By on October 14, 2010

What exactly is the American Dream? Was it easier to answer that question fifty years ago? If you were seven years old, and had just arrived from Austria at the same time this 1961 Thunderbird first appeared, the answer is definitely yes. What more was there to aspire to then this? Seeing fifty of these convertibles in Kennedy’s Inaugural Parade only cemented the image. In America anyone could realistically aspire to own a car that actually looked like a Dream Car in a car show, one that would glamorously jet you away from the humdrum of ordinary life, if not exactly rocket you to the moon. Yes, in the fall of 1960, Ford was building my dream. But it was short-lived.

Just three years later, both the stunning “Bullet Bird” and Kennedy were gone. The squared-off, fussy 1964 T-Bird confirmed my defection to the Church of St. Mark of Excellence, and my brief childhood love affair with Ford was well over. In my dream driveway, the ‘61 Falcon Futura (my practical side was already showing) and T-Bird now were replaced by an ever changing palette of GM’s finest.  The American Dream has never been a static affair.

Was 1961 Ford’s finest hour, at least for a very long time to come? In my book, yes. My feelings for Ford’s late fifties styling has been well documented here, and that extended to the 1958 – 1960 “Square Bird”, regardless of how revolutionary a car it was. They impressed me on some level, the interior, mainly, but I though their front ends looked like a hideous creature from the depths of the ocean. I guess the public didn’t quite agree with me, because the Square Bird outsold the Bullet Bird, right through its last year. There’s no accounting for taste.

The highlight of my fling with the 61-63 T-Bird came when we were on vacation in NY, and I saw a Sports Roadster in the flesh for the first time (there were none in Iowa City). Available for 1962 and 1963, the fiberglass cover over the rear seats was meant to evoke the original two-seat T-Bird. Of course it was a bit ridiculous, but don’t tell that to a nine year old agog, or the proud driver.

Has anyone thought about how the poor Mercury dealers felt during the T-Bird’s heyday? What was Ford doing selling such an upscale and exclusive car anyway? Sucks to be them, then and now. Mercury was doomed anyway; Ford just didn’t do the multiple brand thing well, and at least they’ve embraced that reality now. But where’s today’s Dream Car by Ford? The Edge?

The 1961 Thunderbird might well have looked very different than it turned out. Elwood Engel’s design proposal (above) lost out to the winning one by Alex Tremulis. Look familiar? Ford President Robert McNamara ran into it by accident, liked it, and had it turned into the 1961 Lincoln. That was convenient for production reasons too, allowing both cars to share substantial aspects of their unibody innards, as well as the Wixom production facility.

Just as well it turned out as it did; I deeply admire the ’61 Lincoln Continental, but it somehow lacks the pizazz and Dream Car quality of the ‘Bird. I might have been happy enough if my Dad drove one (perish the thought), but it never found its way into my own fantasy driveway.

I have vivid memories of gazing into the T-Bird’s engine room as a kid hanging out in the work bays at the Ford dealership. I always felt sorry for the mechanics that had to work on them; they were the most crowded of any car back then. The giant flat air cleaner and the separate tank  for the side-flow radiator were distinctive, and concessions to the tight clearances around the 390 CID FE motor. Rated at 300 (gross) hp, it moved the ‘Bird well enough, but hardly with any real thunder. This was a porky fowl (4,000+ lbs) , several hundred pounds more than a bigger Galaxie. Unibodies didn’t necessarily save weight.

And no one is going to accuse these Thunderbirds of any actual sporting qualities; any pretensions to that were fully abandoned when the format went to a four-passenger personal luxury coupe. Their dynamic qualities were best left to the realm of dreams. And watch where you drive that thing: these cars probably set an all-time low for clearance, which only got worse as the springs sagged in old age.

Who cared about such mundane matters, when you’re ensconced in that cockpit and piloting down that glassy smooth new pavement of the just-built interstate? The Thunderbird’s interior was at least as enchanting for me as the exterior. When you’re used to being packed into a ’54 Ford sedan with too many siblings with whom skin contact was not exactly desirable, just the idea of of bucket seats separated by that huge expanse of chrome console was dreamy.

Now that I really think about it, that may just have been the biggest attraction of the Thunderbird to me. It represented true freedom… from being sandwiched between a pesky big brother and a sweet but sticky little one. All my dream cars back then had bucket seats, even the lowly Falcon Futura. My brief infatuation with a neighbor’s ’58 Impala coupe ended with the front bench seat; what! no buckets? I arrived in America exactly at the right moment: the beginning of the bucket seat era. And the T-Bird played a key role in ushering it in.

Finding this particular convertible Bird was a dream fulfilled (they become more modest with age). I’d seen it on the road this summer, piloted by a guy in his early thirties or so, and obviously driving home from work. I was going the other way with a huge load of compost in the back of my old Ford truck, and I just had to abandon any hope of giving chase, especially since he’s a spirited driver. But rarely have I been more eager to find a car after I first saw it; it fulfills the highest aspirations of CC: a significant historical car being used as daily driver. Plenty of patina, and the baby seat in the back just cements it.

I finally found it sitting in front of this garage, in need of some attention as a result of its age and daily use. What a crappy background for shooting such a visual delight; not one good angle to be had without the distraction of something behind it. I could have held out and eventually found its home base; maybe. But I couldn’t wait anymore. And maybe its just as well; the dream driveway of my youth has long evaporated. Mr. Appliance it is; the American Dream is a bit tarnished these days.

The interior is a little worse for wear, and the rain shower that started minutes after I took these shots probably didn’t help. But vinyl was built tough back in the day, and what’s a little dust and grime on the console to keep from enjoying this beast, rain or shine?

Someone is living out their dream with this car, even if it isn’t the same one I once had. It certainly isn’t the American Dream anymore, but then what is? We can’t agree on anything anymore, never mind a collective dream. But as long as folks like this T-Bird owner are tooling home from work with the top down, rain or shine, the Dream is alive, if a bit grimier than in 1961.

More new Curbside Classics here

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

77 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1961 Ford Thunderbird Convertible – The American Dream Car...”


  • avatar
    86er

    And no one is going to accuse these Thunderbirds of any actual sporting qualities; any pretensions to that were fully abandoned when the format went to a four-passenger personal luxury coupe.

    There’s a great scene in Goodfellas when Tommy’s T-Bird comes to an abrupt halt and Karen gets out to confront Henry.  The car nearly nosedives into the pavement.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Contemporary automakers would kill to get that kind of design simplicity going on their dashboards today… there’s almost nothing there!

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    Re: Elwood Engle’s proposed design for the ’61 T-bird, from the angle shown it’s almost a dead ringer for the 1967 Plymouth Fury 2dr. (except the tail lights obviously). No coincidence I suppose, as I believe Engel moved to Chrysler in the early to mid sixties.

  • avatar

    These cars were simply stunning from any angle.  The interiors are indeed the icing on the cake, just the console alone looks like a million bucks.  But that swing away wheel did it for me.
    I always thought if the retro-bird (2002) had this interior, it woulda sold much better. The designers had it in mind, the interior door panels were gorgeous.  But no, Nasser and crew insisted on the Lincoln LS bits instead.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      My dad had a ’63, no, not a convertible. It was the first Ford he had in a long time, since the late ’40′s, and it was a total disaster. My dad only kept cars for a couple, maybe 3 years at most, and when he got a “stinker” like the T-Bird, he got rid of it pretty quickly. The Bird blew a head gasket almost as soon as he got it, and did it again, and again. The transmission went out, twice, and it had starter issues that stranded him a couple of times. The dealer was a friend of his and he gave him loaners all the time, and it was kind of a game for my sister and me to guess what dad would come home with, and what color it would be. My sister loved the red Mustang he had one day, near the end of the Bird’s days with us. She wanted one really badly when she started driving a couple years later, but dad was pretty well done with Ford at that point. The Bird was so bad, he refused to sell it to his cousin, who almost always bought his 2 year old cars, as he said, “I would feel guilty selling him a piece of junk like this!”, and traded it to the Caddy dealer for a ’65 Sedan DeVille. He let my mom drive it after a year, and bought a 67 T-Bird, and that cured him of any Ford love he had as it was like “Son of the 63″, and had similar problems. In ’68, he bought an Imperial, which he had hopped up with a cam, etc, and it sure didn’t idle like a stock one. My mom get my dad into the world of Ford one last time in 1968, when she begged him for a Lincoln MKIII. It was ok, no real problems, but they both hated it, and they traded my Uncle straight up for the last car my dad would drive, a 1969 Caddy, in the lovely avocado green. in 1973, my dad would cause a major power outage when he passed out while driving it, and put it into a pole, blowing up a transformer, and totalling the car. He was only banged up a little. The throttle hung open and a connecting rod came out of it, so even the block wasn’t salvagable. His insurance got cancelled, and I got my license the next morning. I personally think part of my “Ford Phobia” is due to those cars, but Ford’s styling from about 69 on sure didn’t help.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Nice car and great article. My dream car of that era was (and still is) the 1961 – 1963 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    jmo

     
    MSRP for the Thunderbird convertible was $4639.
    What cost $4639 in 1961 would cost $32902.25 in 2009.
     
    Now, the question is that the base price or price with options?  Things like a radio, power brakes, power steering, power windows and power locks were all optional.
     
     
     

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I love T-birds generally, but do not care for these porky pigs.  Love the original 2-seater and then the totally over the top baroque T-bird of the late 70s that’s SO OVER THE TOP!  I know the 70s one’s are shadows of their former glory but I can’t help but love them.  I also love the tiny T-birds from 1980 to 1982 because I know with a few engine/suspension upgrades it could really be a screamer.
     
    BTW yes cars like the Thunderbird demonstrated that Mercury’s days were numbered.  I honestly think that Lee Iaccoca signed Mercury’s death warrant with the LTD.

  • avatar
    geeber

    These were dream cars in their day! And good catch on the 50 Thunderbirds being used for Kennedy’s inauguration parade. Supposedly President Kennedy loved the 1961 Thunderbird.

    I agree with Paul that this generation is better than the ones that both preceded and followed it, although I always liked the 1958-60 models, which were better looking than most contemporaries. Interestingly, the 1964-66 generation sold better – if I recall correctly, 1964 was the high-water mark for Thunderbird sales until the “downsized” 1977 model.

    This was the best-looking Thunderbird until the slick 1983 “aero” Thunderbird based on the evergreen Fox platform.

    A big reason that these were so heavy is that Ford didn’t have access to computers to determine structural strength. Ford simply took prototypes out for testing, and if something broke or buckled under the strain, the solution was to beef it up with more braces, sheetmetal, etc. It’s my understanding that Ford’s unibody Lincolns and Thunderbirds were pretty solid for the times, as they were built like tanks, but the result was that they were anything but light.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Geeber;

      You know, I used to believe that those old cars were built like tanks – and the outer sheet metal was heavy, unfortunately, there was little underneath to provide any strength. Witness the video of the new Malibu crashing into the 1959 Chevy – I was horrified at the result. I’m with PeriSoft on this one about those old bombs being dangerous, even deadly in an accident, seat belts, air bags or not.

      That being said, I still love many of them, and had I an opportunity to own my old classic back, I’d be extremely prudent on driving it and with whom!

      Admittedly, the old iron had a style and a class that doesn’t exist anymore. Dream cars, indeed!

  • avatar

    One of my fantasy cars is a ’61-’66 Continental shortened to Elwood Engel’s original proportions, only I’d use suicide doors, like the Rolls-Royce Phantom DHC.
     
    Still, I think Ford made the right move, the bullet Bird is a sportier design than the Engel concept. The bullet Bird is probably the cleanest design of any Thunderbird (well, the ’02 was clean but boring). I like the ’67-’69 too.
     
    OTOH, the nameplate Thunderbird has also graced some of the ugliest, most garish American cars ever built, hasn’t it?
    The ’58-’60 square bird, the ’64 that looks like they tried to make the bullet bird into a square bird, the pudendal ’70, the Fairmont based ’78 (the ’70s were a disaster for the T’Bird in terms of styling). Ford styling didn’t get the Bird right again until 1983 (but what were they trying with the formal roofline on the Cougar sibling?).
     

    My personal styling favorites are the 1961, 1955, 1983 and 1968 Thunderbirds in that order. YMMV.
     

  • avatar
    210delray

    Great article on one of my favorite cars of the time.  Being in the same age bracket, I was also a young boy when these came out.  Like Dan, I’ve always preferred the original 2-seater, but the ’61 to ’63 were stunners as well.  I even like the ’64s to ’66s.  Where they lost me was with the ’67s (a 4-door version?), the gigantic ’72s, the outlandishly ugly ’77s, and the pathetically ugly ’80s (sorry Dan).

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Nah, shoot, to each his own.  A man likes what he likes.  There’s just something so garishly over the top about the late 70s models that I love them.  If you exclude really insane SUVs like the Infiniti QX (which is swear to god is a Japanese interpretation of a 1958 Buick Caballero wagon), cars like that will never be seen again.
       
      I like the 1980 to 82 models because imagine what kind of “sleeper” they would be.  I’d love to use one to blow away some idiot kid in a lowered Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Dan:

      An old friend had a 1978 T-Bird, and he loved it. But being a two-door with an opera window and the C-pillar windows, plus the forward slant of the B pillar made for an awfully uncomfortable, hot ride for rear seat passengers (I was one more than once) during a St. Louis summer. I liked the overall style, but the fixed-glass that has become the standard on coupes leaves me puzzled, thus I will never buy another coupe unless that changes, and I’m not holding my breath. Compound that with the smallish door opening above the beltline, access to the rear seat was a hassle. Other than that, it was a nice, comfortable, reliable car.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      Zackman.  there are sacrifices when buying a coupe, that’s why they aren’t for everyone.  Coupes are bought for more “emotional” reasons than practical ones

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    God, look at that front end in pic 5. All it has to do is touch something and it’s off to the body shop.
     
    It’s beautiful.

  • avatar

    Three interesting things about the Bullet Bird:
    1) Ford engineer Fred Hooven pushed strongly for it to be front-wheel drive. To underscore the advantages of the latter, Hooven wrote a memo describing the “advantages” of rear-wheel drive as they might appear if all cars were FWD, like inferior space efficiency and extra weight. This did not go over well. (I have heard persistent rumors that the FWD package Hooven was advocating was so similar to the Unitized Power Package used in the later Toronado and Eldorado that GM was compelled to pay royalties to FoMoCo; I’ve never been able to confirm that.)
    2) Paul presumably knows this, but other readers may not: the Thunderbird’s bucket seats and center console were a practical necessity, not simply a fashion choice. The Square Bird and Bullet Bird were among the lowest cars in America at the time; to achieve that, the transmission tunnel was intrusively high. (The tunnel also served as a structural element, adding strength to the unibody.) That precluded bench seats, and since there was no hiding the tunnel, the designers decided to cover it with a console instead. Both were great trend setters. (Ironically, when the T-Bird switched back to body-on-frame construction in 1967, you could once again have bench seats front and rear.)
    3) Because people missed the old two-seat T-Bird, the aftermarket began offering various fiberglass tonneau covers to transform the four-seater convertible into a two-seater. Ford finally decided to follow suit, introducing a new model called the Sports Roadster in 1962. It included the tonneau cover, a passenger grab handle, and real wire wheels, built by Kelsey Hayes. It never sold very well, and it was dropped after 1963, although there was a very similar tonneau for the 1964 “Flair Bird,” available as a dealer accessory

    I wrote about the four-seater ‘Birds on AUWM, including some of the behind-the-scenes politics, back in 2008: http://ateupwithmotor.com/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/103-glamour-is-a-rocky-road-the-four-seat-ford-thunderbird.html

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    Thanks for the great post…what a beautiful old sled, truly a dream machine. One of the sleekest designs of th era, without doubt…love how the upper exterior chrome molding becomes the door handle. And what’s this? An actual human child being transported in a car that doesn’t have 15 airbags, and 20 cupholders and a ‘Baby on Board’ sign? Someone call Child Protective Services immediately!!!!

    I’m more forgiving on future T-Birds, and think the 64-66 squared off models were quite fetching as well…cool sequential taillights. I’ll even give a pass to the 4-door 67-68(?) ‘Bird with the suicide doors, that was really a junior Lincoln (like the ’61), though I’m glad the 4dr was a short-lived experiment. Where the T-Bird really lost it for me was in the ’70 bird-beak design…a T-Bird can be a lot of different things (bigger/smaller, sleek or more formal) but it shouldn’t be UGLY…That model, and the 80-82 plucked ‘Birds, were the absolute low points, to me.

    Back in the day, my mother had a ’79 T-Bird, triple sliver with red pinstripes that went up and over the roof over the smaller of the 2 (!!) opera windows in back. I’m not saying the ’77-79 generation was a high point (more like a glorified Torino), but it sold like hotcakes, and even that car drew a fair amount of positive attention and appreciative glances when I was a kid.

    Hope Ford creates a WORTHY successor for the Thunderbird nameplate at some time…there were high points and low points over the decades of T-Bird production, but it is undeniably a nameplate that is an American icon.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      yes, i have always loved how the door handles are incorporated into the chrome strip.  Beautiful and simple

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “An actual human child being transported in a car that doesn’t have 15 airbags”

      Would you leave a loaded gun on your night stand if you had a four-year-old? The added risk is probably similar. Lock up your gun, and don’t drive the t-bird with your kid in it. Is that such a sacrifice? Or is it really about maintaining your machismo?

      Maybe. But you’d better be prepared for the consequences. A vintage t-bird is pretty cool, but if something happened to my son, I doubt I’d say, “well, it was worth it – I got to drive a cool car.”

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Beautiful.  If I ever actually considered buying a Ford product, the 61 T-bird and 61 Lincoln would be at the top of my list.
     
    I can’t believe there hasn’t been any hand-wringing comments yet about the car being used as a daily driver and the baby seat in the back.

    • 0 avatar

      Other than safety concerns (modern cars have proper belts, crush zones, barriers, passenger cells and lots of air bags), there’s no reason not to drive it – probably better for the car than letting it rot. It’s not a show car, all the wearable parts are still available, so why not drive it?

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      No complaints from me. However in a previous CC someone even compared putting their kids in an old car to keeping a loaded pistol in your bedside table drawer.  Ludicrous.
       
      BTW, what is actually pictured is the base of a reverse-facing child seat, so the kid is probably under 1 year old.  Once the kid needs a forward-facing seat, these typically have a top tether strap as well as being seatbelted in.  Finding somewhere to attach the tether strap in that convertible is probably going to be problematic.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “However in a previous CC someone even compared putting their kids in an old car to keeping a loaded pistol in your bedside table drawer.  Ludicrous.”

      And I just did it again. where are your stats that say it’s ludicrous? The odds of your kid shooting himself are pretty low, on balance. But they’re a lot higher than -not- leaving a gun lying around. And not driving a piece of junk that’ll crack your kid’s skull open on the b-pillar during a minor side impact is less risky than driving a modern car. Why the anger? Why is it so important to you to put your kid in the unsafe car rather than driving him in something else and driving the fun car solo?

      It’s your right to do as you please, no doubt. I’m not saying the government should force everyone to drive Volvos. But you have to admit there’s a significantly higher likelihood of injury in a ’61 tbird vs pretty much anything made since 1990. Is it really worth it? Or do you actually think there’s not much difference?

      Remember that we’re also talking about braking distance, cornering ability, stability in bad conditions. Would you drive your normal car with bald tires, a broken suspension, and a busted brake line? Hell, would you put your kid in one of those $7000 chinese knockoff subcompacts? Safety is probably close to equivalent. Nostalgia, obviously, is not – but nostalgia alone seems like a really bad reason to increase risk to your family.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @PeriSoft – I recall seeing in your latest posting at the curbside classics portal that you mentioned enjoying reading them and you were trying to go back and read them all.  Why?  What does it do for you?
       
      Most of us in the B&B read the CC because it evokes a warm fuzzy feeling of days gone by, or recalls a car that was owned by a family member, or makes us remember what cars we lusted after either before or after we discovered the lust associated with sex.  A few of us idly imagine what it would be like to own one and either use it for joy rides or for our relatively short morning commutes (mine happens to be about 5 miles.)  Now I wouldn’t put my kid (or myself or my lady) in a car with no seat belts so there’s certain CC I would have to modify, I’ve only looked seriously at cars with driver and passenger shoulder belts, but beyond that – if you’re numbers up, it’s up.  Life is short regardless of whether you live to be 100 or only 25, life is short.  I’m not going to drive and own only bland-mobiles with 8 airbags and twice as many cup holders as passenger seats and miss out on all the fun.  I have a 150cc scooter that I commute on as much as possible.  Is it the safest thing in the world?  Heck no.  But it sure puts a grin on my face when I climb on.  I wear a helmet and basic safety clothing, but I’m not going to quit riding because it’s more dangerous than driving my girlfriends 2005 Pontiac Vibe.  I WANT a vehcile that puts a smile on my face when I climb behind the wheel.  If that car is a 1960s American made land yacht, so be it.  Will my kids ride with me?  Hell yes.  So I ask again, why do you read CC?  To recall a time when we were all f*&(in stupid for driving death traps?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The problem is that some people who take their right to self-determination too seriously also misinterpret criticism as oppression.
       
      It’s oppression** when someone passes a law that says you can’t do something.  It’s not oppression when someone suggests it’s a bad idea to do something and that perhaps you should do something smarter.  People have the right to criticize your choices***, just as much as you have the right to make them.
       
      So it’s fair that Perisoft can say commuting in an older car is akin to leaving a gun**** lying around.
       
      ** in the academic sense
      *** which is why I get steamed when someone says “What gives you the right to tell I shouldn’t buy an SUV”.  Western democratic provisions of free speech give me that right.
      **** I am not getting into a gun debate

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Perisoft: And not driving a piece of junk that’ll crack your kid’s skull open on the b-pillar during a minor side impact is less risky than driving a modern car.

      This car isn’t a piece of junk. Considering that it’s almost half a century old, and still running, I’d say that it’s a pretty impressive piece of machinery, especially given the fact that most 1961 Ford products, except for the occasional Lincoln Continental, were not babied when they were bought by the original owner.

      Perisoft: Why the anger? Why is it so important to you to put your kid in the unsafe car rather than driving him in something else and driving the fun car solo?

      Please…an occasional drive in old car is hardly a big risk. I guess we should never take our children on an airplane, because crashes do happen, and, when they do, they tend to be fatal to everyone on board the plane.

      There is a difference between making a rational decision based on known risks, and reacting hysterically to the worst-case scenario. You are doing the latter.

      Perisoft: It’s your right to do as you please, no doubt. I’m not saying the government should force everyone to drive Volvos. But you have to admit there’s a significantly higher likelihood of injury in a ’61 tbird vs pretty much anything made since 1990. Is it really worth it?

      If you are going to drive it 20,000 miles a year in all types of conditions – no.

      If you are going to take the car out for a Sunday spin once in awhile – yes.

      Perisoft: Remember that we’re also talking about braking distance, cornering ability, stability in bad conditions.

      Please…people aren’t flying around 90-degree corners in these beasts at 65 mph or driving down a winding country road at 75 mph.

      And please note that, when they were new, 99 percent of the people who bought them did not fly off the road or drive into trucks. Most people, even in 1961, did not have an accident in one of these cars, even when they were used as daily drivers.

      Perisoft: Would you drive your normal car with bald tires, a broken suspension, and a busted brake line?

      No, but I don’t see any of those problems on this car, either. Until 2000, I had a 1972 Cutlass Supreme Holiday coupe as a “fun” car, and, amazingly enough, the tires weren’t bald, the suspension was fine and the brakes worked perfectly.

      Do you really think that people are going to drive ANY car without brakes?!  

      This may come as a shock, but people who own classic cars are MORE likely to maintain their vehicle than people who drive late-model cars.

      If you want to talk about improving highway safety, I’d suggest you start with the dumbos who meander along in the passing lane on a limited access highway, thinking it’s “safe” because they are blocking the faster drivers, or the geniuses who text while driving.

      Stop wringing your hands about the responsible person who takes Junior and Buffy out for Sunday ice cream in the 1961 Thundebird.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      @Educator
       
      As I said, I’m not saying nobody should do risky things. If somebody offered me a ride in an IndyCar, I’d take it in a second – and that’s dangerous; as (IIRC) Rusty Wallace said, “I wouldn’t get out of the electric chair for a ride in one of those”.
       
      But that’s different than risking my son’s life. He’s two. He can’t decide whether or not it’s worth it to him. And when I had him, I took on the responsibility of doing the best I can for him – not doing the best I can exceptwhenitpreventsmedoingsomethingIwant.
       
      And aside from the responsibility issue, there’s the personal survival issue – not that I wouldn’t drive one due to the danger to myself, but because if something did happen to my son, as I pointed out above, I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I knew it was more dangerous by some amount, but did so anyway. Maybe it had an effect and maybe not. But I’d never know. If my son were killed because I did something I knew was more risky, well… to be honest, I’d be a dead man too. It isn’t just, “your number is up when it’s up” – that’s a cop-out. If you’re explicitly choosing a more dangerous path, it’s not just bad luck if something bad happens. To use an extreme example, if you ride around clinging to the side of subway cars, and get clobbered by a signal light, it’s not just, “Oh, your number was up”.
       
      And even you say you wouldn’t drive something without belts. So where ‘s the risk threshold? It’s probably safer to ride in a modern car without belts than it is to ride in a ’61 Thunderbird with them. I’m not sure people realize just how bad those cars are. Even if the passenger space survives due to the strength of the frame, the interiors are pretty much solid metal. Even with a three point harness, you’re going to be bouncing around in there like a pinball – you ever look at NCAP videos? If you wouldn’t want your kid to get beaten up by two guys with steel pipes, you probably shouldn’t put him in an old car.
       
      Look, the upshot is that there’s a significant added risk. Is the risk worth the reward? Is it worth the risk to your son for the reward of you driving a neat car more often? You can still have the thing. I drive a lot without my kid in the car. I could be roaring around in a Lotus Elan half the time, and you could cut one of those in half with a can opener in 15 minutes.
       
      When your kid is 15, by the way, it’s an entirely different proposition. The risk/reward changes. Do I want my son, as a teenager, to never have the experience of one of these cars, or to learn that he himself should never make the decision to take risk? No – absolutely not. Taking risk for yourself is vital in life. It’s worth a small added risk for him to make sure he knows that life is about way more than safety; to make sure he has experiences he couldn’t get otherwise. Hell, maybe I’ll get an Elan for us to zing around in.
       
      But will I let him drive it before he’s ready? Nope. And will I put him at extra risk when it won’t make any difference to him, and very little to me? Nope.
       
      As for your question about why I read CCs: I guess I like history. There’s something fascinating about seeing these cars, understanding the society and how it shaped the design process, about the demise of the US motor industry: It’s the decline and fall of the Roman empire, but with cars.
       
      I don’t read about them because I want to drive them; by and large they were horrible, and I have no nostalgia, being born in the ’70s. But I also obsessively read an exhaustive history of every battle fought in World War I; that doesn’t mean I want to get a machine gun and sit in a filthy trench for six months. You can be interested in things you don’t want to participate in.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      and I have no nostalgia, being born in the ’70s

      Oh, come on, aren’t you just the least bit nostalgic for the Saab 900 SPG?

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    What is a Thunderbird?

    It was a two seater, two door.
    Then, it was a four seater, two door.
    Then, it was a four seater, four door.
    Then, it was a Mark V.
    Then, it was a Torino.
    Then, it was a Fairmont.
    Then, it was an aerodynamic turbo 4.
    Then, it was a two door Taurus.
    Then, it became a retro two seater, two door.

    It has been a sports car.
    It has been a sporty car.
    It has been a family luxury car.
    It has been a bloated personal luxury car.
    It has been a bar of soap on wheels.
    It has been a two door family coupe.
    It has been a throwback cartoon.

    What it was is a Ford with all the bells and whistles attempting to impress people and trying to find a profitable market regardless of size or class. The Thunderbird was Ford’s dream car, that is - a car that would pull in big profits. If it made you swoon, so the better. Sometimes Ford’s dream car met up with yours, and sometimes it missed the mark completely.

    So it is a little hard to not be impressed, repulsed, confused, delighted, shocked, and bored with a Thunderbird sometime during your life. If you were a passenger crammed claustrophobically into the back of a 1974 model, stepping out of a suicide rear door on a 1967 model, or crunched down hoping not to be seen in a 1980 model, you were moved.

    With a name like “Thunderbird”, we always knew something different was coming our way.

    But let’s not forget that Oldsmobile made news with it’s Toronado, Cadillac, with it’s Eldorado, Studebaker with it’s Avanti, and Pontiac with it’s Gran Prix, that although Thunderbird birthed the popular genre, it sometimes lost it’s lead at times too, enough to let other makes take the lead. So, this means that Ford didn’t always know what to do with it’s own success, and often didn’t seem to know what a Thunderbird was either. To Henry II, it was a chick magnet, to Lee Iacocca, it was icing and profits, to McNamara, it was just a car, and to Jack Telnak, it was a dying legend in need of recessitation.

    So what is a Thunderbird?

    America!

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Wow, VanillaDude, I’m impressed! Not the style of obbop (BTW, where is he?), but a very worthy treatise on the legacy of an on-again, off-again automotive icon and legend. We certainly need more cars that move us like these, but I’m not optimistic, since the most innovative designs seem to come from elsewhere and in a much different design philosophy.

      I’m not really a Ford fan, and I can’t remember the model year, but I did like the T-Bird that had roll-and-pleated upholstery with the back seat curving around into the rear side panels. Very cool, indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      Nice recap V., although I disagree with the “two-door Taurus” analogy.  The T-Bird has never been FWD, and the 89-97 ‘Birds rode on a specific chassis ( shared with the Cougar ) that featured IRS.
       
      It was intended to be a BMW fighter, but came in way over it’s weight target which hampered it’s performance.  I still long for a 92 Thunderbird Super Coupe.

      Zack — the 67-69 models had the rear seats you mentioned.

  • avatar

    Hats off to McNamara–who was absolutely not a car guy–for taking the Elwood Engle design for the Lincoln Continental.
    You missed the best angle for shooting both these ‘birds and both the model that preceded them and the model that followed them. If you take an almost-profile of the face angled slightly from the front, they look very much like raptors. The earlier model looks like a raptor even straight on.
    >>>my defection to the Church of St. Mark of Excellence    ???? What the heck is the Church of…?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I believe the reference is to becoming a GM fan. The corporation used the slogan “Mark of Excellence” in conjunction with the GM logo during the 1960s and 1970s.  

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    When in fact it was “Mark of Excrement” more often than not. As for T-Birds, I’ll take a 64-66 over this model any day, these to me are the fugliest ones ever.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Even though I was never big on ford’s 60′s styling the thunderbird was gorgeous. I always liked the 55-57, 58-60 and the 61-63.
    What I always found odd was that a car in this price range was a ford instead of a mercury, since mercury was suppsed to be a step up from ford.

  • avatar
    Monty

    Thanks for this one, Paul.

    Being of the same vintage as Paul, I have a similar definition of “American”. This is my all time favourite American car, which supplanted the ’59 Caddie that I lusted after, which had bested the ’56 Buick I so loved.

    I was never one for “pony” cars; I coveted T-Birds, Connies, Golden Hawks, Eldos, Toros, Rivvies, Imperials, 300′s and the like. Preferably in absolute stock form. Also preferably drop-tops, if they were available.

    In this order, the cars I would buy, should I fall into a great amount of money, would be the ’61 – ’63 Bird, followed by the ’58 – ’60 Bird, the ’53 Kaiser Dragon, ’51 – ’53 Hudson Hornet, ’57 – ’63 Hawk, ’57 Eldo, ’66 Rivvie or Toro, any Imperial from ’58 through ’68, and any 300 convertible or hard-top coupe from ’57 through to ’68.

    But to this day, my ultimate American car is a ’61 – ’63 T-Bird convertible. As a youngster, the mother of one of my friends had a ’62 T-Bird drop-top, black, with a white top and white leather interior and the swing-away wheel, which fascinated me endlessly (still does to this day). It looked and sounded like power. It looked predatory, and as David Holzman mentioned in an earlier reply, it looked like a raptor. In fact, 50 years later, it is still a stylish and timeless design.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I’m older than you and Paul (59), and my dream car is my avatar – I owned one exactly like it, color and all, when in the USAF 1969-1973. I messed it up with improper suspension mods detailed in another post, but that is the car I wish I had back as a “toy”. I am a fan of the cars – read that Chevys – of 1955-57, 1962 – 1966. I learned to drive in my dad’s 1960 Impala, enjoyed my dad’s 1966 Impala, owned a 1961 Bel-Air (rustbucket) and, of course the 1964. I liked the mid-60′s Chryslers mainly for the roofline of the full-size hardtop coupes. Ford didn’t really register except for the 1965-66 Galaxies. Hardtop coupes, of course. Probably TMI, but almost all this old iron moves me now, since you won’t see their ilk again.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    In about 1988, I found a 61 T Bird hardtop and bought it.  As a project.  White with red interior.  I got pretty familiar with these, and still think that it was a beautiful car both inside and out.  I think that at about 4500 lbs, it may have been the heaviest 113 inch wb car ever built.  But the Lincolns (also unit bodies) were even heavier, with the convertible hitting 6000 lbs.  The convertible top mechanisms owed a lot to the engineering of the 57-59 Ford retractable hardtops.  The folding top stowed in the trunk.  These trunks were EXTREMELY shallow and the convertible top mechanism made them all but unusable.

    The 61 TBird was the pace car for that year’s Indianapolis 500 race.  Because 1961 was the 50th race, the pace car was not white that year, but gold.  I believe that the 61 Bird was also the first car that used adhesive to fasten the rear view mirror to the windshield instead of hanging it from the windshield header.

    I think that the 61 was the best looking of the cigarbirds.  I never cared for the side trim on the 63s.  61s, however, suffered from suspension issues and were hard to keep in alignment.  The 62s are probably the best combination of looks and functionality.  And this has to be one of the best dashboards of all time.
    These were MUCH better fitted out inside than a contemporary Ford.  However, these retained one Ford malady-the need to hold the shift lever up in order to trip the neutral-start switch so that you could start the car.  At least the ignition key was on the left side of the dash, so hold shift lever up with right hand and twist ignition key with the left.  Easy.

    These were pretty rust resistant for the era, but did suffer from a lot of hidden rust in the support areas of the inner front fenders and under the rear window.  My car turned out to be more of a project than I anticipated, and was shortly followed by marriage and kids.  I was able to get it painted by a kid in vocational school to make it a nice 20 footer, and finally sold it.  I would buy another (but in better condition).  The 4 bbl 390 and CruiseOMatic was a very pleasant combination.  Not the fastest ever, but it would move the 4500 pound bird pretty smartly.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Scrolling down the TTAC sight, your thunderbird picture made me gasp!
    Oh, these wonderful design years!

    There was a golden era for movies, 1939 being my very favorite.
    The golden years for rock n roll, that being from 55 to late sixties.
    And the golden era for car designs…mid 50 through mid sixties.

    But one more….
    I remember being very young and seeing this car (see link) but in a piano black convertible with red XL lettering.
    And my family doesn’t understand why I have the auto sickness I do today!

    http://mecum.com/auctions/lot_detail.cfm?LOT_ID=IA0709-82077

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      There was a golden era for movies, 1939 being my very favorite.
      The golden years for rock n roll, that being from 55 to late sixties.
      And the golden era for car designs…mid 50 through mid sixties.

      BINGO! You nailed it! ‘Nuff said. Many younger people will never understand this.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The “Golden Era” of anything can be expressed thusly:
      Anything that happened before you turned 13 was how it always was and, probably, retrograde.
      Anything that happened between the ages of 14 and ~30 is fresh, new, exciting and better than anything that came before
      Anything that happens after you turn 30 but before you turn 50 is part of the status quo and just another cog in the machine.
      Anything that happens after you turn 50 is a violation of the laws of God, Man and Nature and must be killed with fire.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      @psarhjinian
       
      There are exceptions, though. The same guy who pines after a car made in 1950 and detests one built in 1985 will almost certainly feel the opposite about women… :]

  • avatar

    Thanks Geeber! To me, at that age and time, it was “the one true Car Company”

  • avatar
    gottacook

    I wouldn’t have minded the 1964-66 Thunderbirds as much if Ford hadn’t reverted to flat-glass side windows, as they also did for the 1964-65 Continentals. What penny-pincher decided that was worthwhile?
    The reason the 1977-79 T-bird was so popular was its drastic price reduction from the 1972-76 model, made possible by basing it extremely closely on the contemporaneous Ford LTD II (a revised Torino) rather than the Continental Mark IV/V. The success of the T-birdlike Gran Torino Elite coupe of the mid-’70s, a popular car not much remembered today, surely led to the decisions around the ’77 model.
    My family has never owned a Ford (in part because of Jew-hating old Henry), but I’ve admired a few of their products over the years – in particular the Aurora luxury station wagon displayed at the New York World’s Fair, which had a few things in common with the early-’60s T-bird, including the curved back seat (which in the Aurora was L-shaped).

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    perisoft, look at the placement of the car seat and think for a minute. The car seat is in the very center of a relatively wide car. Safer in a side impact than a newer compact that only has outboard seatbelts, forcing the car seat to be right next to the door. If a newer subcompact were to be T-boned the door would cave in right against the car seat.  Unless that Thunderbird was broadsided by a semi or a car going at a high rate of speed, there is much less of a chance of the side of the car contacting that center mounted seat.
    Look at the distance between the rear bumper and the back seat, there is much more space between those two points than in a smaller new car, like a hatchback.  If that tbird were to get rear ended there is much less of a chance of the front clip of the offending car ending up pushing through to the backseat due to that long rear end.
    Now putting a child in the rear seat of something like an aveo is downright stupid, and anyone that would do so should have their child taken away.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “perisoft, look at the placement of the car seat and think for a minute. The car seat is in the very center of a relatively wide car. Safer in a side impact than a newer compact that only has outboard seatbelts, forcing the car seat to be right next to the door. If a newer subcompact were to be T-boned the door would cave in right against the car seat.”
       
      See, the thing is, I was going to point out exactly that, until someone got his smug on and started the TTAC-special airbag whine. Yep – no way in hell I’d put my kid on the side of a car without curtain airbags, not even one with excellent safety ratings (the only reason I put my son in my rear-curtain-less Saab 9-5 is because he’s in the center).
       
      But – I suspect that being in the center of the seat in the t-bird might be equivalent to a subcompact now in terms of side impact, it’s still not that great. Remember that when you think about, say, a rear impact in a modern car, you’re envisioning crumple zones absorbing the space up to the passenger compartment. In a car like the t-bird, it might well crush at the seat while keeping the trunk more intact – the space between the seat and the ass-end of the car could be very misleading if you’re making assumptions about physical failure modes based on seeing modern crash tests.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      Moparman.   So i suppose in Europe where gas is $7 a gallon and a large percentage pf people drive cars the size of an Aveo should all have their kids taken away?  Let’s not be silly here.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    This whole chain on not putting your kid in an old car is ridiculous.  Lets just make everyone destroy their classic car that don’t have seat belts, or dual airbags, or ABS.  Do you raise your kid in a house that doesn’t have a built in sprinkler/fire surpression system?  thought not.  Lets be realistic here and not make every decision in our lives based on “what if”.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Where did I say that nobody should own one and that they should all be destroyed? I said you shouldn’t put your baby in one, and that you should drive it yourself. Don’t put words in my mouth – or deliberately misunderstand me in order to feel self-righteous.
       
      You make a good point about the sprinkler, but the difference is that I have a choice in what car to put my kid in. I spent rather more than I could afford to make sure I got the absolute best I possibly good, and I spend even more putting sticky (and grippy in the winter) rubber on it on a regular basis. My ’05 Saab isn’t the safest thing on the road, but it’s the safest thing I could possibly afford.
       
      And if I could retrofit my house as you describe, I probably would – hell, I don’t particularly want to burn to death any more than I want my son to. And it’s not like you’re making some horrible sacrifice of having an interesting life by having sprinklers in your house, either.
       
      The other difference is that driving a car is, by probably an order of magnitude, the most dangerous thing we do. You probably have a smoke detector in your house, but way more people die in car crashes than house fires – almost certainly even among those who lack smoke detectors. And, as I pointed out above, the sacrifice of not putting your kid in a classic car just isn’t that great. You can get a pretty damn safe car for a grand or two.
       
      Drive your kid to day care in that, and drive your t-bird when he’s not around. Hell, you can’t have any fun in a car with your kid in it anyway. As my two-year-old son said when I accelerated briskly up our hill: “No running on the road, daddy! That’s not nice!”

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      not putting words in anybody’s mouth, just taking things to their  ridiculous conclusion if one wants to be paranoid.   I take my friends kids in my vehicle all the time and i don’t have side curtain airbags, am i being dangerous.  No.  Ya can’t bubble wrap your kids and keep em off the playground to protect them from every possible danger in life.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      No, you can’t – and again, I didn’t say that. I said that where I have control, I’m going to make the decision with his interests in mind, not mine.
       
      And again, as I pointed out (and you seemingly ignored), there’s a balance.
       
      Not letting your kid on the playground is worse for him than the risk of injury. Making your kid wear a helmet while biking is better than not, even if he’s less popular because of it (I managed to crack a bike helmet open on a rather pointy rock; I imagine I wouldn’t be commenting with such long sentences had it been my head that was opened up).
       
      My point is that because the downside of using a car like that is so severe, and because the upside is only that you get to drive your toy a bit more often, it’s a bad trade-off, and a selfish one at that.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Gentlemen;

      It appears the point is being lost here. If I had my old car back, it most certainly would not be a daily driver. If I had small children, and the car in question wouldn’t or couldn’t be adapted to current safety standards, such as a LATCH or some other system, they would not be allowed it it, period. If it did not have seat belts, they would be installed, preferably with a shoulder strap as well.

      I rode in many of these cars back in the day and almost fell out of one because of not knowing which way to operate the door handle (push to lock, pull to open) on the 1950 Plymouth. Seat belts? Unheard of. I cringe and pray incessantly whenever we visit our hometown and I visit a friend and get taken for a ride in one of his old bombs. At least one of them (Volvo PV544) actually has a 3-point seatbelt, but nothing else. My heart gets a good rest when it stops beating!

      That was then and thank goodness now is now.

      Peri, you’re right, of course, and I understand perfectly what you mean. There is no going back and the cheapest car you can buy today was much safer than any of the old iron. What we old guys truly miss is the style and character and simplicity of them, but I wouldn’t give up today’s machines with all their advantages and reliability for anything.

      Sure hope I’ve not stepped out of line, here.

  • avatar
    postjosh

    paul has a soft spot for the ’61 t-bird. maybe it’s because i’m a little younger but to me the ultimate ford of that era was the ’65
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/telstar/3164629732/in/photostream/#
    especially because of the synchronized taillights surrounding the t-bird and the flow through vent below the rear window
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/telstar/3163795979/in/photostream/

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Driving rain-or-shine with the top down, heck, this seems to include the windows too!  Nobody seems to have commented on the fact that the power window switches seem to be missing … if this kinda abuse continues, this car is not long for this world.

    p.s.  I also found it an interesting juxtaposition seeing such a massive console combined with a column shift … I would never have thought such a strange combo would have existed … this must (except for the windows and rag-top) have been the “stripper” bird package…

    By the way, I never heard the old timers in Detroit refer to this as a “bullet-bird”, they referred to this as a “curvy-bird”.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “Was 1961 Ford’s finest hour, at least for a very long time to come? In my book, yes.”

    For a across-the brand line-up I would vote for 1969, 1976/7/8, 1985, 1994…

  • avatar
    charliej5

    I get so tired of the “it’s not safe” argument.  I have been riding and driving for fifty years and the vehicle does not make you safe.  Your driving makes you safe.  I know that you can get hit by another vehicle and killed, but that can happen in anything.  Locally, an F150 and a Honda Accord hit head on recently.  Two people in each.  All dead.  In Michigan, last week a Prius hit an SUV head on.  Some killed, some survived in each.  I drive for a living.  About 50,000 miles per year.  My last wreck in a car was 45 years ago.  I wasn’t paying attention.  My last wreck on a bike was 27 years ago.  Woman ran a stop sign right in front of me.  An accident happened in front of my shop several years ago.  A cement truck lost it’s brakes on a long downhill.  The result was four people dead when the truck ran over their cars.  There is no guarantee of safety in anything.  You are as safe as you make yourself.  And then, there can always be bad luck to be in the path of something that can not be survived.  Just don’t lose track of trying to enjoy life while you are here.  They say that you only get one chance.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    While I’m one of those that prefers the styling of the later, ’64-’66 ‘Flair Bird’, I still have a soft spot for the earlier ‘Bullet Bird’. But the reason is a bit more prosaic – it’s the car that closest resembles the car I really like - the 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car. Quite understandable since the same guy designed both cars.

    In fact, in comparing the styling of all three, it could be said that the Turbine Car was an evolutionary link between the ’61-’63 T-Bird and the next gen ’64-’66.

    I would also agree that 1961 was a great year for Ford styling (and GM, too).

    OTOH, Chrysler’s styling of the same time frame was the pits. Seems like I read somewhere that the only reason Chrysler survived their ’61-’62 styling debacle was lucrative defense contracts.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    N8Ive, just because I have the common sense not to put my kids, or ride myself in the back seat of a car like an aveo or yaris hatchback, that does not make me silly.
    There is practically nothing between you and the vehicle behind you from the backseats of those cars. They are worse than the old vans from the 60′s were up front, only from the opposite end.
    If something runs into the back of cars like that it’s going right into the back seat. As fars as the europeans go, I don’t care what they do, I’m just consider myself fortunate that I don’t live over there.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Zackman, I agree with you to a point, but the 59 chevy they used was far from the best car that they could have used for that test. Besides having the weak X frame, the chevies of that era had the steering box mounted almost directly behind the front bumper. In that location it will be pushed back in a severe enough accident, simultaneously puhsing the steering column straight back towards the driver.
    About 3-4 years ago there was an article mentioning this in mopar action magazine, the article was written by the tech editor, Rick Ehrenberg.
    Back in 65 he helped his buddy install headers and a 4 something series rear gear in his 62 polara 500, 361 engine. The car was equipped with the optional seatbelts.
    They took the car out for a test run follwing the gear swap, and a goat came along  and challenged them to a race, and it was on.
    They were racing down a 2 lane city street at around 3am, I believe somewhere in New York, The dodge was in the left lane and the goat was to their right.
    They were doing about 60, and a car pulls out from a side street right in front of the goat, and the goat swerved to miss it, forcing the dodge to the left.
    The guy in the dodge is heading straight for a stone wall supporting a train tressle bridge, and has nowhere to go, because the passage beneath was narrow, so he locks the brakes and holds on, and they smash right into it.
    The goat and the other car kept going and were never seen again. The dodge was about 2 feet shorter from the impact, in fact the impact was so severe that the rear axle was bent.
    The only injury the driver had was a bruised forehead, and Ehrenberg was unscathed.
    Ehrenberg said the reason were because of the padded dash, and the fact that they were wearing seat belts, and the placement of the steering box next to the engine block, where it was protected.
    Ehrenberg stated “unlike the chevy’s design and placement of the steering box, which was designed to maim the driver, chrysler placed the steering box next to the engine block, where it was protected.”
    He said that the police kept him and the owner of the car at the police station for a couple of hours questioning them, because they were certain that they dragged the bodies from the car and hid them somewhere.
    He ended the story by saying ‘if you don’t wear your seat belt you are an idiot, and I will tell you that to your face.”
    I don’t know where the steering box is located on the tbird, but I think it is further back than in the chevies of the same vintage. If you look under the hood of an x frame gm car you can see how far forward the steering box is, making it vulnerable. So like I said, there were other cars from that era that would have fared much better in the test than the chevy.

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    This was our first ‘family’ car.  My dad purchased his in 1967, right after we integrated our new neighborhood.  I was just a toddler, way too young to truly appreciate the car at the time.  It was the same color as this beauty, but had a white top, which didn’t work, and a red vinyl interior.  Dad kept it till 1969, when the tranny went for the second time, trading it in for a gorgeous dark green 69 Dodge Charger.  Mom loved it, but it broke down on her one time too many.  Some white guy from the Main Line bought it for a song and a dance; I wonder what it would be worth now.  I vaguely remember him driving my older brother and I to northern NJ to visit our Cuban-born grandmother, and how he and his best buddy would pass a fifth of bourbon back and forth whilst we tore up the NJ turnpike at 80-90 mph.  Big Brother thought that it was the coolest; I only wanted to get to Gramma’s house in one piece, my brown skin turning green.  Yeah, my dad was a crazy motherf****r.  Thank God drinking and driving laws are stricter these days.  His younger brother, a flamboyant, out and proud hairdresser and private nurse, had a 63 hardtop, gray with a white vinyl top and interior.  Better yet, his had power windows.  Whenever he’d leave us in the car alone at the Jersey Freeze, we’d have contests to see whose window could go up and down the fastest.  He got rid of his in 1971 for an Olds Toronado.  Oh, if we only knew how desirable those 61-63 Birds would become.  Mr. N, I am a bit surprised to read that they weren’t that popular – they were the best-looking ones they built.

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    @rudiger – seriously?  I always thought T-birds, especially ragtops, bought in big coin.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    @nochryslers….I hate to be the one to tell you this. But depending on the opitons the 440 chargers can go for over 100k, especially the 6 pack versions, which sometimes go for around 150k.
    Pristine factory hemi chargers have went as high as 250k, and trust me, the charger is not the most expensive mopar musclecar, check out the prices of Ebodies.

    • 0 avatar
      NoChryslers

      Dad’s Charger was a nice one (383 4bbl), but rather short-lived; in 1974, he dropped a cigarette into the trunk while on a fishing trip, and he forgot about it until he was on I-95 when he smelled smoke. Several cars honked at him as he pulled over, “Hey, dude, your trunk is on fire.  He got out about a minute or so before the car became engulfed in flames.  Totaled.  He had the charred hulk towed home with hopes of repairing it, but like the salvage of the Normandie turned turtle at her pier, the money and effort would not have been worth it.  He replaced that with a 70 Charger R/T Magnum that he kept for a couple of years.  My mom wrecked that one – she knew squat about engines and thought she could handle this one like she could the first Charger.  Some neighborhood boys found her wrapped around a pole during a rainstorm about five blocks from our house, bruised up but okay.  Dad got a 66 Chevy Impala coupe just to get him back and forth to work until he decided what else to buy.  He got a nice tax check back and then – drunk as a skunk, bless him, he took yours truly to a cockfight, a speakeasy and then to a Buick dealer where he got the last car he’d ever own, a burnt yellow 1975 Buick Electra Limited Coupe, loaded.  I picked it out – I liked the color and the fact that it had dual 6-way power seats.  The car was as loaded as he was.  He kept that car (and Mom got herself a 71 Caprice) until he died in 1985. He was strictly a yahoo when it came to cars, “Buy American” till he dropped.  He wanted a Fleetwood Brougham like his buddy across the street.  Mom sold the Electra to pay for funeral expenses and got herself a brand new 86 Regal, which was the last car she ever owned.  She stopped driving years ago.
       


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India