When Thunderbird designer Frank Hershey set out to design a sports car with “banker appeal,” he unknowingly created a legendary automobile that was so popular in its first year, it outsold the Chevrolet Corvette four to one. When Hershey left Ford for General Motors in 1960, the Thunderbird had sold over 90,000 units in the same year. The car had not only survived, but become an overwhelming success in the eyes of the American public.
Unfortunately, the ‘58-’60 models added not only chrome, but two extra seats as well. With its designer gone, the Thunderbird began to feature styling changes from a variety of sources. George Walker took over at Ford. His first move was to put William Boyer onto the Thunderbird design project. Boyer added significant changes, incorporating sedan-like design qualities with racing and high-performance engineering developments. He described his design as the “projectile look,” and the car was meant to give the onlooker the impression of the car flowing by.
The 1962 Thunderbirds were overwhelmingly popular. They incorporated Boyer’s styling innovations and subtle design touches, and remained distinctive from its competitors as a result. By far the most exclusive of the 1962 Thunderbirds was the convertible roadster. Only 455 were produced in 1962 and the factory price of $5,500 excluded many potential buyers from even entertaining the thought of purchasing one.
Underneath its scooped hood lay a massive 390 cubic inch engine capable of achieving 300 bhp at 5,000 rpm. The convertible roadster featured a fiberglass deck cover that actually covered the rear seats and reflected the look of the early Thunderbirds. The 1963 Thunderbird Convertible Roadster pictured here was offered by the estate of the late Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment for over ten years. When Mr. Tartikoff purchased this rare Thunderbird, he immediately saw to its complete restoration, beginning in 1991. The nut-and-bolt rebuild returned the car to its original pristine condition, with the restoration costing over $40,000. It features the fiberglass deck as mentioned earlier, stock wire wheels, air conditioning, as well as a radio and cassette deck.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 Ford Thunderbird

The car pictured was sold for $34,500 by Christie’s at Pebble Beach on August 16, (including Christie’s buyers commission). One of 455 Thunderbird Sport Roadsters built in 1963, the price accurately reflected this car’s comprehensive and caring older restoration and its still very clean and presentable condition, bringing about $10,000 more than a comparably restored ’63 T-Bird convertible.
After the modest success of the two-seat ‘55-’57 Thunderbird, in 1958 Ford created the four-seat T-Bird and sold trainloads of them. Then Ford decided it was time to make a two-seat version. However, Ford’s “two-seater” solution wasn’t a short-wheelbase roadster. Instead, they added a fiberglass cover with molded-in headrests that covered the rear seats of the standard T-Bird.
Is the Cleopatra’s Barge pictured here a classic-in-the-making? If Ford had seen fit to put a mildly-tuned NASCAR 429 or side-oiler 427 engine under the 3-square-yard hood, it certainly would fit the definition, and collectors would rightly clamor to own one. As it is, its mundane cooking V8 and its pathetic chassis limit appeal.
The T-Bird Sport Roadster will always be compared with its T-Bird convertible siblings, not Ferrari 500 Superfasts and Mercedes 300S Roadsters. It earns only a modest premium for style and rarity, as witnessed by the sale result here. However, if a four-seat T-Bird has a place in your collection, this is the only one to have.
Beware of imitations. Standard T-Bird convertibles are easily modified to accept aftermarket Roadster equipment. Late ’62 (after 2Y85Z114640) and ’63 Roadsters (like the car pictured) have the model designation “89,” but all early ’62 T-Bird convertibles were “85” models and original Roadster equipment appeared only as an option. Converted cars are worth no more than regular convertibles.
Photo and data courtesy of the auction company. Market opinions in italics by Rick Carey.

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