About two weeks ago I somehow was transported back in time, to a Ford dealership circa 1966. Fortunately, I had my camera with me. Tired of lozenge-shaped modern cars? Well, then, come along!
Of course, I was drawn to the ’66 T-Bird. This one looks like it’s undergoing pre-delivery inspection and a final detailing before going to its happy new owner. I’ve always loved these Flair Birds.
I readily admit to being biased. My grandmother got a brand-new ’65 convertible, navy blue with Parchment seats, blue carpeting and dash, and a white top. Can you say ‘sharp’?
My Uncle Dave (he of the Iowa City Outtakes) learned to drive in that car–lucky him! Although she kept it all the way until 1977, it was long gone by the time I came along. They replaced it with a new 1977 “basket handle” T-Bird, black with a red pinstripe, white bucket-seats-with-console interior, and red carpeting and dash.
While it wasn’t quite the car the ’65 was, I do remember that one well, and lovingly. I wanted it to be my first car, but alas, it was not to be. She sold it sometime around 1991, still in mint condition, and never to be seen again. I loved the colors on that ’77, and have never seen another one in that color combination.
But back to the past. Now this was when a Thunderbird was a Thunderbird. Ford had a gold mine in the 1955-66 T-Bird, which gave the rest of the Ford lineup a bump in prestige just by being in the same showroom. Here was a Ford vehicle with a great blend of sportiness and luxury.
Whoever ordered this brand-new drop-top obviously wanted additional scoot, since it sports the optional 345-hp 428 cu in V8 in lieu of the standard 390 and its 315 horses. Burn rubber in luxury.
The new owner, who must have giddily checked every box when ordering this ‘Bird, also had to have the dealer-installed sport wheel covers. They’re even color-keyed to the bright red paint. Nice.
Let’s take one final look at those red seats. Back then, you could get your new T-Bird interior in, among other colors, Red, Dark Blue, Light Blue, Aqua, Parchment, and Emberglo. A far cry from today’s gray or beige interior choices, eh?
I sensed that my time in the ’60s was nearing an end, so I hurried over to check out this 1966 Ford Custom. I’m guessing the mild-mannered Dad who ordered this car really wanted a Mustang, but familial obligations prevented it. How else to explain the bright blue paint and Mustang rocker-panel stripe?
I’m guessing it’s being fitted for some over-the-counter Mustang GT styled steel wheels. Why not add a little spice to your four-door sedan?
And then they were gone. I wandered outside, wondering if I had come back to the present, or perhaps to 1975, 1988 or 2002. Nope. Judging from this ginger ale-color Fusion, I was back when I belonged. But I’m grateful for the chance to peek into the past, albeit for just a few moments. Ah, the good old days…
ED: Special thanks to KV Dahl, for indulging my time-traveling fantasies with his beautiful ’66 ‘Bird!
The ’65 T-bird is very nice indeed but those wheel covers … they just don’t do justice to the rest of car. I can’t recall ever seeing that style before.
I agree with you on the wheel covers. I don’t remember seeing them, either. The standard ones, or better yet, the simulated knock-offs were way better.
The wheel covers are from a 1967 model.
Tom is referencing Fall 1965 – the car in the garage is a 1966.
We had a beige on beige 65 T-Bird and I still think it was one of the most beautiful cars the family ever owned. The elaborate lighting really set off all that interior chrome trim. The thin shell bucket seats were comfortable and the cocktail lounge rear seat was really cool. Disc brakes, sequential turn signals, turn signal indicators on the front fenders – great stuff that more than made up for the less than stellar handing and gas mileage.
I’ve never liked the changes made to the 66. The full width tailights, heavier front grille, removal of the cove in the front fenders, and more complicated wheel cover designs in all iterations made the car somewhat less balanced and sleek IMO.
When I check the vintage 1970 Brazilian Galaxie pictures (who used the 1965-66 bodyshell to 1982 but others sources said 1983), i guess they made a nice facelift. http://www.galaxieclube.com/Galaxie_Clube_do_Brasil/Propagandas.html
For me, there is no greater automotive memory than sitting behind the wheel of one of these Thunderbirds. I was 10 years old and the T-bird really did make me feel as though I could fly. Unfortunately, both me and the car were earthbound on the showroom floor at the Ford dealership.
While my parents were in the office buying a Fairlane, I was playing with the Swing-Away steering wheel, admiring all the space-age chromium and smelling that wonderful leather interior.
My father had a ’65 T-bird. The dash was very futuristic looking.
I remember the “swing-away” steering wheel which could be moved to the right when the vehicle was in park – for ease of entry/exit.
I also remember spending a whole afternoon disassembling the console to replace a “fasten seat belt” light on the console.
That Ford Custom paint and decor isn’t factory, no way were Mustang stripes available. That blue paint looks Earl Scheib. Many old base sedans have been tricked out in the past 40-50 years by now.
I think those wheelcovers are from 67-68, and someone has painted the gray parts with body color, a treatment I do not believe ever came from Ford. I will agree with Chicagoland that the blue 66 sedan is not in a color ever offered in these.
What a great shot, though. I wonder if they are insisting on Autolite parts. I wonder how many times a day they had to empty ashtrays in the waiting room in 1966?
Bingo……was looked to see who said it first.
I LOVED those wrap-around back seats on those T-Birds. Back when owning a Thunderbird really meant something.
See? I even give Fords credit where credit is due, so there!
The wrap around seats of the ’64-’66 is what I remember as a kid. A grade school friend’s Mom had a ’66 Landau – black top, white and black naugahyde seats. I sat in the back “wrap around” part and the dashboard was truly space age for a 7-8 year old kid (or ever a 53 year old one now!) .
Even from 1000 feet away I knew it wasn’t 1965………on the 500 the color, stripe and especially the window tint told me it was contemporary.
I’ve always loved those Flair Birds also, but you really can’t go wrong with any T-Bird from the beginning until 1966. I never got to drive or even sit in a “real” T-Bird, just the sorry excuse of a 1978 model — such an abomination. Oh, hold that thought, I did get some brief seat time (no driving) in a bright red ’57 a decade or so ago.
I had (actually still have) an AMT 1/25 model of a ’64 T-Bird. I spray painted the exterior gold and brush painted the interior black. Those coved rear seats are something! And as an 8th grader with a long open lunch period at school, a friend and I would wander through the back of the local Ford dealer and caught a glimpse of the ’66 Bird before official introduction day — good times!
For the T-bird, we could wonder how the Flair Birds would had looked as a fastback. Keith Kaucher imagined a fastback version by using a resin kit.
Is the front wheel camber on the red car normal?
Checked every option, except of course for the ones that got you air, power windows, power vents, cruise, locks, reclining bucket seat…..
But it’s got a 428? Odd, every 428 Flairbird I’ve ever seen was usually well equipped.
That’s not all Carmine – I really didn’t go back in time either!
First proven by the dust on the Flair Bird’s front passenger seat.
I remember my friend’s mom had one of these. It was hot, and so was she…..