Automotive History: 1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo – One Small Step For A Car, One Giant Leap for Thunderbirds

While the 1970s may have been the golden age of the Personal Luxury Coupe, their inspiration came from the Executive Luxury Coupes of the late 1960s. The prototypical ELC is the 1967-68 Imperial Crown Coupe with the Mobile Director package, the legendary option package that alas has yet to be photographed in the metal by any of our contributors. I would also include in this elite strata the Cadillac Eldorado and Lincoln Continental Mark III coupes.

But there is also an interesting Ford that deserves not only to be a part of this elite company, perhaps even at the top of the list: The 1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo. I mentioned the Apollo briefly in my Sliding Sunroof Automotive History, but this is an interesting enough car that warrants its own post.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo Publicity Picture

In 1966, the story goes, Abercrombie and Fitch approached Ford Motor Company about making some “concept” cars to bolster showroom traffic to their five flagship retail stores (recall that at the time A&F was still a high-end outfitter, akin to a ritzy Cabela’s). At the same time, Ford was looking to take their new-for-1967 fifth-generation Thunderbird further upmarket in order to increase the amount of daylight between it and the rest of Ford’s full-size lineup, which was starting to encroach on the T-Bird’s territory with the introduction of the LTD in 1965. Collaborating with Abercrombie and Fitch would add a nice upmarket sheen to their new ‘Bird.

Keep in mind that in 1966, retail special edition cars were still very much a novelty – Nieman Marcus wouldn’t launch their iconic series of special edition cars until 1970, the first of which was (probably not coincidentally) also a Ford Thunderbird.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo

Ford also took this opportunity to showcase the upcoming sunroof option in the Thunderbird, their first since 1960. Although the sunroof wouldn’t be available to Thunderbird buyers until the 1969 model year, Ford needed to generate massive amounts of excitement and interest in it. Ford therefore equipped the five cars produced for Abercrombie and Fitch with prototype ASC sunroofs, with switches located on the center console (production models would have the sunroof switch mounted in the overhead console). Ford was betting big on the sunroof option to appease open-air enthusiasts, as the fifth-generation Thunderbird would be the first without a convertible model. Indeed, Ford would not offer a convertible Thunderbird again for 35 years, until the 2002 model.

1966 Imperial Mobile Director Show Car

1966 Imperial Mobile Executive Show Car

No doubt Ford and Abercrombie took some inspiration for the 1967 Apollo from the 1966 Imperial Mobile Executive concept, which of course also preceded the much loved (but seldom ordered) 1967-68 Imperial Crown Coupe Mobile Director model.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo Interior

For the Apollo conversion, Ford took five fully-equipped ’67 Thunderbirds, all painted in an exclusive Apollo Blue color, and sent them to long-time Ford customizer Dearborn Steel Tubing Company for customization and finishing, supposedly at a cost of $15,000 per unit (about $137,000 in 2022).

1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo Rear Three Quarters

External tweaks to the Apollo were fairly limited: In addition to the exclusive Apollo Blue paint and metallic blue vinyl roof, the grille emblem, landau S-bars, and scripts were all gold anodized. Also fitted were a quartz foglight, bespoke wheel covers, and cornering lights that appear to have been taken from a 1967 Mercury (cornering lights wouldn’t become available on the Thunderbird until 1968). Lastly, there are trunk-mounted antennae to support the various wireless devices.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo Interior

Interior modifications were more extensive. A custom-built full-length center console included a radio-telephone, Philco color TV, and dual reading lamps. The front passenger seat, while not swiveling, did have power adjustable headrests and footrests, and both front seats were fitted with folding tray tables for the rear passengers. All seats were covered with a special dark blue leather.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo Interior

Abercrombie and Fitch had always intended to resell the Apollos after they had completed their show-car duties (probably to recoup some of their investment), so they were built more as custom cars than true concepts, complete with VIN and titles. The fact that there were no powertrain modifications would make it easier to transfer the factory warranty to the next buyer.

1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo Switchgear

You too can live out your James Bond fantasies

Of the five Apollos produced, the one destined for San Francisco was destroyed en route before reaching its destination. At least three of the remaining four are known to survive. I had the honor of seeing one at the AACA Fall Meet in Hershey a few years back. While I’m sure I took pictures, I was unable to locate them. Fortunately, the owner has posted photos on his Facebook page that are far better than any I could have taken at a crowded car show, a few of which I’ve sprinkled in this post.