1964-1966 Ford Thunderbird

Article by Mark Trotta

In contrast to the rounded, rocket-ship styling of previous models, the fourth generation Thunderbird had square, chiseled features with a longer hood and redesigned deck lid. A new grille and bumper set off the front of the car, with left and right turn signal indicators sitting atop the front fenders. The tail panel housed large rectangular tail lamps.

1964 Thunderbird Landau

Both the convertible and coupe models continued for 1964, including the vinyl roof-clad Landau. Underneath the new sheet metal, the drivetrain remained the same as 1963 T-bird models.

1964 Thunderbird Landau

1964 Thunderbird Interior

The interior was one of the nicest of the day, with an array of technically sophisticated controls and gauges flanking the dash panel. Thinner, form-fitting front seats, and contoured rear seats with a fold-down armrest added both comfort and style.

1964 Ford Thunderbird interior

For the 1964 model year, a total of 92,465 T-birds were sold, up nearly 50% from last year. Although the Thunderbird Sports Roadster was gone, the fiberglass tonneau cover and wire wheels were still available as dealer-installed options. Very few were sold.

1965 Thunderbird

Minor cosmetic changes included reversed scoops behind the front wheels, and a new front grille. A Special Landau model was offered mid-year, with approximately 4,500 examples being built. Front disc brakes were now standard.

1965 Thunderbird convertible

Increasing competition, including Ford's new Mustang, saw T-bird sales dip to 74,972.

Thunderbird Sequential Turn Signals

Sequential rear turn signals were a new feature for 1965 Ford Thunderbird models. Each tail lamp was divided into three segments; when the turn signal was activated, each segment would light sequentially in the appropriate direction, from inside to outside. This "one-two-three" motion would repeat until the signal was canceled. Ford had originally planned on debuting the sequential turn signals on the 1964 Thunderbird, however, legal difficulties concerning vehicle lighting, which differed from state to state, delayed them for a year.

1966 Thunderbird

1966 Ford Thunderbird

1966 saw cosmetic changes, highlighted by a new grille and a large, one-piece tail-light that ran the width of the back of the car. The Town Hardtop was introduced, and the Town Landau model replaced the Landau. Best-selling was the Town Landau, accounting for 35,105 of the year's 69,176 total sales.

1966 Ford Thunderbird

Thunderbird Engine Choices

Engine choices were revised, with the base 390-cid V-8 getting a two-barrel carburetor, making 25 horsepower less than the now optional four-barrel 390, which produced 315 horsepower. Also available was Ford's new 428 cubic-inch engine, designed for low-end torque, and was actually closer in displacement to 427-cid. To avoid confusion with Ford's high-revving 427 motor, the new motor was referred to as the "7-litre" 428 engine. It had a single four-barrel carburetor and made 345 horsepower.

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The Thunderbird's success had spawned many imitators. Personal-luxury cars from GM alone included the Buick Riviera, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Oldsmobile Toronado. Although many felt that the Riviera and Grand Prix were more roadworthy cars, the Thunderbird was the sales leader of the personal-luxury market.

1964 Ford Thunderbird ad

T-bird production for 1966 reached 69,176, with convertibles accounting for 5,049 of those. Ford would unveil a new, larger, more luxurious Thunderbird for 1967.