1968 Ford Thunderbird Landau Coupe 429 V8 from North America

Summary:

My dream car of all time

Faults:

Frame rust.

Ball joints.

Differential.

Ignition coil.

General Comments:

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

1968 Ford Thunderbird 429 Thunderjet from North America

Summary:

429 Thunderjet oh ya!

Faults:

Drive shaft u joints.

Freeze plugs.

General Comments:

I bought this car for $50. It was sitting in someone's driveway not running. I bought a new battery, did a tune up and put a new 2 1/2" dual exhaust w/hush thrush mufflers. I took it out of the shop for a test drive, and lit the back tires up for about 200 feet. That car had a mountain of torque. I had a lot of fun with that car, and never turned down a race and never got beat, even when it was the PD. :o.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 16th November, 2010

1968 Ford Thunderbird Landau Coupe 429 Thunderjet from North America

Summary:

Never been rebuilt after almost 250,000 miles! Runs great!

Faults:

Transmission started leaking slightly at about 75,000m.

Starter motor died at 210,000m.

Steering box started leaking some power steering fluid at 230,000m.

Some rust just above rear wheel lips.

General Comments:

This car is amazing!

It's closing in on 250,000 miles and has yet to be rebuilt once.

The big 429 has enough power to push this 6000lb car to 15 second quarter mile times. Which is usually enough to whoop up on 5.0 Mustangs and more than it's fair share of Camaros and Firebirds.

It's floaty, like most Fords from the era, but that's what makes driving it so nice. Most comfortable car I've ever driven.

It has 2.90 highway gearing, so gas mileage is surprisingly good. Even though you have to fill up with the highest octane you can find... which can sometimes be difficult.

Other than the problems I listed before, the only other problem with the car is sometimes you have to jiggle the gear lever around in park to start the car, because of the safety switch which keeps you from starting the car in gear.

All in all, I'd have to say it's one great and often overlooked piece of engineering history.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 23rd October, 2007

5th Apr 2009, 12:31

Good review but here are a couple of correction on your stats.

These cars do not weigh 6000 lbs. Depending on equipment and number of doors (the 4 door cars were slightly longer and heavier), they weigh 4100 - 4500 lbs.

Also, your rear end gear ratio was not 2.90:1. The stock ratio was 2.80:1, with an optional 3.00:1 ratio.