The 2002 Thunderbird came to market in the summer of 2001 as a limited niche production model aimed at 20-25,000 units of annual production. It won critical acclaim for its modern interpretation of the classic original roadster styling and was named Motor Trend Magazine's "Car of the Year."
Thunderbird received improvements in the 2003 model year including an upgraded 280-horsepower V-8. In 2005, Ford marked the 50th anniversary of the Thunderbird with a special edition package including a nameplate commemorating the occasion.
On March 10, 2005, Ford announced that the Thunderbird would be discontinued after the 2005 model year and the nameplate would go back into hiatus.