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Buy this SEMA star Ford Thunderbird and do your bit for charity

© Bring a Trailer

By John Redfern, Motoring Research

With the 2019 SEMA Show currently dominating the automotive headlines, here is an opportunity to grab one of the cars previously shown at the Las Vegas event.

Compared to some of the modified metal on display at SEMA for 2019, this Ford Thunderbird is decidedly subtle.

Buying it also comes with the feel-good factor of helping support a charity, with the Childhelp organization set to benefit from 100 percent of the sale proceeds. Auction host Bring a Trailer will also donate the buyer’s fee to charity. 


It’s time to take flight

© Provided by Motoring Research Ltd   SEMA 2003 Ford Thunderbird BaT Charity Sale

Launched on a giant wave of expectation, the eleventh-generation Ford Thunderbird began production in 2001 for the 2002 model year. Retro-inspired styling was intended to evoke memories of the original Thunderbird, even though the personal luxury car market had all but ceased to exist. 

Although sales for the first year of the new Thunderbird exceeded predictions, every following year saw a continual decline. Ford finally pulled the plug in 2005, with a grand total of 68,000 examples produced.

With the passage of time, the eleventh-gen still Thunderbird looks reassuringly handsome, and this particular car has benefitted from neat show enhancements. 


Tangerine dream

© Provided by Motoring Research Ltd   SEMA 2003 Ford Thunderbird BaT Charity Sale

This 2003 model year Thunderbird was modified from new by DeBerti Design. The California-based speed shop has recently found fame through the Discovery Channel’s ‘Twin Turbos’ TV show. 

For the Thunderbird, Doug DeBerti smoothed the bodywork by deleting the side markers and fog lights. Also removed were the porthole windows from the removable hardtop roof, whilst a custom aluminum front fascia was installed.

Once completed, the car was then resprayed in the distinctive Tangerine Orange color. DeBerti also added ghost flames along each side, which are barely visible unless close up.


Chopped and dropped to the floor

© Provided by Motoring Research Ltd   SEMA 2003 Ford Thunderbird BaT Charity Sale

To help the car sit better on the custom 20-inch Colorado chrome wheels, multiple modifications were made to the chassis and suspension. The Thunderbird received a 2-inch drop at the front, with the rear now closer to the ground by 3 inches.

DeBerti left the 3.9-liter AJ35 V-8 engine untouched for SEMA. Standard output from this motor was 280 horsepower, with an accompanying 286 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission sends this all to the rear wheels.

Despite being a sixteen-year-old, this T-bird has covered only 9,600 miles since new.  A service in October 2019 included an oil change, along with a pre-sale inspection being carried out.


Leather-clad luxury

© Provided by Motoring Research Ltd   SEMA 2003 Ford Thunderbird BaT Charity Sale

DeBerti also modified the interior of the Thunderbird, adding seats which were upholstered in leather from Classic Soft Trim. The combination of red and white inserts contrasts with the overall black finish to the cabin.

Standard equipment when new included six-way power adjustable seats, keyless entry, and a stereo system with a subwoofer. Automatic headlights and dual-zone climate control were also fitted from the factory.

© Bring a Trailer

The power-folding convertible roof is finished in black cloth and, with the removable hard top, gives the buyer the option to use this T-Bird all year.


Doing it for the kids

© Provided by Motoring Research Ltd   SEMA 2003 Ford Thunderbird BaT Charity Sale

All proceeds from the sale of the Thunderbird will be donated to the Childhelp charity, which currently owns the title to the car. Childhelp specializes in providing support to abused, neglected, and at-risk children, through intervention and community work.

Even if the legacy of the eleventh-generation Thunderbird might not have lived up to the original hype, this is an opportunity to own a true piece of SEMA Show history.

Bidding on Bring a Trailer closes on Monday November 11th, with the final price likely to appear something of a bargain against the cars on display at SEMA this year.

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Automotive Magazine: Buy this SEMA star Ford Thunderbird and do your bit for charity
Buy this SEMA star Ford Thunderbird and do your bit for charity
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