The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released its latest Hot Wheels Classics vehicle theft report on another automotive icon, the Ford Thunderbird.
The first Thunderbird rolled off Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., assembly line on Sept. 9, 1954, and went on sale on Oct. 22, 1954, as a 1955 model. The Thunderbird was an instant hit, and sales grew steadily.
The Thunderbird went through several design changes over its life, and production halted after the 1997 model year. Production resumed in 2001 with a look reminiscent of its 1955 ancestor and lasted through the 2005 model year when the Thunderbird finally ended its run with a 50th anniversary limited edition.
Work on the concept for a Ford sports car began in 1953 when Ford authorized its engineers and designers to create a two-seat convertible weighing 2,525 pounds, equipped with Ford’s Interceptor V-8 engine and the ability to reach a top speed of more than 100 mph.
Naming the new car was not easy until a young Ford stylist, Alden Giberson, submitted the name Thunderbird. It was inspired by the legend of the Thunderbird, a mythical creature that is popular in the culture of the many indigenous peoples of North America. It was an instant winner.
The base sticker price of $2,695 included the removable hardtop, but not the soft top. Clock, tachometer, power-operated seats and a 292 CID V-8 engine also were standard equipment. However, practically none of the early Thunderbirds left the dealership without either overdrive or automatic transmission and most of the power options. Prices of the 1955 models ranged from $3,000 to $4,000.
Beginning with the 1958 model, Ford moved production of the Thunderbird from Dearborn to its Wixom, Mich., assembly plant where it remained until Ford retired the nameplate in 2005. A total of 4.3 million Thunderbirds were produced over its life span.
Sales vs. Thefts
As with other classic cars, many of them capture the interest of thieves, as well as enthusiasts and collectors. The Thunderbird is no different.
NICB reviewed Thunderbird theft data from 1981-2011 and identified 179,625 theft records. Although theft records exist from 1955, only theft records from 1981 on are included in this report. That was the year when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required vehicle identification number (VIN) standardization.
In 1981, a total of 9,914 Thunderbirds were reported stolen. For the 30-year span reviewed by NICB, the 1978 Thunderbird was the most stolen model year with 14,288 thefts reported.
|Top 10 Model Year Thefts|
|Rank||Model Year||Total Thefts|
|Top 10 Theft Years 1981-2011|
|Rank||Theft Year||Total Thefts|
|Top 10 Theft States 1981-2011|
During the 30-year period from 1981-2011, a total of 179,625 Thunderbirds were reported stolen in the United States and Puerto Rico. From 1955-2005, a total of 4.3 million were sold. The year with the most U.S. sales was 1977 with 304,430 sold. The year with the fewest Thunderbird sales was 1998 when just 2,243 units were sold.
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