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Riding with the BIG BIRD

One owner's spacious 1972 Ford Thunderbird

By David Rubin

1972 T-bird-2

Kent Stebbins has owned his 1972 Ford Thunderbird for about 15 years, having purchased it from his grandfather in 2005. His grandfather purchased the car five years earlier from the original owner, an older gentleman who drove the car sparingly. When we first caught up with the Thunderbird in 2016 at the 45th Annual Roaring ’20’s Antique and Classic Car Show in Southbury, Conn., the T-bird had only 59,000 miles on the odometer. Stebbins takes the car out as often as possible, adding a few hundred miles a year while driving to many old car gatherings around his home in central Connecticut.

After Stebbins took ownership of the car, he installed a new Edelbrock carburetor, serviced the rear brakes and replaced all four tires, which he assumed were originals. The car’s standard 212-hp 429-cid V-8 runs strong (a 460-cid V-8 was optional), sending ample power through the automatic three-speed C-6 transmission.

The dark green metallic Thunderbird has a striking appearance with a colossal presence, and coupled with its relative rarity, it stands out on a show field. Although 57,814 Thunderbirds were built for the 1972 model year, few examples of this generation of Thunderbird are regulars at cruise nights or car shows. Unless you are an active member of a Thunderbird club, or you watch a lot of “CHiPs” or “Starsky and Hutch” reruns, you probably don’t see these cars often.

The T-bird’s competition in 1972 included the Cadillac Eldorado (40,074 built); Lincoln Continental Mark IV (48,591), with which the Thunderbird shared a body and chassis; Buick Riviera (less than 34,000); and the Oldsmobile Toronado (about 49,000 made). Chrysler’s Imperial LeBaron coupe sold only 2322 units in 1972. The lower-priced Thunderbird beat them all from a production standpoint.

The 1972 Thunderbirds were the first of the model’s sixth generation. They enjoyed a big production increase from the previous year (up 60 percent over 1971 ), not surprising for the first model run of a new generation. The 1973 models were even more popular, however, moving 87,269 units that year according to “The Standard Catalog of Ford.”

With a 120.4-in. wheelbase and a total length of 17 ft., 10 in., the 1972s were the longest Thunderbirds to date, but they were not the heaviest. That distinction goes to the fourth-generation Landau models that weighed in at 4,586 lbs. versus Stebbins’ Thunderbird at 4,420 lbs.

Old Cars Report Price Guide currently lists a value of $19,200 for a 429-equipped 1972 Thunderbird in No. 1 condition and a $8640 in driver-quality No. 3 condition.

1972 was the year the one-millionth Thunderbird was built, so thanks, Kent Stebbins, for preserving and sharing a one-in-a-million Thunderbird!

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