CC Capsule: 1962 Ford Thunderbird – Let’s Talk About the Sports Roadster


I love Bullet Birds.  Actually, I love them better when we call them Cigar Birds, but tomayto/tomahto, and all that.  I loved these so much I bought one.  And as much as mine abused me, I love them still.  So, why wasn’t I more excited when I found this one?

Actually, I didn’t really find this one.  I found the 1956 Packard Patrician (CC here) that was sitting out in the same driveway.  The owner of both cars seemed surprised that I was more interested in an old Packard sedan than in a T-Bird convertible.  A red one, no less.


Here is my problem – that blasted fiberglass tonneau cover.  Why, you might ask, does this cool accessory cause me such angst?  Let me explain.


A year into this body style, Ford did what many guessed could not be done.  It gave the T-Bird convertible added sex appeal.  The 1962 Sports Roadster was designed to bring back the aura of the revered two-seat Bird in a modern package.  The biggest feature was the fiberglass tonneau cover with the faired-in headreasts that attached behind the front seats.  The package also included Kelsey-Hayes genuine wire wheels, a grab handle on the dash, and a little emblem on the front fender.


Cool, right?  Especially since Ford made only 1,427 of these cars for 1962, and another 455 1963 models.  Ford didn’t actually intend to sell that few, but it just kind of happened.  Probably because the car with this package cost $5,439, which was less than $200 below the cost of a Cadillac.  The Bird was a prestigious car, but in 1962, that prestige had a limit.  OK, and maybe a wire wheel recall didn’t help.  There is an interesting article on the Sports Roadster on Automotive Mileposts (here).


So, JP, given the rarity of these and all, why the attitude?  It’s like this, guys.  Some time back in the ’70s (if not before), every single person with a 1961-63 Thunderbird convertible bought a reproduction tonneau cover and stuck it on the back of his car.  OK, every single owner might be a bit of an overstatement.  I think there was a guy in Euclid, Ohio who left his alone.  The tell is that if the car ever had fender skirts, it was not a SR because the standard wire wheels required exposed rear wheels for clearance.  It got worse when someone started making one for the 1964-66 models, too.  Before there were Mustangs, Camaros and Hemi-‘Cudas at every car show, there were faux Sports Roadsters.


I guess my problem is that I love the lines of the 61-63 convertible so much, I see no reason to detract from a beautiful car with a fiberglass toupee, even if it is a well-crafted toupee.  My rant about unnecessary accessorization aside, this really is a nice car.  A little too much red for me, personally, but this is a popular combination for lovers of early 1960s Fords.  And I suppose I would prefer one of these to the Landau models with the fake landau irons on the vinyl-covered C pillars. And it is certainly a nicer car than my worn-out ’61 hardtop could have ever dreamt of being.


So, what do you have here if you can ignore the automotive equivalent of breast augmentation?  As far as I’m concerned, you still have 4,000 pounds of fireworks that anybody would be proud to own.