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Best (And Worst) Ford Vehicles Throughout History

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Publisher’s Note: It often said that we all need heroes in our lives. Bob Dylan once said, “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”

Henry Ford for many Americans was that hero. Ford was not only an American businessman, but an innovator, industrialist, and philanthropist. His innovative methods of production were revolutionary and lifted many Americas out of poverty and made automobiles accessible to middle-class Americans.
Ford believed in freedom and the free market. I was impressed that the Ford Company didn’t take the bailout like General Motors and Chrysler did back in 2008.

In the “free” market, companies stand or fail on their own?

 

Best & Worst Ford Vehicles Throughout History

Ford has been in the spotlight ever since the first Model T debuted in 1908. It’s one of the greatest marques in automotive history and a pioneer of innovation in personal mobility. Ford has introduced more iconic vehicles than any other auto manufacturer. However, it doesn’t mean that it never made mistakes.

From vehicles marred with severe engineering flaws and serious safety issues to wacky cars resulting from weird executive decisions, Ford has also made some crazy bad cars over the decades.

Best: Ford Thunderbird (1955-1957)

Ford launched the Thunderbird in 1955 to compete against the Chevrolet Corvette in the two-door sports car segment. However, it initially decided to brand the vehicle as a “personal luxury car”, shifting focus from its inherent sportiness to its comfort and convenience features.

 

Ford launched the Thunderbird in 1955 to compete against the Chevrolet Corvette in the two-door sports car segment. However, it initially decided to brand the vehicle as a “personal luxury car”, shifting focus from its inherent sportiness to its comfort and convenience features.

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The Thunderbird ended up being a great success, outselling the Corvette by more than 23-to-one in its year of launch. The 1955 version was equipped with a 4.8 L Y-block V8 engine that produced 198 horses and catapulted it to 60 mph in 11.5 seconds – a decent time back then.

Worst: Ford Pinto 1971

Not just Ford’s, the Pinto is considered the worst car ever made by any auto manufacturer. It had a horrible build quality and would burst into flames in pretty much every rear-end collision. Even though it killed a number of people right after its debut in 1971, Ford ended up selling more than 3 million units during its 9-year-run.

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Ford could have prevented the tragic deaths by a number of solutions, but it chose to pay millions in damages instead as they cost less than what the modifications would have cost. The Pinto went on to become a classic case study in business ethics.

 

Best: Ford F-100 (1953-1956)

With over 40 million units sold, Ford’s F-Series is the best-selling nameplate in the North American market and the second most-selling vehicle in the world. Though the entire series is special, the second generation that ran from 1953 to 1956 model years is considered the most iconic. If you disagree, just ask any hot rodder!

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The second-gen F-100s were unarguably the best-looking trucks ever made and were immensely popular among the rodders who wanted a bed behind the seats. The looks were complemented with a resilient chassis and a heavy-duty engine, ranging from a 137 hp 6-cylinder to 170 hp Y-block V8 to a beefed-up 300 hp powerplant over the years.

Worst: Ford Edsel (1958-1960)

Named after Henry Ford’s son, the Edsel was Ford’s “jack of all” aimed at attracting all demographics. But, as it usually is with such projects, it turned out to be a master of none and a terrible automotive mistake.

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Plagued by problems ranging from oil leaks to stuck buttons, the Edsel was an outright disaster. Ford spent around $250 million to roll out 18 different variations of this car and had to bear an estimated $350 million in losses. That’s $2.3 billion today!

 

Best: Ford GT40 (1964-1969)

The GT40 is unarguably the best Ford ever made. It’s the car that broke Ferrari’s winning streak at Le Mans and won the endurance race four consecutive times, from 1966 to 1969. Fewer than 135 units of the GT40 were built from 1964 to 1969, and this legendary car was what inspired the modern-day Ford GT.

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Interestingly, the GT40 was born out of the most infamous grudge in automobile history. Henry Ford II was about to buy Ferrari but Enzo Ferrari changed his mind and pulled out of the finalized deal at the very last moment. A furious Henry Ford II told his team to build a car to dethrone the Ferrari from Le Mans – and they did just that!

Worst: Ford Bronco II (1984-1990)

The Pinto’s SUV version, the Bronco II was notorious for its rollover accidents caused by a short wheelbase, narrow track, and tall center of gravity. Even though the stability issues did surface during the design and verification phase, Ford gave the green signal for production after the stability reports “disappeared” in a “document handling procedure.”

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The rollover accidents happened even at speeds as low as 20 mph, killing at least 800 people over the years. Ford ended up paying $113 million to settle 334 injury and wrongful death lawsuits, though it kept claiming that the rollovers were either caused by “bad driving or unsafe modifications to the vehicle.”

Best: 2017 Ford Focus RS

With a turbocharged 2.3-L inline 4-cylinder spitting out 350 horses under the hood, the 2017 Focus RS is a platinum-grade compact hatchback that leads all others in its class and is simply one of the best Ford cars in recent times!

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The 2.3-L EcoBoost engine (the same that has been used in the 2017 Mustang) works in conjunction with a six-speed manual transmission and a torque-vectoring AWD system to enable this beast of a hatchback to hit speeds as high as 165 mph and manage a 0-60 time of just 4.6 seconds!

Worst: Ford Thunderbird (1980-1982)

The 1980 Thunderbird was another example of Ford messing up with an iconic vehicle. The car which used to be one of the best in Ford’s entire lineup till 1979 (its 25th anniversary) went through a terrible change, largely due to the fuel crises of the 70s.

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Ford drastically cut its size and practically turned it into a Fairmont. This transition from a luxurious full-size icon to a mid-size skinny vehicle wasn’t appreciated by consumers and the sales plummeted.

Best: Ford Mustang (1965-73)

The first-gen Mustang is unarguably one of the best Fords of all time. It’s the car that started the pony revolution and made the term “muscle car” a household name in North America. The Mustang nameplate was introduced in 1964 and till its last iteration in 1973, it had dramatically evolved into an icon.

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The Mustang 1965 (introduced in April 1964) was powered by a 4.7-L V8 powerplant that produced 271 horses at the crank and catapulted it to 60 mph from a standstill position in 9 seconds.

Worst: Ford Focus (2012-2016)

The third generation of Ford Focus is notorious for its poor reliability. The 2012-2016 Focuses, in particular, were part of numerous recalls caused by Ford’s new automatic ‘PowerShift’ transmission and a malfunctioning exhaust system.

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The 2014 Focus is considered one of the worst Fords ever made, with complaints of excessive vibration, grinding noises, jerky shifting, and even complete failure to get into gear at all. The 2012 Focus also had a critical electric power steering fault.

Best: Lincoln K Series (1931-1940)

Lincoln K Series was launched in 1931 to replace the L Series. Featuring 6.3-L V8 and 7.3-L V12 powerplants, the most potent powertrain churned out 150 horses – that was pretty decent back then!

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The Lincoln K Series, however, wasn’t about performance. It was about luxury – which it had a lot. The K Series cast into the shade the likes of Cadillac, Packard, and Bentley, and remained a highly acclaimed luxury vehicle for decades.

Worst: Ford Fiesta (1978-1980)

The first-generation Fiesta was as underpowered as it was unattractive. With a 1.6-L inline-4 that could only produce a measly 54 hp and an extremely inferior build quality, this small car lacked even the basic safety features.

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The Fiesta was assembled in Europe and wasn’t meant for the US market. But Ford decided to bring it home to compete with Volkswagen Rabbit. The result was, well, a massive blow for Ford. Even though the Fiesta remained a best-seller in Europe, it’s considered one of the worst Fords ever.

Best: Shelby GT350 (1965-1966)

The Shelby GT350 was a performance version of the first-generation Mustang and also the first collaborative project of Ford with the legendary automotive designer Carroll Shelby.

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The Shelby GT350 was more lightweight and aerodynamic and was devoid of all convenience features that could be a hindrance in its conquering the tracks. It was equipped with a modified 4.7-L V8 powerplant that produced 306 horses at the crank, enabling a 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds.

Worst: Ford Mustang II (1974-1978)

The Mustang II was Ford’s failed attempt to sell more vehicles. Mustang sales had been dropping as they grew bigger over the years and Ford’s solution was to eliminate the very features that made Mustang what it was.

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Based on a Pinto platform (yes, the same Pinto that “kaboomed” on rear collisions), it was grossly underpowered and painfully slow, with a 0-60 time of 10.5 seconds. Ford’s ridiculous plan backfired and the Mustang II came out as a massive disappointment.

Best: Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is a bigger, badder version of the already-iconic Ford F-150 pickup. This full-size, all-wheel-drive truck boasts a crazy level of power, all thanks to its twin-turbo 3.5-L V6 engine mated with a 10-speed auto transmission.

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With an incredible 450 hp output, this gigantic beast can hit 60 mph from a standstill in just over 5 seconds, while hauling pretty much anything you can load on it. Besides its incredible power, its insane off-roading capabilities make it one of the best Ford vehicles ever made.

Worst: Ford Fairmont (1978-1983)

The 1978 Ford Fairmont was, simply put, unattractive and dull. Its distasteful squareness traveled to the interior, with awkward dashboard gauges and an unusual front seat. The performance was also not inspiring by any means.

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The standard engine was an underpowered 2.3L (140 cu-in) inline-4 that could manage just 88 hp. Even though the 1978 Fairmont was hailed as the most efficient Ford sedan from a space-per-weight perspective, it turned out a failure overall.

Best: Ford V8 (1932-1934)

While the Model T brought cars to the masses and the Model A added style to the bare-bones 4-cylinder machine, it was the 1932 Ford that introduced power and performance to the Americans. Though marketed as the Model 18 in the year of its launch, it was more commonly known as the Ford V8.

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With a new 221 cu-in (3.6-L) flathead V8 engine rated at 65 hp, it was the first affordable car to have a V8 and was, therefore, an extremely important milestone in automotive history.

Worst: Ford EXP (1982-1988)

Introducing this two-seater compact sports coupe was a big mistake. The EXP lacked purpose, was extremely underpowered at 70 hp and offered nothing special. It couldn’t convince buyers right from its inception in 1982, and the arrival of Pontiac Fiero and Honda CRX just made things worse.

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Being Ford’s slowest-selling nameplate in the compact sports coupe segment that was already pretty flooded (with Ford Festiva, Ford Escort, 2-door Ford Tempo, and the latest Ford Probe), the EXP was discontinued in 1988.
Best: 1949 Ford Custom

The 1949 Ford is the vehicle that saved Ford from bankruptcy in the immediate post-war period. It was Ford’s first post-war vehicle that featured a completely new design, one that inspired the American auto industry for the next 35 years.

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Created by famed automotive designer George Walker, the new “envelope” design with sleek styling made this car immensely popular in the post-war era, so much so that the automaker ended up selling a total of 1,118,762 1949 Fords. It’s easily one of the best Fords ever made!

Best: Ford Maverick (2022)

So many customers wanted to purchase a Ford Maverick truck that auto manufacturer announced it would stop taking orders! Demand for the affordable pick-up truck escalated in early 2022 at a much higher rate than Ford anticipated.

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The Maverick is the first compact truck released by Ford in over a decade, as the popular Ford Ranger ended production in 2012. It’s also sold at an affordable price point, starting at $19,995.

Worst: Ford Th!nk City (2002-2012)

If a car has an exclamation mark in its name, it better be badass. The Ford Th!nk City, however, was nothing like that. It was hardly even a car. This micro-electric vehicle was the brainchild of TH!NK Mobility – a Norwegian carmaker that partnered with Ford for a brief stint.

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The Th!nk City was a cramped, impractical, and extremely over-priced car with a pathetic range of 50 miles. It was also plagued with numerous issues and was recalled multiple times. Ford eventually cashed out in 2003 and TH!NK Global declared bankruptcy in 2011.

Worst: Ford Gran Torino Elite (1974-1976)

Ford Gran Torino Elite was a mid-size two-door luxury coupe that Ford rolled out as a less expensive alternative to Thunderbird. Like Mustang II, it was based on a Mercury platform, the concurrent Cougar XR-7 to be precise.

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The most notable difference from Cougar XR-7 was the mildly restyled front end that resembled Thunderbird. The Gran Torino Elite, however, was no T-bird. It was uncomfortably loud and had plenty of faults that made it an inconvenient ride.

Best: 1982 Ford Mustang GT

The 82 GT is what returned Mustang to its former glory and, therefore, qualifies as one of the best Ford cars ever made. While the 1981 Mustang had a measly 4.2-L engine, good for just 115 horsepower, the 82 Mustang GT had a 4.9-L V8 engine.

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Spitting out 157 horses, the 82 GT had an incredible performance with a 0-60 time of just a little over 7 seconds. Unarguably the best Mustang with the “Fox body” design, that was introduced in 1979, the 82 GT marked a turning point for modern-day muscle cars.

After widespread condemnation and a host of congressional inquiries into Ford’s dedication to the safety of its vehicles, Ford blamed the accidents at the Firestone tires used in the Explorers and ended its 90-year-long partnership with the tire manufacturer in a scandalized controversy. Congress chose to side with Ford.

Best: Ford GT (2017-2022)

A remnant of the iconic GT40, Ford GT is a limited-production supercar. A total of 1350 units were planned for its second generation, which debuted in 2017 and will end with the 2022 model. While the first-gen GT (2005-2006) with its supercharged V8 was also a rockstar, the second generation is rarer and more iconic.

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Equipped with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-L V6 EcoBoost engine (a modified version of the one used in the Ford F-150 Raptor), the 2022 GT spits out an insane 660 hp, good for a top speed of 216 mph and a 0-60 time of a mind-boggling 3 seconds!

Worst: Ford Contour (1996-2000)

Ford launched the Contour to replace the Tempo in the North American market and to dominate the compact sedan segment. It was, in fact, the US version of the Belgian-built Ford Mondeo that debuted in 1992 and had become a best-seller in Europe.

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The Contour wasn’t too bad a car. It had good handling and a pretty decent interior. However, it was priced relatively higher than other rivals and was marred by a faulty transmission, which eventually led to its discontinuation in 2000.

 

Best: Lincoln Continental (1961–1969)

Pictured: 1963 Lincoln Continental Convertible previously owned by the late Tennessee Senator Howard Baker. The car is now owned by Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station, Tennessee and is his car collection.

One of the longest nameplates in the auto world, the Lincoln Continental got the recognition it deserved with its fourth generation that debuted in 1961. Though it was a bit shorter than its predecessor, it was finer in all aspects.

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With its clean styling, luxury amenities, and a powerful 7-L V8 powerplant good for 300 horses and 465 lb-ft of torque, it’s the Lincoln that could finally stand up to the immensely popular Cadillacs of the era.

Worst: Ford Taurus (1996-1999)

When it comes to ruining a good car, no auto manufacturer even comes near Ford. Once the best-selling car in America, the 3rd generation Taurus met a sad fate.

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A failed redesigning experiment in both exterior and interior dethroned this insanely popular midsize sedan and paved the way for the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord to dominate the segment. They haven’t come off the ladder since then – and Ford has never again competed for the top spot in the sedan segment.

Best: 1966 Shelby Cobra 427

The Shelby Cobra 427, with its 427 cu-in (7-L) V8 engine, is one of the most iconic American sports cars. This car is the brainchild of the man, the legend Carroll Shelby himself, and was produced from 1962 to 1967.

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Like the GT40, it too was meant to unleash fury on the race track against its Italian rival (which it did several times). Just 31 Cobra 427s were made with road-legal specs. The standard 427 V8 delivered a whopping 425 horsepower, a top speed of 164 mph, and a 0-60 time of 3.5 SHORT seconds!

Worst: Ford Ecosport (2018-2022)

While the first generation of Ford Ecosport was mediocre at best, the second generation was an outright disaster. This subcompact SUV is unarguably dead last in its highly competitive class.

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Marred by an unexciting ride, a brazen lack of safety features, and a below-average fuel economy, the Ecosport is one of the worst cars to come out of the Ford line-up in recent years. Years of plummeting sales have finally made Ford pull the plug on this outdated vehicle and the 2022 version would be its last model.

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