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Image Left 1962 Thunderbird
 
Image credits: © Ford.

1963 Ford Thunderbird news, pictures, specifications, and information

Sports Roadster
 
The 1962 and 1963 Thunderbird Sport Roadster was an attempt to give the current T-bird some of the flavor of the 55-57 two-passenger T-Bird. This example is a 1963 Sport Roadster that was restored by its owner over the last two years. The Sport Roadster option added the cover over the rear seats, genuine wire wheels, passenger grab-bar and Sport Roadster emblems on the front fenders.

Base price of a Sports Roadster was $5,563 plus options and many would easily top $6,000. The buyers of these cars did get a unique car with style all its own.

In late 1962 production and early 1963, Ford offered the 'M' option. This was a high-performance engine with three dual barrel carburetors, special heads, cam and larger dual exhausts. 'M' engine cars also got the chrome underhood dress-up kit to add to the sizzle of the 340 horsepower engine.
Sports Roadster
Chassis Num: 3Y89Z110651
 
Sold for $41,250 at 2010 Gooding & Company.
There were just 455 examples of the Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster produced. This example is painted in the correct Sand Beige paint and remains in excellent condition. The engine and transmission were rebuilt 3,500 miles ago. It has been kept in a climate-controlled garage since new and has always been well maintained. The Art Querfeld-designed pearl-beige interior is in extraordinary condition. The standard swing-away steering wheel eases entry and exit for drivers.

The Sports Roadster features a fiberglass tonneau that fits over the rear seats, essentially creating a two-place roadster from the four-seater. The 'Bullet-Birds' ride on Kelsey Hayes chrome wire wheels that further enhances its appeal.

In 2010, this car was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction in Pebble Beach, CA where it was estimated to sell for $50,000 - $75,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $41,250 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2010
Hardtop Coupe
 
This is 1 of 37 1963 Ford Thunderbirds produced with the rare 'M' code engine. It is a 390 cubic-inch V-8 engine generating 340 horsepower. It uses 3 2-barrel carbs and has a Cruise-o-Matic 3-speed automatic transmission.

The original cost was $5,563.

The Sports Roadster model includes:
- Rear seat fiberglass cover with front seat contour headrests built in
- Engine chrome dress up kit
- Console mount tachometer
- Rear wire wheels

- This examples is equipped with almost every option offered by the factory including air conditioning.

- Less than 10 M-Code Sports Roadsters are thought to exist with factory air conditioning.

For 1963, the Thunderbird was available as a hardtop coupe, Landau coupe with a vinyl top, convertible, and a Sport Roadster (featuring a removable tonneau cover for a two-seat roadster appearance).
Landau Hardtop
 
Lee Iacocca launched a promotion of Ford's performance models in mid-1963 in conjunction with the famous Monte Carlo Rally. This campaign included the introduction of a special Thunderbird model, called the Limited Edition Landau.

The connection with royalty was emphasized by filming television ads on location in the Principality of Monaco, and the first Limited Edition Landau model was presented to Prince Ranier. Reportedly, Princess Grace (former actress Grace Kelly) was consulted regarding the color selection of Corinthian White and Rose Beige, which closely resembled the colors of the Monaco flag.

The Limited Edition Landau on display is number 368 of only 2000 built. It was originally delivered to Ford's Dallas district in January 1963, and is equipped with every available factory option. The current owner acquired the car in 1990 and spent the next 15 years performing a restoration.
Sports Roadster
 
Ford's high-performance 'M-Code' Thunderbirds of 1962 and 1963 featured the 390 cubic-inch, 340 horsepower. Super 8 engine with triple Holley 2-barrel carburetors, light weight aluminum intake manifold, racing 406 cylinder heads, high-ligt cam, 2-inch diameter dual exhaust, heavy duty transmission and a unique chrome engine dress-up package. Only 280 Thunderbirds were produced with this option package during those two model years.

Only 37 'M-Code' 1963 Sports Roadsters were made and they featured Kelsey Hayes chrome wire wheels, passenger side grab bar, tonneau cover and special Sports Roadster front fender emblems. These are considered the 'Holy Grail' of Thunderbirds. Only 20 of these cars are known to exist. This is one of only three M-Code Roadsters produced in this non-standard Rangoon Red with Pearl Beige Metallic color combination.

The present owner discovered this car neglected and mostly disassembled in a suburban Philadelphia warehouse where it had languished for nearly 15 years. The car is owner-restored having undergone an extensive six-year rotisserie restoration to exact factory specifications. The restoration was completed in 2009 and has won awards at many events including a perfect score at the 2011 AACA Fall Hershey show.
Sports Roadster
Chassis Num: 3Y89M106625
 
Sold for $85,250 at 2014 RM Auctions.
The Ford Thunderbird was introduced in 1955 and improvements and changes continued throughout the years. The two-seater's popularity grew through 1958, when Ford added a back seat to the car. By 1960, the final year of production for the second-generation 'Squarebird', the Thunderbird outsold its rival - the Corvette - nine-to-one.

The third-generation Thunderbird was introduced in 1961. By this point in history, the car had become much more of a personal luxury coupe than a sports car. The four-seater, third-generation Thunderbird was nicknamed the 'Bulletbird' due to the vehicle's sharply pointed noise and rounded sides. Sales were strong but slowing by this time. Lee Iacocca appointed designer Bud Kaufman to try to fix this concern.

Kaufman's solution to the slowing sales was to introduce a removable fiberglass tonneau that would both cover up the Thunderbird convertible's rear seats and incorporate headrests for the front seat occupants. This was originally a dealer-installed option, but in 1962, it came from the factory as part of the Sports Roadster package, which also included a passenger side grab bar, Kelsey-Hayes chrome wire wheels with knock-off center caps, and a rear fender skirt delete, to clear those gaps.

There were 1,427 examples of the Thunderbird Sports Roadster produced in 1962, falling to just 455 units in 1963. Even rarer were Thunderbirds ordered with the 390 cubic-inch tri-power V8, which was designated by an M in the VIN, resulting in the nickname of 'M-Code' cars. The engine breathed through three Holley two-barrel carburetors and offered 340 horsepower at the crankshaft. In total, Ford produced just 37 M-Code Sports Roadsters in 1963.

This particular example is finished in Corinthian White with a black Haartz power convertible top, and original factory red interior. The car has been given a recent cosmetic refurbishment. It is equipped with the optional power windows, a power driver's seat, optional factory air conditioning, and the unique Thunderbird Swing-Away steering wheel.

By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2014
The Ford Thunderbird is an American automotive icon first introduced in 1955. During the early 1950's, military men were returning from fighting in World War II. In Europe, the style of vehicle was very different from the Detroit American car. The graceful but sporty MG, Triumphs, and Jaguar's, to name a few, had found their way into the hearts of many of these serviceman. The American automobile manufacturers noticed this trend and felt there was a strong market to support a small sportscar.

The Chevrolet was one of the first, if not the famous, of the Detroit auto-manufacturers to test the market with the introduction of their Corvette. Not wanting to be left behind, Ford entered with their Thunderbird.

Lewis D. Crusoe, Frank Hershey, and George Walker are considered the creators of the Thunderbird. Crusoe was a retired GM executive; Hershey was a designer for Ford; and Walker was the chief stylist for Ford. While Crusoe and Walker were in Paris, they saw a sports car and were instantly inspired. They convinced Hershey to create designs and the result was an open car with room for two passengers. As with all cars, deciding upon a suitable name is difficult. There were well over 5000 suggestions, with the one submitted by Alden Giberson behind selected. The name Whizzer had been seriously considered but was dropped for Gibersons suggestion, the Thunderbird.

The Thunderbird, though similar, was different in many ways to the Corvette and the rest of the small sports cars being offered. The Thunderbird was created as a 'personal luxury' car and even to the current production version, has never been designed as a sports car. Instead of fiberglass, the Thunderbird was constructed of metal. Instead of six cylinder engines, Ford upped-the-ante with a V8. To keep cost and development at a minimum, it used as many parts as possible from the other Fords of that era. The result was a two-seater with many creature comforts and impressive styling. Manual and automatic transmissions were both available. The instrument panel was home to a tachometer, clock and a 150 mph speedometer. The suspension was comprised of a ball-join in the front, offering a plush ride.

The Thunderbird was first debuted to the public at the 1954 Detroit Auto Show, though it was still in concept form. The production version varied slightly. In September of that same year, the first production Thunderbird was completed and ready for sale. It was only available as a convertible. A popular option, the removable hardtop with circular portholes was available. During its introductory year, over 16000 examples were produced.

A 292 cubic-inch V8, depending on the configuration, ranged in horsepower from 193 through 212. A year later, the horsepower rose to a base of 215 and a high of 340 from the 292 and 312 cubic-inch engines. Ventilation was improved with the addition of side vents. The exhaust pipes were moved to the ends of the bumper. By moving the spare wheel to the outside, the trunk space was enlarged and the Continental Kit was born. Production for 1956 was down just a little but still strong with over 15,600 examples being produced.

The Thunderbird received styling changes in 1957 with a reshaped bumper and an enlarged grille. In the rear, the tailfins grew in size and became more pointed. The round tail-lights also grew in size. The spare tire was again housed inside the trunk. The big news was under the hood with versions of the 292 and 312 cubic-inch engines being offered. The base engine was the 292 offering just under 200 horsepower. The top of the line configuration was the F-code 312 with the NASCAR racing kit performance package, boosting horsepower to 340. The F-code, in non-NASCAR racing kit form was popular; with the help of a single four-barrel carburetor and supercharger it produced around 300 horsepower. The E-code 312 engine option, another popular engine choice, was equipped with two four-barrel carburetors and produced 270 horsepower. In total, 1957 was a great year for the Thunderbird, both in performance and in sales with over 21300 examples being produced. The 1957 season actually had three extra months of production because the 1958 models were not ready to be sold. On December 13, 1957, the last of the first series of Thunderbirds was produced and marked the end of two-seater Fords until the 1982 Ford EXP. A two-seater Thunderbird would not reappear until 2002. In total, over 53,160 examples had been produced from 1954 through 1957.

The major complaint of many of the owners of the 'Classic' or 'Little Bird' Thunderbirds had been due to its size, mainly because there was no back seat and limited trunk space. The next version of the Thunderbird addressed both of these issues.

The second series of the Thunderbird was produced from 1958 through 1960 and are commonly referred to as the 'Squarebirds' due to their design. The designs of the Corvette and the Thunderbird went in different directions with the Thunderbird continue to further evolve into the luxury car segment. Robert McNamara, the CEO of Ford at the time, made the final decision to morph the 2-door Thunderbird into a four-door. The decision was made in an attempt to increase sales.

The square and angular design quickly made its way to the rest of the Ford model line. It was primarily the work of Joe Oros who would later aid in the designing of the Ford Mustang. The design proposed by Elwood Engel was declined but later influenced the 1961 Lincoln Continental.

The Thunderbird was now built with a unitized body replacing the traditional body on frame construction. The interior had bucket seats and a center console. The console and bucket seats were the result of an engineering problem. The Thunderbird sat very low, lower than most automobiles at the time. The powertrain needed to be revised in order to fit under the car without dragging on the ground. The result was to burrow it higher in the car and offer a center console. The center console was a welcomed amenity, allowing buttons, switches and ashtrays to be built into it. The Thunderbird was offered as a hardtop or a convertible. A retractable top was considered but after less-than favorable experiences with the Skyliner, the idea was scrapped. Lincoln and the Thunderbird were both built on the same assembly line at a newly created plant located in Wixom Michigan specifically for the development of these upscale vehicles.

Under the hood was a 352 cubic-inch V8 that produced an impressive 300 horsepower. A three-speed manual transmission was standard with overdrive or Cruise-O-Matic being offered as optional equipment. The vehicle was suspended in place with a front independent suspension and a live rear axle both with with coil springs. The combination of luxury and power seemed to be a suitable decision for Ford, as sales skyrocketed to almost 38000. The hardtop option was by far the popular choice with almost 36000 units constructed. A little over 2000 examples of the convertible option were chosen.

The NASCAR racing circuit saw the square bird racing around the track during 1959 and 1960. The vehicle was not only popular with consumers it also captured the coveted Motor Trend's Car of the Year for 1958.

For 1959 Ford began offering leather seats in the Thunderbird. Ornaments could now be found on the exterior of the vehicle. Though little was changed in regards to aesthetics, there were many new mechanical components. The coil springs in the rear were replaced with a Hotchkiss drive unit and parallel leaf springs. An optional Lincoln 430 cubic-inch V8 boosted power to 350 horsepower, while the 352 was still the base engine. Part way through the year a change to the convertibles mechanism made them full automatic. Sales continued to be strong, with over 67000 examples being produced. The hardtop was still the more popular with just over 57000 examples created. The convertible had respectable sales with 10,261 examples being produced.

1960 marked the final year for the second generation Thunderbird. A Golde Edition, named after the German company who held the patent for the sunroof, was offered which featured a sunroof. 2530 examples selected this option, making vehicle outfitted with this option very rare in modern times. Sales for 1960 were nearly 93000, 11,860 were convertibles.

1961 was the beginning of the third generation, commonly referred to as 'Projectile or Bullet Birds'. The Thunderbird was completely redesigned with sleek styling that many believe resembles a bullet. In the rear of the vehicle the taillights and fins gave the impression of a jet or rocket-ship. The chassis was carried over from the prior year with minor improvements to produce a smoother ride. Performance continued to be strong with the 390 cubic-inch V8 producing 300 horsepower being the only available engine. The interior dashboard was curved and the steering wheel was the first vehicle to feature the 'Swing Away' design.

It was invited to participate as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500. John F. Kennedy's rode in a Thunderbird during his Presidential inaugural parade. Elvis Presley purchased a 1961 Thunderbird.

Though the design of the Thunderbird was controversial, sales continued to hold strong, though less than the prior year. Over 73000 examples were produced with 10,516 opting for the convertible. The following year, sales rose to 78,011 with 9,884 being convertibles.

From 1962 through 1964 a Thunderbird Sports Roadster package was available which included a fiberglass tonneau cover to be used to cover the rear seats, converting the car into a two-seater. The tonneau cover was designed by Bud Kaufman and built with headrests. The convertible could still be operated even with the cover in place. Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and trim completed the ensemble.

Performance was improved with a optional 'M-Code' 390-cubic-inch V8 with Holley two-barrel carburetors producing 340 horsepower. Only 145 examples were produced with the 'M-Code' option. In total around 62,000 hardtops and 10,516 convertibles were produced. 1427 buyers opted for the Convertible Sports Roadster package.

A Landau model was also introduced in 1962. It was a luxury hardtop version that featured a vinyl roof. It proved to be a popular option with over 12,000 examples being purchased in 1963. Overall, sales declined in 1963 with a total of 63,313 examples being produced. The Sports Roadsters were the least popular with only 455 examples produced. The convertibles had respectable sales with almost 6000 produced. Only 55 M-code Thunderbirds, 37 being Sport Roadsters, were produced in 1963. A Limited-Edition of 2000 'Principality of Monaco' Landau model were created. These special editions were inscribed with the original owner's name and production number on a plaque.

Styling changes continued in 1964 with square features replacing many of the round items. This was the beginning of the fourth generation of Thunderbird. The mechanics remained unchanged. The size of the wheelbase and length were increased. This was the final year for the Sports Convertible option.

Disc brakes were added in 1995. A new grille was added in 1966, as was the addition of an optional 428 cubic-inch engine producing 345 horsepower. Zero-to-sixty took about 9 seconds. The 390 cubic-inch engine was standard, able to propel the Thunderbird from zero-to-sixty in just eleven seconds while top speed was achieved at 110 mph.

This generation of the Thunderbird played a staring role in the TV series 'Highlander'. A 1966 model was shown in the 1991 movie 'Thelma & Louise.'

1966 was the final year for the fourth generation Thunderbird, commonly referred to as 'Flair Birds' or 'Jet Birds'.

The fifth generation of the Thunderbird was produced from 1967 through 1971, commonly referred to as 'Glamor Birds'. The design changed considerable, now available in four doors. Part of the reasoning was to distinguish it further from the Mustang, which had been intruding on the sales of the Thunderbird. So the Thunderbird was moved upward, further into the luxury car segment.

The unibody construction was abandoned for a body-on-frame construction. The design was changed, complete with a new grille and headlight layout. The headlights were hidden until needed. The rear doors were 'suicide' with the handle positioned on the opposite side of traditional doors. The door opened backwards. A convertible option was no longer offered.

In 1968 the grille was new but the rest of the vehicle remained mostly unchanged. Ford now offered a powerful 429 cubic-inch 8-cylinder engine capable of producing 360 horsepower. 1968 also marked the first year that the Lincoln Continental and the Ford Thunderbird would be closely related, built in similar fashion. This would continue until the close of the 1990s.

The grille and taillights changed in 1969. Two taillights replaced the single units. A sunroof was offered as optional equipment.

In 1970 the Thunderbird was available as a two-door or four-door. Minor changes were made in 1971, with most of the changes occurring to the bumper and grill.

From 1972 through 1976 the sixth generation of the Thunderbird was produced. This generation grew in every conceivable way, thus gaining it the 'Big Bird' name. It grew in size, weight, horsepower, and luxury. The 429 cubic-inch was standard and the 460 cubic-inch V8 was offered as optional. The weight of the vehicle topped the scale at nearly 5000 pounds. The large engines and heavy bodies meant the Thunderbirds received poor fuel mileage. This would turn into a concern for Ford when the country entered into an oil crisis.

In 1973 dual headlights and egg-crate styled grille were placed on the front of the vehicle. The 1974 version remained mostly unchanged from the prior year.

1977 began the seventh generation of the Thunderbird which persisted for only two years, ending in 1979. The Thunderbird shrunk in size, now sitting atop of the Ford Torino platform. At almost a foot shorter, it dropped nearly a thousand pounds and the price tag listed the car for almost $2700 less than the prior year.

Most of the vehicles diet was due to a new drivetrain consisting of a small-block 302 cubic-inch V8. A 351 and 400 V8 were offered as optional.

In 1978 a T-top option was offered. The front of the Thunderbird was restyled slightly in 1979 with a new grille.

The decrease in power was attributed to increasing government and safety regulations and due to the oil shortage. Ford made the decision to continue to make the Thunderbird smaller and lighter. The engines continued to decrease in size and as a result, the fuel economy improved. The interior remained to be luxurious offering many popular amenities of the era.

The eight generation of the Thunderbird began in 1980 and persisted for just two years. It continued to decrease in size dropping another 800 pounds and shrinking by over a foot. Though gas mileage increased, the Thunderbird decreased in popularity. The design was very 'boxy' featuring many squares and upright lines. The body now sat atop of a uni-body frame. The headlights were flip-up.

There were two engines offered, both were eight cylinders. The 255 cubic-inch was standard while the 302 cubic-inch could be purchased as optional equipment. The interior was elegant with digital instrumentation and multiple trim packages available.

The ninth generation began in 1983 and continued until 1988. The car continued to become more fuel efficient, this time aerodynamics were addressed. Though the engine bay now housed a 3.8 liter six-cylinder engine, the design became sportier.

The big news in 1983 was the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a manual gearbox. This was the first time that a four-cylinder engine was offered in the Thunderbird. The Heritage version came equipped with a 3.8 liter 110 horsepower engine and a three-speed automatic gearbox. An eight-cylinder engine producing 140 horsepower was available as optional equipment.

There were minor changes throughout the next few years. In 1985 the front grille and tail lights were new. The interior received a new instrument cluster. The horsepower improved to 155 on the Turbo Coupe. A 30th Anniversary Edition model was offered.

By 1987 the turbocharged Thunderbird was producing nearly 200 horsepower, thanks in part to an intercooler courtesy of the Mustang SVO. The Thunderbird was redesigned with larger glass and headlights that were even with the rest of the grill. The result improved aerodynamics. It was named Motor Trends Car of the Year for that year.

The Turbo Coupe was replaced in 1989 with the Super Coupe, a 3.8 liter supercharged V6 engine capable of producing 210 horsepower and nearly 320 foot-pounds of torque. Good enough to earn the Thunderbird another Motor Trends Car of the Year Award.

The tenth generation of the Thunderbird began in 1989 and produced until 1997. This brought the introduction of the Thunderbird SC, meaning Super Coupe. The Thunderbird SC was equipped with the supercharged engine, disc brakes, and ground effects. Two other versions were available, the base Thunderbird and the Thunderbird LX.

The wheelbase became longer and a new independent suspension was placed in the rear. The interior was roomy and comfortable offering many luxuries and continuing the proud tradition of the Thunderbird.

The only engines offered were the 3.8 liter V6 and the supercharged version. The normally aspirated engine produced around 140 horsepower while the supercharged version, the 3.8-liter V6 with a supercharger, provided 70 more horsepower. A four-speed automatic gearbox was standard. A five-speed manual gearbox was offered with the SC version. By 1991 a 5-liter V8 could be installed in the Thunderbird, offering 200 horsepower. In 1994 a 205 horsepower 4.6 liter V8 was offered, replacing the 5-liter option. The Super Coupe's horsepower rating improved to 230. By 1995, the Super Coupe was no longer offered.

There were little styling improvements made to the tenth generation Thunderbirds. Changes to the front end helped improve the aerodynamics. In 1994 the interior received updates. In 1996 it received an update that made changes to the head and tail lights. New wheels, hood bulge, and a few others updates gave the Thunderbird a modernized appeal.

There were little changes made to the Thunderbird in 1997, its final year of production. On September 4th, the last Thunderbird was created, until its reappearance in 2002.

In 2002 Ford introduced the eleventh version of the Thunderbird. The design was very retro with its design taking styling cues for the early versions of the Thunderbird. It was good enough to capture the Motor Trend's Car of the Year award. It sat atop a chassis that it shared with the Lincoln LS.

It was a 2-door, 2-passenger luxury sports coupe, equipped only as a convertible with a removable hardtop. The price tag was set at around $40,000, putting it in the near-luxury category. A 3.9-liter V8 engine, mounted in the front provided the power.

Throughout its production lifespan, the design was never changed but the colors offered did. Sales were never strong and rather disappointing. It stayed in production only a few years, lasting until 2005.

By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006
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Arrow Right 1963 Ford models
Ford 300
Ford Fairlane
Ford Falcon
Ford Falcon Futura Series 10
Ford Galaxie
Ford Ranchero
1963 Ford Concepts
Ford Mustang Prototype

Collectible: A Gathering of the Exceptional and Captivating
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November 2013183,722 
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