ISO 2002-2005 Owner feedback

T

Tbirdtony49

Click here to upgrade
Last seen
Joined
Jan 5, 2024
Thunderbird Year
None
Hi,
I am new to the forum. I am a retired aerospace engineer who has restored many old Fords in the past as a hobby. Some of them include a 57 Tbird, 55 Crown Victoria, 65 Mustang coupe and fastback, and 68 Shelby GT500. I'll be 75 in a few days but the classic car hobby is still calling me back. I am thinking of purchasing a 2002 - 2005 Tbird for pleasure drives and car cruises and I would appreciate comments from 2002 - 2005 Tbird owners on the reliability, parts availability, electronics issues, and overall positive or negative thoughts on these vehicles. Thank you.

Tbirdtony
Beaver, PA
 
I love my 2003. I think that you should avoid the 2002. They got most of the bugs worked out and the 03-05 are identical. I am a fairly capable mechanic and there is nothing scary about this vehicle except for the plastic engine parts... Be careful changing out the plugs and coils (you will do this frequently). Try to find a 50k to 70k example with the matching hardtop. I am pretty tall and the convertible left a bit to be desired in the headroom department but the hard top was fine. Good luck!
 
This information you seek is posted throughout the site. Check out the search page and start reading past posts.

One example-
 
I love my 2003. I think that you should avoid the 2002. They got most of the bugs worked out and the 03-05 are identical. I am a fairly capable mechanic and there is nothing scary about this vehicle except for the plastic engine parts... Be careful changing out the plugs and coils (you will do this frequently). Try to find a 50k to 70k example with the matching hardtop. I am pretty tall and the convertible left a bit to be desired in the headroom department but the hard top was fine. Good luck!
I agree with John S I would go for 2003-05
 
Hi,
I am new to the forum. I am a retired aerospace engineer who has restored many old Fords in the past as a hobby. Some of them include a 57 Tbird, 55 Crown Victoria, 65 Mustang coupe and fastback, and 68 Shelby GT500. I'll be 75 in a few days but the classic car hobby is still calling me back. I am thinking of purchasing a 2002 - 2005 Tbird for pleasure drives and car cruises and I would appreciate comments from 2002 - 2005 Tbird owners on the reliability, parts availability, electronics issues, and overall positive or negative thoughts on these vehicles. Thank you.

Tbirdtony
Beaver, PA
I have a 2003 Bird with 21,000 miles. I drive it when the weather is good mostly in the summer, and it is a great ride. It is not particularly sophisticated even by 2003 standards, but it is a solid and pleasant ride (and it looks great). I have had it a couple of years and have not had an instance to need any parts, so I can't testify to the availability of same.
 
I have a 2003 Bird with 21,000 miles. I drive it when the weather is good mostly in the summer, and it is a great ride. It is not particularly sophisticated even by 2003 standards, but it is a solid and pleasant ride (and it looks great). I have had it a couple of years and have not had an instance to need any parts, so I can't testify to the availability of same.
 
I have a 2004 Merlot Thunderbird that I purchased in 2021. My wife and I took it on Route 66 from Chicago to California and back home to Ohio via the northern route. We were on the road 28 days and 6,300 miles. There something about driving a Thunderbird on Route 66, on a sunny 75 degree day with the top down that can’t be described.

Great Cruiser

doug7740
1955 Thunderbird Blue
 
I have a 2004 Merlot Thunderbird that I purchased in 2021. My wife and I took it on Route 66 from Chicago to California and back home to Ohio via the northern route. We were on the road 28 days and 6,300 miles. There something about driving a Thunderbird on Route 66, on a sunny 75 degree day with the top down that can’t be described.

Great Cruiser

doug7740
1955 Thunderbird Blue
Great trip
 
I agree with the other comments. Even though the '03 /'05 are considered identical, I think the '05 had most of the problems ironed out and is the best choice. We bought ours new, 47k and only a few problems. Great, powerful, solid car that gets 25mpg on the highway and great fun to drive. I get complements every time I take it out. Still looks and runs new. Get one before they (or you) can't enjoy it.
 
I have owned my 2002 black and white(hardtop)from Day 1, and purchased it from a dealer in Illinois who tried to convince me that I should let him have it in exchange for a solid black one. Ha! It has always been the coolest car on the road. I even convinced my husband to have it's own garage built, so it never saw a flake of snow.
After we retired in 2016, we had it transported to our winter home outside of Phoenix. It now has 65,000 miles on it and it is my winter ride.

As beautiful as it is, I agree that the 2002's had tons of problems. I have had the fuel pumps (yes, there are two)replaced twice over the years. Last year, my mechanic discovered a crack in the gas tank and it took him a week of searching the Southwest to find a used one(no, he would not solder the crack, as some have suggested).
The car has quirks that I have gotten used to(i.e. the map lights won't go off unless you completely turn off the headlights). The tires need to be specially balanced(thanks, Forum, for that info!)so that the car doesn't vibrate at 80 mph.

But if you can perform your own repairs, go for it! The Forum is a great source of information! And have fun!
 
I owned a 73 Corvette for nearly 20 years and restored about 60% of it. I've owned my 2002 for 3 years that I purchased from my dad's wife when he could no longer drive. It now has 73K on the odometer. I'm a shade tree mechanic at best and found that working on my old Corvette was in many ways easier. Everything was easy to reach and replace and there were no computer modules, sensors etc... to troubleshoot.

My dad had things serviced before I took ownership, so I can only talk to the last 3 years. So far I have had to replace the power steering pressure switch and need to replace a speed sensor for the ABS. I just got a check engine light which I believe is an O2 sensor. Like many I need to service the failing rubber suspension bushings. All in all there is nothing that has been too technical that I could not do myself.

With some basic research you can quickly figure out the common issues on Tbirds that you can look out for and inspect before purchase.
 
I bought our 2005 50th Anniversary special edition (I didn't realize it was one of the numbered ones until I got it home!) in 2002. It has 63,000 miles and is a wonderful ride. It's a cruiser, not a sports car and is truly a pleasure. Many compliments when out, although that's not why I bought it. I had always liked them, and finally was lucky enough to get one. I had an '05 Corvette for 11 years and enjoyed it as well, but this Thunderbird is much better suited to my advanced age (74.) I really enjoy it.
 
I forgot to write in my last post I'm 74 yrs old too and this car makes me feel 34 !
 
Hi,
I am new to the forum. I am a retired aerospace engineer who has restored many old Fords in the past as a hobby. Some of them include a 57 Tbird, 55 Crown Victoria, 65 Mustang coupe and fastback, and 68 Shelby GT500. I'll be 75 in a few days but the classic car hobby is still calling me back. I am thinking of purchasing a 2002 - 2005 Tbird for pleasure drives and car cruises and I would appreciate comments from 2002 - 2005 Tbird owners on the reliability, parts availability, electronics issues, and overall positive or negative thoughts on these vehicles. Thank you.

Tbirdtony
Beaver, PA
When I was going to purchase my 2004, I drove it normally and then aggressively to make sure there was no delayed transmission engagement at low speeds and turning corners and there were no hard jerks of the transmission engaging.

Check out everything electrical, the electronic modules are big ticket items. Make sure the dash lights and shift indicator lights work, if they don't the the Front Electrical Module is probably defective.

Make sure the ignition coils and the wiper motor bracket seal campaign was performed.

You may want to check and make sure the latches for the top unfasten and fasten and don't forget to operate the convertible top. The tonneau cover for when the convertible is folded down and the hard top are included with the car.

Make sure the car comes with two sets of keys; a replacement set keys from Ford is costly.

Put the vehicle on a lift so you can check the brakes, tires, suspension, and the underside for any leaks or damage. Deteriorating suspension bushings are common.

Connect a scan tool, (if you have one), to the car's Data Link Connector so you can check to see if there are any fault codes in any of the control modules.

doug7740
1955 Thunderbird Blue
 
Great trip
Driving a classic Thunderbird on Route 66 has always been on my “Bucket List”, so on September 18th we left for Chicago to start our 13 day Route 66 adventure driving the 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. Instead of taking our 1955 Thunderbird, my wife and I decided that we wanted our journey to be a more comfortable one, so we drove our 2004 Retro Bird instead. This is only a small sample of the many stops we made.

Determining the official “starting” point of Route 66 has changed over the years. The starting point sign is at the corner of Adams and Wabash. Due to the creation of one-way streets downtown, the accurate beginning of Route 66 is actually at the corner of Michigan and Jackson.

We headed out of the Windy City and towards the gentle farmland of Central Illinois. We stopped at Ambler’s Texaco Station in Dwight Illinois, which was the longest operating gas station on Route 66 until they shut down their pumps 1999. Another “house and canopy” style filling station we stopped at was the Standard Oil Station in Odell, Illinois which was built in 1932. And of course we stopped at Pontiac, Illinois, one of the best examples of a town embracing their location on Route 66.

The flat cornfields of Illinois give way to the Ozarks rolling foothills as we explore Missouri’s Route 66. The giant rocking chair at Fanning Outpost is a major photo opportunity. Gary’s Sinclair Station has always been a favorite stop. Gary is no longer with us, but his daughter and her husband have picked up the torch and now run the place.

Route 66 passes through Kansas for a whopping 11 miles. The main draw is the restored filling station “Cars on the Route”. Then you can drive on the last remaining “Rainbow” arch type bridge on Route 66, built in 1923.

In Oklahoma, the most photographed roadside attraction on Route 66 is the Blue Whale of Catoosa. This 80-foot long Blue Whale was an anniversary gift from Hugh Davis to his wife Zelta. Reaching more than 65 feet in the sky, Pops Soda Ranch has the “World’s Largest Soda Bottle” and is one of the newest attractions on Route 66. The Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma takes visitors through the entire history of the Mother Road. The first thing people gravitate to is the Corvette cutout, too bad it wasn’t a Thunderbird, but it’s perfect for a cheesy Route 66 photo.

We said goodbye to Oklahoma and hello to the panhandle of Texas. The word “Texas” is thought to be derived from a Caddo Indian word meaning “friends”. In every state we traveled along Route 66, the people we met were some of the friendliest people that you could ever meet. In the words of Gary Turner from Gary’s Sinclair Station in Missouri; “Once you meet, you were friends for life”.

Cadillac Ranch is one of the most iconic pieces of roadside art in the United States. Here you will find ten Cadillacs buried nose down at an angle. Spray painting one of the Cadillacs is a rite of passage. One of the most beautiful art deco filling stations in the country is U-Drop Inn and Tower Conoco Service Station. You will recognize it as “Ramone’s Body Shop” from the movie Cars. The Midpoint Café in Adrian, Texas is appropriately named, because it is located at the midpoint of Route 66.

The great plains of the Texas panhandle lead right to the state line of New Mexico as the lush farmland turns sandier and sandier. The 66 Diner is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you like classic 1950s diners, bright neon and good old fashioned Rock ‘n Roll, the 66 Diner is the place for you. Santa Fe, New Mexico is a unique and beautiful city. At 7,199 feet it is the highest town on the original Route 66. You can’t drive through Grants, New Mexico without getting a picture at the historic Route 66 drive thru sign.

As the cities of Albuquerque and Grants fade away into the vast emptiness, we travel on to Arizona. The Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park that has a portion of the original Route 66 within its borders. The original roadbed is marked by telephone poles as it stretches into vast nothingness. The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona has 15 teepees arranged in a U shape and there are a number of 1950s and ‘60s vintage cars parked around the property. Whether or not you’re a fan of the Eagles, most modern day travelers are familiar with the famous line from the song “Take it Easy”. Winslow, Arizona re-created the scene along the original route of Route 66.

Our next stop was to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As we were looking at the Grand Canyon we realized what a beautiful country we live in. Seligman, Arizona is responsible for the resurgence of Route 66, thanks to Angel Delgadillo. After the interstate came, Angel watched the entire town economy evaporate from his little barbershop on Route 66. Angel worked with other business owners to form the Route 66 Association.

We stopped in Oatman, Arizona, which is a replica of an old western town. The town’s biggest attraction is the wild burros that walk the streets greeting visitors and trying to get a free meal. The stores in the town will sell you cubes to feed the burros. Sitgreaves Pass is definitely not for a squeamish driver. This steep portion of the original Route 66 contains some of the tightest hairpin curves found on the route.

Amboy, California is practically a ghost town except for one very cool Route 66 relic: Roy’s Motel and Café. Its iconic sign and surrounding landscape make it a favorite place for pictures. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch with its metal sculptures and old highway memorabilia, appears as an oasis in the middle of the desert. It is one of the newer sights on Route 66, opened in 2000 and has over 200 different works of art.

After 13 days and 2,448 miles, on October 1st we drove to the end of Route 66 and to the Santa Monica Pier. Our Retro Bird was dirty, dusty and all the bugs it could catch in the grill, but we made memories we will never forget. The one thing I learned from our adventure is; “It’s about the journey and not the destination”.

doug7740
1955 Thunderbird Blue
 
Hi,
I am new to the forum. I am a retired aerospace engineer who has restored many old Fords in the past as a hobby. Some of them include a 57 Tbird, 55 Crown Victoria, 65 Mustang coupe and fastback, and 68 Shelby GT500. I'll be 75 in a few days but the classic car hobby is still calling me back. I am thinking of purchasing a 2002 - 2005 Tbird for pleasure drives and car cruises and I would appreciate comments from 2002 - 2005 Tbird owners on the reliability, parts availability, electronics issues, and overall positive or negative thoughts on these vehicles. Thank you.

Tbirdtony
Beaver, PA
Hey Tbirdtony49,
I have 2002 TBird and it is perfect for pleasure drives and cruising. I have a positive experience with this car and have owned it for 2 1/2 years. Evap, Emissions system, fuel system issues have been fairly minor, but parts can be tricky to find. This car always gets looks and smiles!
 
I forgot to mention in my last post that I am 72, but my Bird makes me LOOK 32! And Otto(pictured)loves riding in the passenger seat(with his seat cover, of course).
 
Hi,
I am new to the forum. I am a retired aerospace engineer who has restored many old Fords in the past as a hobby. Some of them include a 57 Tbird, 55 Crown Victoria, 65 Mustang coupe and fastback, and 68 Shelby GT500. I'll be 75 in a few days but the classic car hobby is still calling me back. I am thinking of purchasing a 2002 - 2005 Tbird for pleasure drives and car cruises and I would appreciate comments from 2002 - 2005 Tbird owners on the reliability, parts availability, electronics issues, and overall positive or negative thoughts on these vehicles. Thank you.

Tbirdtony
Beaver, PA
I have a Bronze 2005, 38,000 miles, with hardtop, Black Ink interior and convertible top > absolutely love the car and as other owners have opined, the 2005 50th Anniversary has most of the earlier bugs worked out > the only things I have had to do after five years of ownership are to replace all failed or failing front and rear suspension parts and to upgrade the rotors and calipers with Powerstop items > all necessary parts were readily available and not too pricey.
 
Hi,
I am new to the forum. I am a retired aerospace engineer who has restored many old Fords in the past as a hobby. Some of them include a 57 Tbird, 55 Crown Victoria, 65 Mustang coupe and fastback, and 68 Shelby GT500. I'll be 75 in a few days but the classic car hobby is still calling me back. I am thinking of purchasing a 2002 - 2005 Tbird for pleasure drives and car cruises and I would appreciate comments from 2002 - 2005 Tbird owners on the reliability, parts availability, electronics issues, and overall positive or negative thoughts on these vehicles. Thank you.

Tbirdtony
Beaver, PA
I'm 85 and was weary of driving my 1952 Ford in modern traffic without airbags & seatbelts, etc. I considered restomoding it, then it hit me. Ford did that with the retro-bird. I love it. My advice is buy a low mileage car to reduce your needs for parts & service. My 2004 has 14K miles & drives like new.
 
Back
Top