thunderbird mystery drive

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In case people haven't heard about this promotion, Ford is sponsoring a touring test drive program for prospective owners. They're trucking some prototypes around the country and giving people a chance to see how it feels to sit behind the wheel and take a short cruise. Officially, you're supposed to register through your dealer, but it might be faster to call the Mystery Drive hotline directly at 877 843 3250.

One of the tours has been in Northern California for the last couple weeks. Today (8/12) is the last day in the Bay Area and they're heading south later this week. There are also scheduled stops in the Northeast (Philadelphia, New York), and the South (Georgia, Florida, Texas) next month. If you are interested, call or write the MD headquarters at

2002 Ford Thunderbird Mystery Drive Headquarters
P.O. Box 7049
Troy, MI 48007

Finally, I posted this post-ride review in another newsgroup and thought I'd share it again here. Wish I could do it again!

[BON, Thunderbirds, 2002 Thunderbird Mystery Drive ?, 8/6]
I got my test ride on Saturday. It took place near Pt. Reyes in rural Marin. This was the first time I actually got to see the car, let alone drive it. And what a drive! I learned more about the Thunderbird after an hour on the road than everything I had read about it before. Mainly, I discovered it's pure excitement and well worth the wait - no matter how long - until you've got yours sitting in the driveway.

It looked to be a gray day with the Golden Gate socked in fog, but after passing under the rainbow on the Waldo tunnel the sun shone bright in a clear blue sky with a few fleecy clouds. A good omen for the afternoon. As we drove through a tall redwood grove somewhere in the vicinity of Lucas Ranch we were startled to witness the parade - white, yellow, black, red and teal. "Where's the blue?" I wondered because the last bird appeared distinctly green. So sleek, so stunning, so quickly they passed it didn't occur to me to raise the camera sitting in my lap.

We followed the map to its end in Point Reyes Station, a bustling little tourist stop next to the National Seashore and looked in vain for the meeting place. Luckily, we had the street address for a private winery/B&B lodge a few miles out of town. There was no mistaking the huge "Ford Thunderbird Mystery Tour" van parked out front or the T-bird banners and logos flapping in the breeze. Not long after we registered for the drive [bring a valid license] the previous group returned and there they all were in a neat row, including a sky blue model that had undergone a complete transformation from forest green. I was glad I had ordered blue on blue - more surface area for that iridescent hue.

The program staff invited us to check them out, see how it felt to sit under the hardtop and softtop, kick the tires, do anything we felt like doing, and pick the color of our choice. I settled on the elegant black with partial red interior since it would likely be my only chance to drive one.

I invited Len, a 6'3" Icelander, who is quite knowledgable about European sports cars to share the drive and help critique the performance. He had no trouble with height or legroom, although it was close with the softtop up. I was pleasantly surprised about the trunk space. I had packed a fairly large duffel to check the fit. I estimate it could accommodate three more bags of the same size.

Then it was time to take to the road. They tossed us the keys and told us to be back in about 50 minutes when the next drive was scheduled. We were given a turn by turn route guide with exact milages. It was a well laid course with a good combination of hills and turns and straightaways. There was no chaperone and it felt like we were on our own the whole distance.

I did the first half and tried to put the car through its paces. It handled as well as any car I've ever driven, including a number of high end prototypes I drove on the Dearborn proving grounds when I was a test engineer in the 70's. It took every hill with ease, accelerated into and out of turns like a dream. We ran into some traffic(!) in Pt. Reyes, but even that was a blast with friendly waves from pedestrians and cyclists at every stop.

Len took over at midpoint and I brought out my little handycam to record the second half. He was intent on seeing what she could do and got it up to 90-100mph on the safer stretches. The CHP must have been enjoying the fine weather - not a patrol car in sight. In a word, he was wowwed. The shifts were smooth as silk with the tach reaching 6500rpm on every step. I recorded a long string of superlatives on tape. That and a first rate re-recording of "Endless Summer". The Beach Boys were a much better accompaniment than the wimpy jazz audio CD Ford provided.

The only bad part was having it come to an end. I really, really hated leaving that car. So much so I accidently [subconsciously?] walked away with the key fob in my pocket. We were about 15 minutes late getting back, but that wasn't a problem as it turned out. The next round was underbooked and I was invited to take it out a second time. The temptation was strong, but my friend had to get back and I decided extending the dream wouldn't make the wait any easier.

We did stop to sample the ample lunch buffet they provided and indulge in a little wine tasting at the lodge. I was told there would be a second Mystery Drive near the same location this week and invited to come back. I have the feeling there are plenty of available spaces and anyone who finds their way there would be welcome, so get on the phone if you're still waiting.

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