Thunderbird was all-new from the ground up in 1989, featuring an exterior design destined to further reshape the aero-styling trends of the '80s. It was a leader in technology transfer from racing to production and was among the first vehicles outfitted with Ford's next generation electronic engine control module developed by Ford's Formula One racing program.
Thunderbird first appeared in NASCAR in 1959 winning six races in the top division. The mid-sized Thunderbird is one of the most successful cars in racing history, attracting a legion of fans to Ford. The restyled Thunderbird burst onto the NASCAR circuit in 1982, and went on to win more than 150 races in NASCAR's top division, including four victories in the Daytona 500.
But as the 20th century grew to a close, customer's tastes again shifted away from Thunderbird, as they had in the late 1950s. Continuing sales declines led Ford to announce the 1997 model would be the last - for a time.
Ford soon announced that although the old platform was going away, the Thunderbird nameplate would see a bright future in a very familiar form.
Source: Ford press