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America in the late 1950s produced a host of magnificent designs. But enough about me. Let’s talk about the rebirth of the classic Ford Thunderbird, which, after months of delays, is finally here and well worth the wait. To begin with the obvious, the car just looks fantastic. The Thunderbird must surely be one of the coolest and sexiest cars available. The new ‘Bird really is a design masterpiece, incorporating the classic aesthetic aspects of the earliest models with updates that make it unmistakably contemporary and fresh. The new Thunderbird is as alluring today as the original was back in 1955. My torch-red review car had gorgeous red-and-black leather seats along with a fit and finish that transcended its price class. The car literally stopped traffic as numerous motorists asked where they could get one. And quick trips to the market turned into lengthy parking lot gatherings of onlookers and admirers. Equally important, the Thunderbird’s road manners are a match for its good looks. Ford has struck a nice medium between luxury and performance, using the same platform as the Lincoln LS and Jaguar-S types. The rear-wheel drive Thunderbird is well balanced, with its wheels pushed out to the corners to aid in precise handling. No, the ‘Bird is no Porsche, but on backcountry roads it’s easy to control and always steady and reassuring. On the highway, the Thunderbird shines. Acceleration from the 252-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-8 is brisk. High-speed road manners are as good as they are with any luxury car in this class, with an engine that’s quiet at cruising speed and virtually no wind noise. With the top up, in fact, there are none of the “clamshell” visibility problems one experiences with most of today’s convertibles. It’s not all perfection, however. The main problem is that, while the Thunderbird’s seats look luscious and adjust easily, they don’t offer much in the way of lumbar or lateral support. Also, taller drivers may find themselves cramped by the raised soft top once they’ve achieved a proper driving position (the Thunderbird is also available with a removable hard top). Another issue is that the speedometer needs to be more precise, since increments of 20 mph are often not fine enough for ticket-free city driving. Despite these cavils, Ford’s new Thunderbird is not only a modern American classic but also a great road car at a great price. M.S.R.P.: $35,695. Price as tested: $39,795 MILEAGE: 17 city/23 highway WARRANTY: 3 year/36,000 mile

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