The Ford Thunderbird -- a resurrected version of the famous roadster from the 1950s -- is Motor Trend's 2002 Car of the Year.

Motor Trend's editorial staff selected this year's winner after conducting 10 rigorous tests on the largest group of contenders ever to compete - 27 cars.

Judging included design, engineering, quality, interior, special features, fun, everyday livability, safety, performance and value.

Including both domestic and import manufacturers, contenders included:

Acura RSX, Audi A4, Audi S8, Audi S6 Avant, BMW M3, Hyundai XG350, Infiniti Q45, Jaguar X-Type. Kia Sedona, Kia Optima, Lexus SC 430, Lexus ES 300, Lexus IS 300 SportCross, Mazda MP3, Mazda Protege5, Mercedes-Benz C230 Sport Coupe, Mercedes-Benz C32, Mercedes-Benz SLK32, Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagon, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Altima, Nissan SE-R/Spec V, Subaru Impreza WRX sedan/wagon, Toyota Camry, VW Jetta Wagon and the VW EuroVan.

"Ford can be proud of its modern-day reprise of a powerful American tradition," says Motor Trend's Manager of Editorial Development Kevin Smith.

He adds, "Not only is the Thunderbird handsome to look at, pleasing to drive, and fun to just think about, it's also a milestone development on the automotive landscape. We think it is the most significant new car for 2002 and earns its place as Motor Trend's Car of the Year."

To compete for Car of the Year, an automobile must be all-new or a substantial update/redesign of an existing model and must be on sale in North America by January 1, 2002.

The annual Motor Trend Car of the Year selection is well into its sixth decade. A Motor Trend story on the new winner appears in the January issue of the magazine.

Says Jim O'Connor, Ford Division president, "The all-new Thunderbird celebrates Ford's heritage of innovation, and reaffirms our goal to build the best cars on the planet - cars that invoke passion and touch people's hearts and souls."

The Ford Thunderbird debuted in 1955 as a sporty two-seater, and quickly gained icon status. Over the years, the vehicle got bigger and bigger, reaching titanic proportions in the 1970s and '80s. It was eventually downsized somewhat. Production of that generation model ended in 1998.

The new model, which went on sale this year, is evocative of the original design.