(first posted 3/14/2016) Have you ever considered how odd it is that Ford, that manufacturer of solid, reliable, conservative transportation, produced a true competitor to Cadillac and Lincoln? The T-Bird, at least until the mid-1960s, was a status symbol for the rich and moderately well-off, a thing of beauty that really had a market all to itself until the Riviera came along in 1963; and even then, the T-Bird sold in greater numbers. What accounted for this cachet? Why was the T-Bird such a special thing?
Most likely, its popularity stemmed from its attainable distinctiveness. It was unlike any other Ford or Mercury, and it was luxurious and attractive. When Ford introduced the four-seater ‘Bird for 1958, sales immediately exploded because Ford had made its dream car practical. It looked special, and nobody else had anything like it.
Ford beat GM to the punch surprisingly often in certain market segments, the T-Bird, Mustang, and LTD being examples of “better ideas” that sent GM scrambling for their drawing boards. Ford, recognizing its own success, even copied the T-Bird’s roofline for certain Galaxie and Falcon models, creating the “Thunderbird look,” a move that could have diluted the image, but probably helped overall sales instead.
Therefore, one must assume that the Thunderbird’s styling had much to do with its success. The “Squarebird” had nice proportions, for sure, even if it arguably paled stylistically in comparison to the next two generations. Even so, its more compact dimensions and quality build, along with its interesting styling, gave it an undeniable presence. Some people just have “it,” and so do some cars. The T-Bird had “it.”
After the Squarebird came the Bullet Bird, which retained the Thunderbird roofline but introduced styling cues from some old Ford “dream cars,” like the X-100. The T-Bird’s styling and relative exclusivity in its size bracket created a car that, again, really had no direct competition until this ’63 model came along.
Perhaps the interior played an even more important role in the T-Bird’s success than its unique styling. Thunderbird interiors were always luxurious and well-styled, with wraparound dashboards and back seats, consoles and buckets, swing-away steering wheels and attractive instrumentation. Ford always got its money’s worth when it trimmed the T-Bird.
Even though I’m an avowed Riviera fanatic, I’m still susceptible to the charms of the Bullet Bird, as evidenced by my perusing this ’63 on an Upper Peninsula vacation a few years ago. Those jet age taillights, squared off roofline, and angled finlets were bound to make the Thunderbird a sales success. Its excellent resale value accentuated the esteem in which the buying public held the T-Bird.
And that brings us to the fourth-generation T-Bird, introduced in 1964. I’ve long asserted that the last really special Thunderbird was the 1966 model, which was also the last convertible until 2002. After 1966, every subsequent generation was a little less impressive, a little less in a niche by itself. Even though the ’60s T-Birds were based on the same platform as the Continental, no layperson would ever have known, creating that air of exclusivity. Alternatively, the differences between a ’72 T-Bird and a ’72 Mark IV are superficial at best, not that the buying public really cared at that point. Of course, the T-Bird continued to sell very well up until the last of the ’79 models, but none had quite the rarified air of this ’65.
It caught my eye at Greenfield Village’s Motor Muster last year because of its Vintage Burgundy paint and white interior, which is the same color combination as my ’65 Mustang. Although the Bullet Birds are by far my favorite T-Birds, I’ve long been warming up to the ’64 redesign.
By 1965, the Thunderbird’s once-exclusive market was shared with a handful of competitors. The first was the Buick Riviera, which sold at roughly half the Thunderbird’s sales totals, despite styling that is and was heralded as among the best of the 1960s. The Riviera was sporting and daring in a way that a T-Bird never was, and they likely attracted a different type of buyer. The T-Bird almost seemed like old money to the Riv’s nouveau riche, Tom Buchanan to the Riv’s Jay Gatsby.
The second and arguably only other serious competition to the T-Bird was the Pontiac Grand Prix, which came within 15,000 of the Ford in sales. The Grand Prix was a bit less of a direct competitor to both the T-Bird and Riviera, however, because it largely shared a body with the Catalina, while the Ford and Buick looked totally unique in their respective lineups. The Grand Prix, although beautiful, may have been a little more blue collar.
That the Thunderbird outsold these two is a testament to its attainability and class–rarely is something so available so highly regarded. The Thunderbird sold roughly 72,000 units in 1965, despite its more upright styling compared to the rakish 1965 GM models. The T-Bird was upright done right.
As had been the case since the 1961 model’s introduction, T-Birds were powered by the adequate although not really breathtaking 390 FE. After 1965, Ford traded in its black and gold engine scheme for the familiar Ford blue, which may or may not be an upgrade depending on your preference. The surprisingly cramped engine compartment became even more so when one opted for the de rigueur air conditioner.
As was always the case with T-Birds, however, the interior was the star of the show. The L-shaped console, the huge dashboard fascia, the compass-like gauge pods, the power windows and locks, and the swing-away steering wheel all added to an ambience that looked like it cost a lot of money. If one wanted to show off, there were worse ways to do it than by showing up in a T-Bird.
Even the headrests and back seat were not anything like your basic workaday Fords. The headrests were adjustable and the rear seats wrapped around, which was a style Ford tried to crib for the ’65 Mustang, although it used steel panels to create the same effect. The rear package shelf was slotted for a “flow-through” ventilation system that apparently extracted stale air from the passenger compartment.
The ’65 was even one of few cars to come standard with disc brakes, which made the T-Bird an even better value compared to its competitors.
And although they’re frequently discarded by modern owners looking for a little more bling, even the wheel covers show signs of intricate design and care. The deep draw spinner look evoked the 1950s if anything, which is appropriate, because the T-Bird was really a car of the 1950s.
The Mustang was, of course, Ford’s answer to the 1960s, and even though it was special in its own right, it may not have had that T-Bird magic. As Ford said, however, it was a car for the young and young at heart, and the T-Bird was a car for the older and more affluent. After 1966, its time had really past; the Swingin’ ’60s had finally begun. The Mustang was the Beatles to the T-Bird’s Rat Pack.
Thus, the last of the really special T-Birds, with their sequential taillights that later saw duty on Cougars and Shelby Mustangs, passed into memory. There would be great T-Birds to come, like the ’80s Fox “Aerobirds” and the MN-12 Super Coupes, and even the hot-selling brougham-like ’77s, but there would never be another that was “unique in all the world.”
Wasn’t it around this time that Thunderbird featured hydraulic wipers, powered if you will by the power steering pump. Or, did that come later?
The also unit body 1961 Lincoln had hydraulic wipers as well. Don’t know about the 1958 also unit body Lincolns and four seat T-Bird.
Someone mentioned the 1961 Lincoln and T-Bird being on the same platform. Not really. The Lincoln was wider and the body completely different. Maybe the same front suspension and other bits. Not even the same engine, although I think the Lincoln engine was crammed into some T-Birds at some point later.
Little known oddity about the 1961 Lincoln: it was the first year of parallel wipers, and they did them backwards as if it was a British car. They wiped away from the driver’s side, so the round clearing was in front of the driver and the bigger flat ended clearing in front of the passenger. The 1961 T-Bird got it right, another indication of how different the two cars were.
Anyway there was no point to hydraulic wipers other than being completely quiet while adding cost, complexity and weight. Those Lincolns had a lot of things done some complicated, heavy, and expensive way that was not any better and sometimes way worse. Still one of the most awesome cars ever. The 1961 T-Bird as wall.
And definitely no intermittent wipers with hydraulic ones.
I beg to differ on the ‘no intermittent wipers’. My ’65 has the hydraulic wipers and they are adjustable in speed and if you adjust the lever in one sweet spot they will wipe pause and wipe. This interval is not variable but it most certainly is interval wipers. This at a time when many cars had it optional just for the second speed of the wipers.
Thanks for the clarification – that is the way I remember the controls working.
These cars also had a vacuum system for the automatic transmission and HVAC controls, including the flow-through ventilation system that was actuated by, IIRC, a switch on the console that expelled air through the vents below the rear window. A great feature during an era when everyone smoked. I imagine maintaining the canisters and tubing is a pain on a 50+ year old car today.
I thought I’d post a pic of my ’65 Landau. Navajo Beige with somewhat rare Brown vinyl top and Palomino interior. The flo-thru ventilation is GREAT. Flip the dash mounted switch and an extra rush of air can be felt being pulled in thru the front vents and out just below the rear window.
Beautiful car. That’s the same color as our 65 standard coupe minus the vinyl top. At the time a lot of these cars had special whitewalls outlined in a thin band of red or gold – ours had the red, a neat little touch. I like the details on the 65 better than the 64 or 66. I also prefer the non-spinner wheel covers, a very handsome design.
Here is my 1966 Town Landau Sauterne Gold with Emberglo Interiro was a special order car Have not see another one with this color combination!
What a beauty. Hope you still have it.
My ’68 T-bird also has hydraulic wipers. While there is no intermittent feature, they do have about 8 speeds. The slowest speeds are very slow, much slower than electrics, and are useful in very light rainfall.
It can be a bit distracting having a slow-moving wiper in your field of vision, but its preferable to switching wipers on and off all the time.
I have had a couple of cars with Chrysler’s infinitely variable electric wipers from the late 50s-early 60s. The problem I found with too many choices was that the wipers were always too fast or too slow – never “just right”. The result was – you guessed it – constant fussing with the switch. 🙂
The platform sharing of the unibody Thunderbird and Lincoln is limited to the front cowl structure and floor pans, various other sub-structural components. The only visible shared unit is the windshield, A-pillars etc.. Everything else is unique to each make.
McNamara and Macpherson pushed unibody construction for the 1958 four-seat ‘Square-Bird’ in the all-new Wixom, MI plant. As the T-Bird volume wasn’t expected to fully utilize plant capacity and Lincoln volume was so low then, it got saddled with unibody construction to fill out that extra capacity. It worked out well for a car the size of the T-Bird; but an unwieldy mess for giant Lincolns.
In a unibody, it’s the inner structure that really counts, of course. And undoubtedly, there was a lot of fundamental commonality in the lower part of the structure, especially in the floorpan,cowl, and the whole front inner structure, which is the critical one. The Lincoln’e “body” might have been a bit wider, but that was just the external skin on the doors. The Lincoln was just stretched in length some, but it explains why the ’61-’63 Lincoln look so coupe-like, because their roof is actually not that different than the T-Bird’s either; just a bit longer.
It wasn’t until ’64 that the Lincoln got a new, wider roof structure and longer wheelbase/body, to make it look more like a real “sedan” than like a four-door coupe.
My understanding on the 1961 Lincoln wipers being reversed, was that it was a mistake made by the engineers when taking dimensions off of the concept 2 dr. Thunderbird that was being transformed into a 4 dr Lincoln. When the concept was taken by elevator up to a small room to have the minimal lengthing done, as per McNamara, it was placed against a mirrored wall. Photos were taken of the Lincoln concept car in the mirror – giving a “mirror” image of the car. Somehow the mirror image of the wipers was taken as being correct. By the time the mistake was discovered, it was too late or too costly to change.
Also, the Lincoln and Tbird use the same windshield and cowling.
Interesting – I always wondered about those Backwards Lincoln wipers. The only others I recall of that period on US cars was the Avanti, but those were dictated (I believe) by the asymmetrical hood bulge that would have interfered with wiper arm hardware.
The bigger question is why the Lincoln (sharing a cowl and windshield with the TBird) would have gone to parallel wipers while the TBird stuck with opposed wipers. Parallels were hardly universal then. Cadillac would stick with them through 1968, and Pontiac even later.
The explanation given is a bit hard to accept. Given the fact that these two cars shared the same cowl, etc., is it really possible that the Lincoln engineers decided to flip them based on one photograph? Think about it; it just defies my ability to comprehend that. How could they see that as making any sense at all? It’s not a stylistic issue.
Yet there’s no other better explanation. It’s one of the bigger (small) mysteries in my book.
The driver’s side appears to be in it’s original location. It’s the passenger one that was moved.
I call ’61-’69 Lincolns “backwards cars”. Not only are the wipers backwards, the hood opens backwards, the doors open backwards, and on the convert even the trunk opens backwards (shared with the Bird).
As implied in my post below, when Lincolns became less distinctive but more mainstream in ’70, they sold much better. I think the earlier generation was just a little too “out there” for some people.
It seems a far fetched explanation being a mistake involving mirrored pictures. It may be true, I have no idea. A more logical explanation could be they hedged their bets being a new concept and all. If they had two ways of doing it, and two models to test it on, why not make two different solutions and see what side the customers lean on? It’s irrational from a buyers perspective but a perfectly logical reasoning from an engineers perspective. It just may be an engineering solution that made it to the public. Thinking like that strikes me as inherently “French”, it’s something the French would do just to test the market and see what stuck.
Brain fart. Is my mind in a mirror? I meant to say the passenger side was in it’s original location. The drivers was moved.
Cowl may be shared, but windshield appears to be distinct between T-Bird and Continental.
They are the same, ask anyone who knows. Different trim, and differnt Floating mirror on the Tbird.
Stunning looking cars, the 67 restyle was a major step back.
Could the 58 and later T birds have been the first nail in Mercury’s coffin? I’m a Mercury fan but I’d take the T bird over any 65 Mercury
Nice colour, close to Black Cherry, a favourite Ford Mercury colour
I do not agree that the 1967 Tbird was a major step back. I own both a 1966 and a 1967. While it is true that the 1967 lost come of its interior luster, it is still a true Tbird – albeit a different and more modern car.
The 1967 is not bigger as it seems everyone thinks. It is 1.5″ longer – true, but that is in the front bumper and not that much – however, it is 300 lbs lighter! So, it could be thought of as being smaller. I am talking about the 2 dr. car. True, no convertible was offered, and a 4 dr was, but the 1967 was the last of many Tbird traits.
The 1967 was the Last to have (the 1968s are more different):
Windshield wipers that folded in the center
Full length console
Aluminum trim on the instrument panel
Full overhead console
Unique Tbird interior door handles
Full front seat back trim
Power window switches on console
Tilt away steering wheel as standard equipment
Molded headliner – last year.
The 1967 lost some things, like the bright garnish molding (Gov regs – the 1966 town hardtop had already lost this). They did loose much of the chrome plated die cast parts on the instrument panel and console – more like the 1958-60 and 1961-63 had.
Also, the first year of no fender skirts, but gained hidden headlights!
And it gained an automatic steering wheel tilt-a-away.
The 1967 was a more modern car, keeping up with the style and ride qualities of the time. It is a beautiful car, when you see them restored. A very cohesive jet age design. And it is light years ahead in quietness, smoothness and power as compared to the 1966. Not to detract from the 1966, which I love, but the 1967 is truly a Thunderbird and an awesome car – albeit really over looked and neglected. Most were not collected, and driven into the ground because they were such great road cars. Now they are a little hard to find and even harder to find in nice original condition.
I like these too, although they’ll never be the collectible that the ’66 & earlier was. It’s a similar situation to the first ’70 Lincoln. Nowhere near as distinctive as the ’69 suicide, and without many of it’s distinctive trim items, but arguably a more modern and better performing car.
Back to the T-Bird, it’s clear that the bean counters began to have their way starting in ’68. Some of it was related to safety (softer interior surfaces) and much was related to cutting corners to find a way to pay for aforementioned safety items.
You’ve got a pretty rare car. I’ve only seen a couple in very good condition like yours. I actually considered looking for a ’67. I had seen a ’70 with the fastback roof profile and the prominent front beak. It was green with an alligator grain vinyl top. That car looked like an alligator slithering down the road ready to attack. I like the ’67 with the little quarter window that retracts sideways. The landau model did away with the window and I’m not sure if the roof sail panel is more upright. The ’67 actually has a more youthful aggressive flair, like it was made for the Lucky Strike smoking, sansabelt trouser wearing, 40 year old man of action. George Peppard should have driven one in a private eye tv show.
Thank you for this. People who regard the ’67-69 cars as a ‘step back’ have never been in one. Government regs and shifting styles took away some of the creases and fine details of the earlier cars. But in return, they received far better engineering, power, ride, handling and NVH control, totally cool hidden headlights and neat fullwidth sequential tail lights,
These cars are far better driving machines than earlier years,especially when they receved the 429 4bbl set up. My ’68 is far more like a luxury muscle car than one would expect. Its as fast as my GTO, yet more comfortable.
I am at a loss why these T birds are not more collectable. But I am grateful because their prices stay low and affordable. Yes, I love the earlier T birds, but they were not competitive with the performance of the Rivieras and well optioned Olds and Pontiac models. The 67-69 cars certainly were.
The flair birds aren’t my favorites, but that color on the ’65 looks great.
Was the Grand Prix shot at last years 27 tour? It looks like it is in the same spot as in my video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Pmx_-bnmUM
Yep, the GP was at the Clare stop of the US-27 tour.
What a beautiful car. Lincoln Thunderbird sure has a ring to it. Kudos to the Mustang, but doesn’t it look boring in this company. (Even the lady sitting inside looks half asleep.)
Ha ha! That’s my dad! 🙂 He’ll appreciate the comment. 🙂
To this day our 1965 Thunderbird is my favorite of the many cars my Dad bought during his lifetime. We got it lightly used, a year-old coupe, beige on beige.
I think it is correct that a main selling point was the unique and stunning appearance of these cars – there isn’t a bad angle anywhere, the trim details are well done, and the interior represents a fully integrated design that indicates something special: limited use, seating for four only. The long hood announced itself before you got half-way into a driveway and there was no mistaking what you were driving.
Post-1966 Thunderbirds had to compete in an expanding market for luxury-trimmed coupes and sedans and were never as unique as these cars. Over time Ford ended up using the nameplate on what became virtually a rental car, up until the model’s last iteration in the form of the retro-Bird two-seater. I’ve always thought Ford should have resurrected the model name for a well-crafted four-door sports luxury sedan to compete with the BMW 3-series and marketed through the Lincoln Division, thus keeping both Thunderbird and Lincoln up-to-date and competitive with the changing trends of the luxury field.
This is some serious eye candy for a Monday morning. This T-Bird looks particularly good with its metal roof. The one I remember from my youth was dark blue with a vinyl roof.
That Corvair next to the ‘Bird looks pretty interesting, as well. If only someone would do a CC on it, too. 😉
That’s actually NOT my Corvair, although they look almost identical. 🙂
Longtime fan of the Bird here.
The T-look even reached the more humble British Ford line – our 60’s Corsair featured the spear front fender profile and an approximation of the rear roofline.
“Even the headrests and back seat were not anything like your basic workaday Fords”
Actually this basic seat design was an option on ’65-’67 Galaxie XLs.
In this shot, the seam line for the head rest can be seen, and the recline lever is visible.
Actually, that photo is of a ’66 Galaxie 7-Litre or XL convertible. They used the same front seats but different upholstery patterns.
My grandparents had an all-red ’65 Thunderbird hardtop. That car was just entirely fascinating to little 4-year old me. I was so sad when I heard they bought a new Lincoln Continental sedan in ’68, until I saw that it had an 8-track player. WOW!
And the ’67. This one is a real unicorn as I have seen one, and this brochure illustration is the only indication it was ever offered this year.
Every Monday should start with a beautiful car and an article written by a person passionate about that car. Talk about a great and positive way to start the week!
The “Flair Birds” have long been my favorite generation, and I agree that the ’65 was the best example. The subject car has me absolutely drooling from the colors to the options. Thank goodness it is not for sale at a reasonable price or there might be domestic discord at my house. Or maybe not – even my wife has a thing for Thunderbirds having been the former owner of a 1989 edition.
I’m not an expert on design succession at the manufacturers. But, I noticed something today about the ’65 Pontiac and the “Flair Bird.”
The ’65 full-size Ford gets some generally good natured flack for cribbing the ’63 full-size Pontiac. Certainly Pontiac laid some claim to stacked headlights in ’63. But, it could be argued that the ’63 Pontiac was otherwise borrowing from the ’61 Continental. And the ’65 Ford certainly has some spirit of the Continental. Where it gets interesting is that the ’65-’66 full-size Pontiac sure seems to borrow from the “Flair Bird.” The cars share busy but tasteful details, heavily sculpted sides, enclosed rear wheels, dramatic dashboards and some trims of the Pontiac even have somewhat Thunderbird inspired tail lights!
The 1965 T-Bird is one beautiful car – one of my favorites, but I don’t think there was an ugly car in 1965.
Paul has made a case for the ’65 Ford Fairlane as the car that missed in ’65. It is had to argue against his point. But, 1965 was certainly an amazing and rich year for American cars.
True, you and Paul are correct on the Fairlane. Scratch one!
Nice to see another Riviera fanatic 🙂
But, yeah, the Thunderbirds really were a special line. I even like the late-70s Broughamtastic ones with the weird basket handle that were everywhere when I was a kid.
“Some people just have “it,” and so do some cars. The T-Bird had “it.”
Perfectly stated Aaron. The car just had presence, from its inception to 1977, when the decontented, albeit highly successful, 7th gen arrived. Everyone immediately recognized a T-Bird, which had this market to itself for a long time. The Riviera, Eldo and Toro dinged it a bit, but the real blow IMHO was when the Mark III arrived for 1969. It lost top billing within its own family and gradually morphed into other generations that were never quite the same.
And the Mark III was a restyled Thunderbird. They took the longer 4 door Tbird chassis, draped a stretched 2 door shell on it, and stroked the 429 to a 460. Many parts and structures were the same. I recall Car and Driver magazine wrote “They took an already overdone car (the Tbird) and overdid it some more.”
So the Mark III stole sales from well optioned T birds because it was so close in concept and packaging.
Years ago, I had a `66 Landau model with the blanked in rear quarter windows and the landau irons, dark blue with black leather and black vinyl top. Full power and air. This was a big, solidly built car , and virtually squeak and rattle free thanks to the unitbody construction. It had the 390 and even though I`m not too sure of the horsepower, it had decent performance and good road holding abilities, but was anything but a sports car. Since I`m claustrophobic, I couldn`t sit in the backseat, but that interior was something else., possibly the nicest on the road at that time. Sadly, IMHO, this was the last “real” T Bird that Ford built. The `67s thru71s were just not as nice, but I do like the `71, the one with the “Bunkie Beak” and the semi-fastback roof.
Great article, these were wonderful looking cars that impressed me very much as a kid. They were definitely a cut above the Riviera and Grand Prix.
I took parts off of a 67 T bird at the pick and pull some years back, I got the dash
instruments,clock, speedo ,gauges also got the landau bars. I can’t believe
how cheap and cheesy these parts are! I’ll bet this stuff was much better
on the earlier T Birds am I right here or not?
Mr Zackman that 65 fairlane was one ugly puppy but I think we forgot
the swinging sports fastback MARLIN bleah! one of the
sensible specaculars I would have given up my Rambler franchise
as soon as I saw it.
Those Flair Birds are such elegant cars, and of the 3 years, I prefer the ’65s also.
To address the first paragraph: The T-bird was a response to the Chevrolet Corvette, so naturally it was a Ford rather than a Lincoln or Mercury. Why Ford decided to go with a coupe is a good question; probably because coupes were very popular and Ford may have decided a sports car made little sense. If they had started out designing a luxury coupe it probably would have gone to Lincoln, although its price tag was well under Lincoln, more in the range of top of the line Oldsmobile, Buick and Chryslers.
I think starting out as a roadster and then becoming a more practical coupe gave it a big head start.
I like Thunderbirds, particularly the Bullet Birds and the Flair Birds, and I always thought Ford did an excellent job on the interiors.
Then I scroll down to see that drop-dead gorgeous ’65 Riviera Gran Sport in my favorite shade of blue with those chrome Buick road wheels, and it’s “T-Bird? What T-Bird?”
Part of the Thunderbird’s appeal was that unlike Chevrolet or Plymouth, Ford actually had some cred with wealthier buyers, especially old-money, Ivy-league types who would buy Ford Station wagons to take to their country and beach houses. Not sure why, but it may go back to the “Baby Lincoln” Model A, which also featured unusually upscale advertising.
I think you may have nailed it. I remember the T-bird as being almost a junior Lincoln. They were upper class for sure. The 61 Lincoln front end resembling the Bullet Bird for one year didn’t hurt either.
Gorgeous cars, and that interior is one of my top five all-time. Looks especially good with the brushed aluminum console, but it’s fantastic in any format.
Great writeup. It just has “it” indeed.
When the 67-68 models were new, especially the 4-door, I remember reading someplace that the car looked like it had been designed by a committee, and everyone got their own way. Very funny comment, and at the time it seemed very astute. Fifty years on, the look has grown on me.
The ’65 Vintage Burgundy featured in this blog is a lot like mine. My ’65 Vintage Burgundy Thunderbird has black interior and is all original. Original paint, original interior, etc. She only has 56,000 miles on the clock…documented. Never driven in snow and it shows underneath. Totally rust free. Rare for a car that was sold in Philadelphia. She’s now snug in her nest in West Virginia. Cheers!
Great article and thanks for sharing. I have always thought pre-1970 Thunderbirds represented a high point of the American car idiom, stylish, luxurious and full of interesting details. Even the advertising demonstrated a special and tastefully considered approach. I also think Thunderbird influenced many others, including some famous Euro brands. I have a Mercedes W111 coupe and I reckon it is a German Thunderbird!
My Dad at the age of 53 bought his first Thunderbird on 12/24/1962. Sandshell Beige with matching interior.
I loved the power window control located on the console. My older brother begged my Dad to get AM/FM too. My Dad being a huge audiophile, obliged.
That 390cid/300 h.p. could move that 2 ton beast so smoothly. Many a time my Dad look down at the speedometer cruising at 80 mph without realizing how he got there.
Truly a fun car. My Dad would go on and buy two more Thunderbirds (1965, 1969). But buying those two other Birds just wasn’t as fun as that first one on that Christmas Eve morning so many years ago.
I’ve always loved the 60s Tbirds and have had 2 in my lifetime. The unique design is very special, but they also come with a lot of challenges. The electric and hydraulic roof system is extremely complicated as is the vacuum system that drive the wipers and transmission. The engine bay is crammed solid so not the easiest of cars to work on which can also cause over heating or fuel vaporisation. Having said that, they are very fun and there isn’t really anything like it on the road these days. Finding a good mechanic is a must and know where to source your parts is essential as some are now no longer available! Just thought I would share a photo of the current one I have. What amazes me is why they are still relatively cheap to pick up compared to other 60s American cars, but that was a plus for me 🙂
I put a couple of miles on one of them back around ’72. As I was a hardcore aircooled VW fan then, it wasn’t my cup of tea shall we say. But I was also struck by it, while not really liking it, there was something special about it, that wasn’t present in a ’64 Buick Electra 225 that I did put some miles on at the same time. (long story) Yes it was more sizzle than steak, but exceptional service at say a restaurant or hotel can make a mediocre experience better than it really is. I would say Ford did that very thing.
Pop’s commute included a ~3 mile drive to the commuter rail station, whereupon his car would sit all day in the outdoor parking lot. Since his needs were simple, he bought old beaters for the task.
Somewhere around 1971, his ’62 Falcon was giving up the ghost. A coworker was selling a ’64 Thunderbird. In those days, a 7-year-old car was an *old* car, considered by many to be “used up”. I think he paid $300, so that tells you something.
Boy, that was a mighty fine “beater”, in gold over gold leather. He kept it until the Spring of ’74.
I liked the 1966’s of this vintage of TBirds. I preferred the look of the front with a bumper in front of the grille, and the taillights were less busy than the ones shown on this one.
That interior was something else too, with that huuuge dash and centre console. That dash concept on the 66 Bird and the 66 Charger were far and away the most mind blowing of that year.