1968 Ford Thunderbird Landau Coupe 429 V8 from North America
My dream car of all time
I bought this car 25 years ago and have only put on 3000 miles. This is a super low mileage, well preserved car. I drove it for a bit in the late 90's, but stopped simply because I wanted to keep it in low mileage original condition.
The original owner drove the car for 4 years until 1972, then parked it in their garage until they passed away in 1989. Turns out the ignition coil was failing, creating random stalling. Maybe their mechanic could not diagnose the problem so it was parked. I installed a generic coil and it ran fine.
Fords of this era were notorious for frame rust due to improperly processed "recycled" steel used in the manufacture. The floor and sheet metal of my car was pristine, but some of the frame rusted away to nothing. A local welding shop ingeniously designed, fabricated and installed 2 new frame sections using box-section steel. Works perfectly.
This car has a super-strong 9 3/8" rear end, with factory 2.80 gears. The retaining pin on the spider-gear shaft had sheared, allowing the shaft to slide around, creating random clicking noises. I replaced the center section with a 9" rear from a '67 Thunderbird. Fit perfectly and gave me 3.00:1 gears. This ratio was optional in these cars.
The car still had the factory original belts and hoses, which I replaced. The radiator was leaking so I replaced it with a good used one from a Ford Torino of that era. Fits fine. Changed the heater core too, due to a slight leak, from age. I could not find an original lower rad hose to fit, so I bought one from a late '70s Ford truck with a 460 and adapted it. A bit of trimming, 2 hose clamps and a short section of exhaust pipe allowed me to reshape the hose for a good fit.
17 years of storage had rusted the gas tank, which I had professionally cleaned and coated. The carb was gummed up due to old gas. A rebuild, along with new points, plugs, wires, condenser had the engine working perfectly.
And what an engine! The 429 V8 is astonishing, super-powerful, builds revs very, very fast for a big V8, and it hurls this 3800 lb car down the highway astonishingly fast. It has a big bore, short stroke with decent heads, hence the power and rev-happy characteristics. I installed a set of rare 429 Cobra-Jet exhaust manifolds, along with a free flowing dual exhaust. Other than that, the engine is stock.
It has a high 10.5:1 compression ratio. It demands the highest octane unleaded available, along with a lead supplement for the exhaust valves, or else it pings. Fuel economy is poor by modern standards, but not bad compared to other larger cars of the era.
The transmission is the original C6, tuned for pretty soft shifts. I installed a mild shift kit to firm things up; works well. The driveshaft is interesting. It's a complex thing, with two double-Cardan joints, and a fully rubber-insulated shaft, to reduce noise and vibration. Pretty heavy, but works well.
I installed new front brake calipers, rotors and pads. All other brake parts, including the rear drums and shoes are factory original from 1968 and work fine. The brakes work well, no fade.
The previous owner did not grease anything, so the original ball joints were worn, and got replaced. I installed gas-pressure front shocks, which work great. The rear shocks are factory original. Surprisingly they work well after all these years.
The car likes going in a straight line. Sharp turns make the car lean and understeer badly, even with modern tires. The front swaybar is very small, allowing lots of lean. The front and rear suspension are the same as the Ford Galaxies of the era, so aftermarket performance or police-car spec swaybars are available. I put in some polyurethane swaybar links and bushings, which did not help much.
But in a straight line, or gentle corners, it's excellent, tracks in a straight line, super smooth, quiet and inspires confidence for high speed travel. Acceleration off the line is brutal, and will easily light-up the rear tires all the way through first gear and into second. I don't do this much because I don't want to turn the tires into smoke.
The ride is comfortable, firmer than a typical luxury car, but on the softer side of things. The interior is well done, comfortable buckets, nice console and better-than-average materials. Lots of sound insulation, very quiet. Huge steering wheel. Compared to modern cars, the windshield feels very close to the driver.
Other than the Landau package, my car was a no-option car. Manual windows and locks, no A/C, which made repairs easier. The hideaway headlights work fine. The sequential turn signals use a neat little electro-mechanical flasher unit that is finicky. It must be kept clean and well-lubed or else the turn signals do not work.
The car is remarkably space-efficient, for the time. The interior is roomy, the trunk is huge and very deep, yet the car is reasonably compact on the outside... for a 60's American car. Unlike other cars of the day, there is not much wasted space.
The engine mounts are the non-safety type. A broke rubber portion will allow the engine to break loose, which is not so safe. I used a small piece of chain and a turnbuckle to chain one side to the frame, as a torque strap.
The bolt pattern for the wheels is standard Ford. I bought some used aluminum rims from an '80s Marquis that fit well. They look great and save some weight.
Owning this car is wonderful. Comfortable, fast, smooth, quiet, reasonably roomy. Easy and straightforward to repair. Reliable, proven, durable components. Ultra-cool - looks like some kind of retro-60s spaceship. Turns a lot of heads, lots of people notice notice and nobody under 50 knows what it is. It's really well done in every way (except for rust resistance). Very cool.
Finally, I love this car. This car has been my dream car since I first noticed them at 5 years old. I will never, ever sell it. When I'm gone, my son gets it or my wife will bury me in it... not sure.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 23rd November, 2014