A new Thunderbird might give the C8 Corvette trouble, but it needs to have a few aces up its sleeve in order to stand a chance.by Dim Angelov, on
The Ford vs Chevy rivalry is one of the oldest and biggest in automotive history. The two American carmakers have been going at it, across the lineup for decades. We have the Mustang vs Camaro, F-Series vs Silverado, and Bronco vs Trailblazer, but before all of those there was the Thunderbird vs C1 Corvette. And guess what, the Thunderbird wiped the floor with the Corvette, in the 1950s, outselling it 23 to 1.
That said, while the Corvette went on to become America’s definitive sports car, the Thunderbird went the luxurious route, eventually becoming a mildly-mannered coupe/convertible, eventually disappearing from the brand’s lineup.
We recently got reports that Ford is benchmarking a Torch Red C8 Corvette in Dearborn. In addition, the Blue Oval filed a trademark for the Thunderbird name back in January, which means the Thunderbird name might return on a mid-engine C8 competitor. With this in mind, here’s what a mid-engine C8 competitor from Ford would need in order to give the Corvette a run for its money.
It needs to be mass-produced
It may sound counter-intuitive for a high-performance mid-engine sports car, but the fact is the C8 Corvette, despite its performance capabilities, is not as exclusive as something made by Ferrari or McLaren. This means that Ford might need to tone down the cutting-edge tech that went into their flagship, the Ford GT. Nevertheless, the C8 competitor from Ford is bound to share components with the GT, as it wouldn’t make sense to develop a brand new platform, given that they already have one.
It needs to be relatively affordable
The C8 Corvette is one of the biggest performance car bargains currently out there.
No other manufacturer currently offers a mid-engine V-8 performance car that does 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in under 3.0 seconds, with a starting price of $58,900.
This is due to the economy of scale and GM’s business plan, which involves reduced profit margins and lower production costs, through the use of less exotic materials like carbon fiber. GM is also using more recycled parts and has limited customization – something that can be countered with the enormous aftermarket support, offered for many of GM’s more exciting products.
With this in mind, Ford’s C8 competitor needs to follow a similar philosophy, as it would need to offer the mid-engine Thunderbird at a similar price. This inevitably means that the C8 rival will be positioned under the highly exclusive Ford GT.
Ford will need to be able to produce a lot of cars per day
The Chevrolet Corvette C8 is currently a big hit. So much so that GM cannot cope with demand. This is also one of the main reasons, the more high-performance Corvette versions are being delayed by an (at least) year.
Currently, an average of 186 C8 Corvettes are leaving the factory, which although more than any other mid-engine high-performance car, is not nearly enough to satisfy demand. Ford will need to plan ahead, in order to cope with the potentially enormous demand for their C8 competitor.
It will need to have an appropriate engine
There’s no denying that the C8 is a properly quick car.
Its 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V-8 produces up to 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet (637 Nm) and is mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.
This allows for a 2.9-second run to 60 mph and a top speed of up to 194 mph (312 km/h).
At the very least, Ford’s mid-engine analog will need to match these numbers. The question is, which engine will it use? In terms of packaging the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost would make the most sense, as it has already been fitted in a mid-engine car – the Ford GT. We expect a de-tuned version, as it wouldn’t make sense for the C8 rival to match the GT’s power output. Perhaps a Shelby version would do that to match the C8 Z06 when it finally makes its debut.
We predict a power output of around 500 horsepower and 510 pound-feet (691 Nm). It would also have to share the GT’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, as it is, to our knowledge, the only gearbox used in a mid-engine layout.
Ford might have to consider making a hybrid or even EV version
A true C8 Competitor should be able to match it on every turn. We already know that Chevrolet is working on a version called the E-Ray – an all-wheel-drive hybrid version of the C8 Corvette. Although the V-8-powered versions are still the main talk, hybrid and EV supercars are slowly getting more and more acceptance.
We’ve already seen that there is a market for high-performance hybrids and EVs, so Ford might do well to consider making an electric Thunderbird. They already did this with the F-150 Lightning, so it would make sense to replicate the formula for the Thunderbird. What’s even better is that Ford already has a capable EV drivetrain working in the Mustang Mach-E GT. If Ford goes through with this, we may get a Ford Thunderbird Mach-E.
An iconic name
The Corvette name is known globally. As we said, it belongs to America’s number one sports car, which has been successful throughout all its generations. The Thunderbird name is almost as old as the Corvette, but unlike it, it died in the early 2000s, with the rather unsuccessfulretro-styled Ford Thunderbird, which was powered by a lackluster Jaguar V-8 and a lazy automatic.
That said, Ford has a more successful history with the mid-engine layout, in the form of the LeMans winning Ford GT40, which also got a spiritual successor in the early 2000s, which in turn was succeeded by the current Ford GT. In addition, a 7.0-liter Ford V-8 was also used in the mid-engine Saleen S7, which is an impressive supercar in its own right. If Ford properly executes the recipe for a mid-engine C8 rival, this might be the best second chance for the Thunderbird moniker yet.