The new generation 1964 Thunderbird remains a leader in sales, but its style and luxurious appointments make it a leader, not the handling or its power. The basic equipment springs give a nice comfortable ride but the car floats and wallows in the corners due to a weight problem and the inadequate suspension. The powerful 390 FE engine is a V8 that puts out 300 bhp (224 kW)-but its not enough to move the vehicle around quickly because it is too heavy. The “T”bird does 0-60 in a ho-hum 11 seconds although with a long straight road it will have no problem doing up to 120 mph eventually.This is the only model year to have “Thunderbird” scripted on the front hood rather than the logo. The three style choices in ’64 are the hardtop, a convertible, and the Landau. There is, however, a sports roadster variation, with the tonneau cover and spokes in the wheels is still an available package but as a dealer installed option; although 50 units were factory assembled.
© Steirus | Dreamstime.com - T-bird, 1964 Ford Thunderbird Convertible, Delalje Front And Whe Photo
The 1965 Thunderbird has sequential tail lights-moving from the inside to the outer towards the indicate your intentions. This lighting delayed the release of the ’65 due to a problem with some U.S. states accepting this styling feature. The car also has disc brakes to improve the stopping power of the still over weight vehicle.
© VanderWolf Images | Dreamstime.com - 1965 Ford Thunderbird Photo
The 1966 “T”bird moves out better with the basic Cruis-o-Matic automatic transmission bolted to the 390 cu in V8. The engine now produces a slightly increased 315 bhp (235 kW) and delivers 427 ft-lb of torque but you can only get 8.3 mpg average (3.8 km/h/L). The Town hardtop is a new model on the rooster list this year with the Landau model now called the Town Landau and still sports the vinyl padded roof and the “s” shaped trim feature. The town versions are distinctive with blind rear quarter panels giving these versions a bit more uptown look but this is at the expense of reducing the visibility- particularly on the blind side. The town model is by far the biggest selling Thunderbird for ’66.
There is a very rare dealer option that was available from 1963 to 1965 through a few select Ford performance oriented car dealerships of a special high powered version of a “side oiler” 428 cu in (7.0 L) V8 power plant which delivers 345 hp (257 kW) and knocks the 0-60 time down to 9 seconds. No accurate figures are available from Ford but there were likely 120 only units of this high performance car originally produced with only up to six of those confirmed as still existing, but only by unsubstantiated hearsay, as being Ford authorized installations. Unless the owner of the vehicle can produce an original sales receipt issued at the time the car was purchased from the dealer there is no way to confirm if any particular unit is one of these original special order models.
Movie appearances for the Thunderbird are a ’66 green convertible in “Thelma and Louise” by Ridley Scott with Susan Saranden and Geena Davis In the starring roles as well as “The Outsider” directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The Highlander TV series has a “T”bird is a major player-also “Wild Heart” with Nicolas Cage uses the car.
The only engine offered in the "T"- Bird for 1962 is the 390 which develops 300 hp (220 kW) and is bolted to the three speed automatic transmission. The car was used to pace the Indianapolis race in '62 and a Thunderbird convertible also carried John F. Kennedy to his inauguration that year. The options include a package comprised of set of genuine spoke wheels designed by Kelsey-Hayes and a tonneau cover giving it a retro two seated roadster look - like the original Thunderbird. There was a special "M" code version of the 390 on the options sheet that would replace the basic with three-two barrel Holly carburetors, increasing the horsepower rating to 340 or 253.54 kW and, as an added bonus, air conditioning was included with the tri-power option. There were only 200 of the triple carb set up from the factory, making it a very rare version.
Our thanks to Gateway Classic Cars for the images displayed here