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1961, 1962, 1963 Ford Thunderbird

The 1961-1963 Ford Thunderbird eventually incorporated chrome trim and front fender creaselines.
The 1961-1963 Ford Thunderbird eventually incorporated chrome trim and front fender creaselines.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1961, 1962, 1963 Ford Thunderbird models were a smash hit. By the time a special gold model paced the 50th Anniversary Indy "500" in May, 1961, sales had already reached 50,000 for the model year.

Ultimately, Ford sold 73,051, of which 10,516 were convertibles and joyfully expanded the line with two new models in 1962. Most important among the 1962s was the Sports Roadster, a special convertible with Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and a fiberglass tonneau which covered the back seats and formed headrests for the front seats.

It wasn't intensely practical -- there was no place to put it if you wanted to remove it, and there was really only one front-seat position that properly mated the seat to the headrests -- but the Sports Roadster had glamor and allure, and has since become a prized collector's item.

A second new model was the Landau, a hardtop with a padded vinyl roof and dummy landau bars -- an attempt to upgrade the Thunderbird's luxury image. New features common to all 1962 models included a revised grille, different side trim, combination tail/stop/parking lights, a hand-controlled parking brake, standard Swing-Away steering wheel and other minor interior adjustments.

Aside from an aluminized muffler, larger master cylinder, and more sound insulation, there were few engineering changes, but an optional "M-Series" 340-bhp engine with three two-barrel carburetors was offered for $242 extra. The M Series would do 0-60 in 8.5 seconds and had a top speed of 120 mph. Most 340 engines went into Sports Roadsters: 120 in 1962, 37 in 1963.

After another successful year (over 78,000), Ford stood almost pat with the 1963s. Styling changes involved a molded creaseline on the front fender and door, new rear fender script, and a vertical-bar grille. Inside, the 1963 had door panel courtesy lights and a new AM/FM pushbutton radio.

The 1963 Landau could be ordered with a black, white, blue, or brown top, and had simulated walnut trim on the interior and steering wheel. Prices kept sales of convertibles (5,913 units) and Sports Roadsters (455) low. This was the last year the Roadster would appear as a distinct model.

In January, Ford ran off 2,000 Limited Edition Landaus, which premiered in Monaco and were known as the "Princess Grace" models. They featured white-on-white paint and trim with a rose-colored vinyl top, white steering wheel, simulated rosewood interior trim, landau bars set in a white background and knock-off style wire wheel covers.

This now highly collectible Bird cost $200 more than the standard Landau.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1961-1963 Ford Thunderbird specifications.

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