This Thunderbird would be a solid survivor today. It’s a California car, so there’s no rust, and the body is straight. Replace that front hubcap, and you’d have a fun and very presentable classic car.
One imagines it was chosen as an instigator car partly for its powerful V8 engine, perhaps the 429-cubic-inch Thunder Jet. At 360 gross horsepower, it would be just the ticket for mixing it up on L.A.’s freeways.
In its first appearance, the ‘Bird’s driver cuts a hard left into the path of a school bus.
There isn’t much of an impact, but the Thunderbird blocked off the bus’s front exit.
And then, for some reason, it caught fire.
The fire was extinguished, and the Thunderbird was set loose to create more mayhem in a different episode.
In one of those “CHiPs” abrupt plot twists, the T-bird suddenly inserted itself by racing down an exit ramp and into the path of a decent Ford Galaxie.
It’s a glancing blow to the Galaxie.
The Thunderbird’s driver floors the go-pedal to continue the chase.
That’s some torque the Thunderbird has to spin the rear tire like that.
It leads our hero motorcycle cops to a gravel lot near a chemical storage facility.
From its cornered-animal movements, you get the vibe that this will be the T-bird’s last scene.
And you’d be right. Worn-out sedans from the mid-’60s – in this case a Chrysler Newport – are magnets for “CHiPs” crashes, and this one is no exception in attracting the T-bird.
The helpfully placed barrels soften the rollover’s blow to the Thunderbird’s stunt driver. He did have to duck to avoid the roof’s collapse directly over the driver’s seat.
Of course there’s a fire, and so there are more shots of California‘s finest fighting it.
Check out that bald front tire. No wonder the T-bird was sliding around so much.
And ah, look how rust-free it is. Not a speck of corrosion anywhere underneath.
Then it’s time for the money shot.
This Thunderbird’s original $4,718 sticker price would be about $32,400 in today’s dollars, and about 10,000 of these base hardtops were made for 1968. So even when these episodes were filmed, this T-bird was a relatively rare and pricey car.
But it was also far off the boxy and ornate styling of the 1970s, and in a market where efficient imports were all the rage, this Thunderbird was just an old fuel slurper. And so it met its end in front of an audience of millions.