Curbside Classic: 1962 Ford Thunderbird – The Trajectory of Life


(first posted 4/25/2014)    Recently, I had the experience of having a teenage boy in my company.  He was at the house with his mother and younger sister and, wanting to create some distance from Spawn, I had him help me pick up and dump a bunch of tree limbs that had accumulated in the yard.

While doing all this, various questions shot through my mind:  When did I get to be this age?  Why is Spawn no longer a baby?  Had it truly been that long ago when I was the nervous young man talking to the father of my focus?  Am I really old enough to be called “Mr. Shafer” and “sir”?

Undoubtedly many of you have experienced similar.  With all these questions bouncing through my mind, I still knew the bigger answer: it is the trajectory of life.


This latest bout of self-examination was ironically timed, coming just a few days after encountering this 1962 Ford Thunderbird.  Blame it on a warm evening or several rum-and-cokes; either way, introspection was in and farcical, outlandish pieces were out of vogue with such an elegant specimen in sight.

It has been said that our unique experiences have shaped us into who we are.  I would further opine that cars also reflect their experiences and do so in a more honest, candid manner.  So what can be gathered about the experiences of a fifty-two year old Thunderbird sitting on a used car lot along old US 66 in a town of 160,000 souls?  Amongst the late model, very high mileage, over-priced iron surrounding it and being near a plethora of “buy here, pay here” used car dealers, the opportunities for learning specifics about this special gal seem mighty slim.

But are they really?


Stickers such as this are terrific evidence this Thunderbird was lavished with consideration for a good portion of its life, presumably by a long-term owner.  The efforts stemming from pride of ownership can more easily withstand the ravages of time.  Even if the pride fades, this extra effort does help stave off the ravages life presents.


Sadly, nothing is immune to an unfortunate mishap.  Age induced skin imperfections are called character lines or laugh lines; on sheet metal, they are called dents or creases.  Different entities, different expectations–nobody has ever said the trajectory of life was easy or fair.


Rust was prevalent in the 1960s, yet it generally serves as an indicator of location moreso than age, indicating this ‘Bird likely grew up nearby or further south.  Snow happens around here, but not to the extent it does only a short distance north.  Whether the pictures convey it or not, this is one solid and original car.  This Thunderbird is no Bondo Betty.

Like people, cars can be a contradiction.


Though this fine third generation Thunderbird looks good on the outside, the interior tells a different story.  Besides revealing that its load was frequently offset to the left, what stories are lurking in there?  How many marriage proposals happened here?  How many arguments, first kisses, or cigarettes smoked?  How many people have piloted the pride of Mr. Tremulis down the various avenues of their lives?  The Thunderbird is keeping its secrets, perhaps smiling to herself with the satisfaction of knowing something that will never emerge.  Remaining discreet is an enviable trait.


Despite any degree of effort in remaining discreet, this Thunderbird will sometimes let the cat out of the bag.  Cats do have an appetite for birds, and some cat has likely sated his appetite with this ‘Bird.  Quality wasn’t exactly Job 1 at Ford in 1962, but neither had it slipped to being the afterthought it would become a decade later.  Is it fathomable this filler appears as it was applied by an assembly line worker over a half-century ago?


It is consistent with the image of a less-than-masterful job by some yahoo wielding a caulk gun.  Ripples like this surely don’t happen due to a combination of sustained high speeds and a viscous joint sealer.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the utter degradation inflicted by the cheap, plastic wheel covers which would undoubtedly jar Hank the Deuce to his core.


The more I looked, the more the questions kept springing to mind.  Oblique considerations such as the cubic feet of air passed through this internal combustion engine (little more than an air pump), waiting their turn to be compressed within the rock solid 390 cubic inch engine, then emitted, post haste, out the tailpipes…


…or pondering how many gallons of fuel had passed through this threshold, helping turn our 300 horsepower air pump throughout the course of its life.


How many times have how many hands grasped this door handle, aiming themselves in the trajectory of their lives?  Yes, the questions are abstract, but this white wonder kept triggering new ones.


There is little doubt many fellow motorists felt the sting of the afterglow, and a twinge of passing envy, as this Thunderbird was hurtling down the trajectory of its path, aiding others along the trajectory of theirs.


All are questions whose answers will remain unknown, well-kept secrets within the confines of Ford’s jewel of 1962.

The trajectory of life continue for this Thunderbird; discovered and photographed on Tuesday evening and gone by noon Thursday.  Someone could not escape the talons of the Thunderbird.  Despite the domicile of discovery, it seems doubtful the newest segment in the trajectory of life for this Thunderbird will be a downward spiral.


 Related reading:  1963 Ford Thunderbird Landau