Thunderbird Heading Into Retirement Early

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Ford says the 2005 model year will be the last for the current-generation Ford Thunderbird.

The retro-styled convertible first went on sale in August 2001.

Ford had planned to discontinue the Thunderbird after the 2005 or 2006 model year but told employees Thursday production will end in July.

The Wixom Assembly Plant northwest of Detroit produces the Thunderbird.

It will continue to make the Lincoln LS and Town Car and also will be the final assembly point for the Ford GT supercar, which was released last year.

The Thunderbird, one of Ford's most celebrated nameplates, first went on sale in 1954. Its peak sales year was 1977, when 322,517 redesigned Thunderbirds were sold.