Ford Thunderbird 1961-1962-1963
Transforming the two-seat T-bird to a four-seat personal luxury car had paid off for the Ford Motor Company. Sales had increased every year since 1958, and a new redesigned T-bird, introduced in November of 1960, was well-received. With pointed nose, recessed headlamps, twin round taillights and tailfins, the third-generation Thunderbird would become known as the "bullet-bird".
The new hard-top model had softer roof lines than its "square-bird" predecessor. On the convertible models, the forward end of the trunk lid was still rear-hinged, which raised and lowered through hydraulic cylinders. With the top down and trunk lid lowered, there was no sight of the soft-top. The standard and only engine offered was Ford's 390-cid V8, rated at 300-horsepower. Transmission was a three-speed automatic.
1961 T-bird Interior
A restyled dashboard, curved at both ends, blended smoothly into the door panels. The traditional-dash mounted glove-box was gone and a center-console glove-box took its place. Optional in 1961, then becoming standard equipment, was the swing-away steering wheel feature. With the car in park and the driver's door opened, the wheel moved to the side to help entry and exit. Thunderbird sales figures for 1961 were 62,535 hardtops and 10,516 convertibles.
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New Ford General Manager Lee Iacocca believed that adding more models would attract customers to dealer showrooms. One of two new models for the Thunderbird was the Landau Edition. Based on the coupe, it featured a vinyl-covered roof, available in either black or white. Simulated S-bars appeared on the roof pillars and would become a Thunderbird trademark. Inserts at the center of the S-bar matched the color of the vinyl top. The Landau edition was one of the first cars to popularize the vinyl roof, which soon found its way on many makes and models.
Thunderbird Sports Roadster
Four years after the original T-bird was discontinued, Ford dealers were still hearing complaints and getting requests for another two-seat 'Bird. In response, Ford offered the Thunderbird Sports Roadster. Starting with a standard Thunderbird convertible, a fiberglass tonneau cover was fitted over the rear seats, turning the four-seat Thunderbird into a two-seat roadster. The removable fiberglass cover was contoured to match the lines of the car, with twin raised headrests covered in padded vinyl that matched the seat upholstery. A dash-mounted grab-bar was mounted on the passenger side of the dash. The convertible top could still operate with the tonneau cover in place.
Chrome-plated wire-wheels, manufactured by Kelsey-Hayes, were included with the Sports Roadster package. Because there was not enough clearance for the knock-off centers, rear fender skirts were not used on cars equipped with the wire-wheels. Although tubeless tires had been in use for several years, inner tubes were required with the wire wheel option. The beautiful but troublesome 48-spoke rims could be ordered on other Thunderbird models at additional cost.
Exterior colors on the Sports Roadster were limited to less than half of other Thunderbird models. Roadster models are among the most prized of all Thunderbirds, which has led to clones being made from standard convertibles. 1,882 authentic Z-code Roadsters were built during the two years offered. Dealer-produced versions are also known to exist.
1962 T-bird Production Figures
1962 Thunderbird sales were slightly higher than 1961. Production of 78,011 broke down into 68,127 hardtop and landau models and 9,884 convertibles and sports roadsters.
390 M-code Engine Option
Ford's Tri-power induction system, first available in 1961, became optional on Thunderbirds in 1962. Ordering the M-code option got the 390-cid motor topped with a factory 3x2 aluminum intake. Three Holley carburetors operated with a progressive, mechanical throttle linkage. M-Code Thunderbirds are quite rare, with about 200 sold between 1962 and 1963. Most of them were ordered with the Sports Roadster package.
1963 Ford Thunderbird
Offering the same four models - hardtop, convertible, sports roadster and landau, Thunderbirds saw minor improvements in 1963. Restyled front fenders, doors, and a new grille helped give a cleaner. less cluttered look. Standard equipment included a remote-control exterior rearview mirror and variable-speed hydraulic windshield wipers. New options included an AM-FM pushbutton radio, rear seat speaker, and vacuum-operated door locks.
"Principality of Monaco" Edition
Above the Landau model was the "Principality of Monaco" edition Thunderbird. Offered only in Corinthian White with a rose-beige vinyl top, the interior featured a white steering wheel and white leather upholstery with rose-beige appointments. The console, instrument panel, and side trim panels were finished in simulated rosewood. Only 2,000 of these limited edition models were made.
1963 Ford Thunderbird Production Figures
63,313 Thunderbirds were built in 1963, which included 5,913 convertibles and 455 Sports Roadsters. Competition from other car manufacturers, particularly General Motors, would bring about a restyled T-bird for 1964.