Road impressions: Ford Thunderbird For Men Who Like (Crumpets)Women

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SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief

I find it impossible to be politically correct about the new T-bird. It is the ultimate crumpet catcher.

Let me explain.

There simply isn't an other automobile - at any price - that would attract ladies of all shapes, ages and sizes to this extent.

Hard to believe? Rent one, take it to a supermarket parking lot and wait for the invasion. In fact it does not matter where you take it; the result will be the same.

Why is it the bee's knees?

There are several reasons. The T-bird is a generic term, just like GTO or Coke or McDonalds. It is as American as apple pie. Old fogies like me would like one to recapture their youth; young guys would like one for all the above reasons.

The styling is sensational.

People stopped, stared and sometimes even shouted to each other-look, it's the new T bird! I've driven an awful lot of cars over the years and even Ferraris don't have that sort of recognition outside Italy of course.

In principle one can get this car for under 40 thousand dollars, in reality there is a thriving black market. Production is limited, the demand is huge, it is as simple as that. OK, I hear you ask, so what is the big deal?

Well, apart from the good looks and the price it is also a good car. Not great but good. It is built on a shortened platform of the Lincoln LS and S type Jag sedans.

The car I had came with the standard folding top and not with the optional hardtop. As the weather was glorious I certainly would not have needed it. Operating the soft top is a far cry from various other convertibles-you pull down one central lever, press a button and hey presto, you have sunshine! In 8 seconds! With the top up you have a proper -heated- glass rear window, a far cry from that appalling plastic contraption the Porsche Boxster comes with for instance which becomes fogged up, discolored and often cracked.

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The seats are very comfortable and the driving position is excellent. The 4 wheel antilock brakes work well on what is essentially a boulevard cruiser rather than a sportscar.

No, I would not particularly want to race a Porsche 911 or a Ferrari 360 but that is not what this car is all about. First of all you could buy three T birds for the price of the 360 and in some respects you would be a lot better off as I've pointed it out above. Of course you don't have the dynamic refinements of the 100 thousand dollar plus exotics but boy oh boy, would you have more fun 99% of the time.

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The 3.9 liter dohc V8 engine makes all the right noises for an American icon and spares are readily available anywhere in the United States. Try that with a Porsche or a Ferrari. The fuel consumption - as with any car - depends on your right foot but by not thrashing the car I got a perfectly acceptable 21 miles per gallon.

The instrumentation is great with black on white gauges with turquoise needles. Audio and climate controls are fine.

My only problem was that I could have done with a fraction more headroom and legroom.

The trunk, as one would expect looking at the gorgeous, sloping shape is by definition small. I am told that one could fit two golf bags into it although I have problems believing it being a -very bad- golfer.

The standard equipment list is as long as my arm with air conditioning, leather upholstery, bucket seats, power mirrors, in dash 6 disc CD changer and so on. But this car is essentially about looks, about cachet, about affordable luxury.

Of course it is totally unsuitable for the school run- unless you are just taking one very lucky boy or girl- and for families it would have to a second car. Having said that I would anticipate major arguments between husbands and wives as to who gets the keys. It really is that much fun. Don't take my word it; take it for a test drive.

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If the girls still say good-bye after the first date go to your doctor or your shrink because one thing is for sure-it won't be the car's fault

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