiness that you won't find in any of the more sporting vehicles in this guide. That's okay, because this car is not about attacking the back roads. The Thunderbird is all about flying in style, whether you're cruising to the beach, to the mall, or the sock-hop. It's pure, all-American style. Get one while you can.

Price: $35K-$40K