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1964, 1965, 1966 Ford Thunderbird

In the last year of its design, the 1964-1966 Ford Thunderbird gained a redesigned grille and taillights.
In the last year of its design, the 1964-1966 Ford Thunderbird gained a redesigned grille and taillights.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1964, 1965, 1966 Ford Thunderbird models represented a series of design and performance changes. The drivetrain was unchanged from 1963, but the M-series (340 blip) engine was eliminated, along with the previous Sports Roadster model. Sales were terrific, exceeding 90,000 -- the best in Thunderbird history.

In styling, the 1965 naturally resembled the 1964. The grille was busier with its six new vertical bars bisecting the thin horizontal bars of 1964; the 1965 also had dummy side louvers and new "turbo style" wheel covers. The drivetrain was unchanged and the 300-bhp 390 engine remained the Thunderbird's sole powerplant.

A fourth model, the Limited Edition Special Landau, was added to the line in March 1965. Finished in Ember-Glo metallic, it had a parchment-colored vinyl top with matching carpets and upholstery. The owner's name was engraved on a numbered plate on the console, and the wheel discs were color-keyed.

Simulated woodgrain interior embellishments were done in a material somewhat richer than the standard Landau's. Yet the Special Landau cost only $50 more than the standard, which was a good deal if you happened to like Ember-Glo metallic.

Shoveling 'em out the door, Ford Division sold close to 75,000 1965 Thunderbirds -- not as good as 1964, but still the pace to beat in the personal-luxury car market. Despite growing competition from the Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera, sales at nearly 70,000 remained excellent for the 1966 model, which in some ways was the nicest of its generation.

The 1966 line included the usual hardtop, convertible, and "Town Landau," plus a new "Town Hardtop," using the plain metal roof style sans padded vinyl or dummy landau bars, and selling for $100 less than the Landau. Both Town models had a "Safety-Convenience" panel mounted in the central forward roof, including a seatbelt reminder light; all four models were available with a new stereo tape deck.

Good news for performance-minded buyers was a new optional 428 V-8 which offered a rousing 345 bhp for only $64 extra. The 428 shaved 1.5 seconds off the 0-60 time and gave the Thunderbird a genuine 120 mph capability.

The late John R. Bond summed up the pros and cons of these Thunderbirds quite adequately in 1965: "[It offers] more symbolism than stature. Only the blessedly ignorant view it as anything more than a luxury-class car for those who want to present a dashing sort of image, who worry about spreading girth and stiffening arteries, and who couldn't care less about taste."

Even when viewed in that light, however, the Thunderbird must be admired. It is extremely well done for its purpose. Its roofline, bucket seats and console have inspired dozens of lesser imitations, which, as the saying goes, is the sincerest form of flattery.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1964-1966 Ford Thunderbird specifications.

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