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Thunderbird 1959 – 1961


Cosmetic body changes for the 1959 Thunderbird but for the first time the passenger compartment can be done in leather. This year Ford targets female buyers in the advertising campaigns. Showing beautiful women arriving at the country club in their new Thunderbird and it must have been a good idea because the sales doubled. The front suspension is the same but the rear is revised and the Hotchkiss drive with parallel leaf springs is the replacement. There is a new power available with the “code-3” option the MEL-series 430 cu in (7.0 L) V8 engine with 350 hp (261.1 kW) but very few cars are equipped with it. This is the largest engine sold by any American manufacturer in 1959.

Ford Thunderbird 1959© Randomshots | Dreamstime.com - Ford Thunderbird Photo

The 1960 model year is the last of the generation and there are just minor trim changes with record sales figures again achieved. A very rare option in 1960 is the “Golde Edition” sunroof with 2,530 models produced-Golde is the name of the German manufacturer.

Ford Thunderbird 1960 dash© Martince | Dreamstime.com - 1960\'s Ford Thunderbird Dash Photo

The Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation put in a special order in 1960 for two Thunderbird's to be made of stainless steel. In order to make these cars the Ford Co. had to use heavy gauge type 302 stainless to duplicate the mild steels weight, as a result all the 1960 body molds would be destroyed in the process. All the trim pieces are also made of stainless but a Type 430 is used. These two cars are still in existence and both were fully restored in the 1980’s and one of them can be seen in the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Ford Thunderbird 1961© Kmm7553 | Dreamstime.com - Classic Ford Thunderbird Automobile Photo

The third generation “T”bird  is the pace car for the Indy 500 in 1961.. The then President John F. Kennedy is chauffeured through the Indy parade in a brand new convertible. Under the hood is only engine offered this year; to power the Thunderbird; the new FE-series 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8. This is the first and only year this engine is available for the Thunderbird. There are two versions of the 390 for the Thunderbird; the “R” code is slightly detuned to run on regular gas-it is equipped with a Holly four barrel and puts out 275 hp but this one is for export only and the special premium gas “Z” code version is for the domestic market, mounted with the same four Barrel Holly carburetor it will develop 300 hp. Both of these engine variations are factory equipped with duel exhaust pipes.




2 thoughts on “Thunderbird 1959 – 1961”


    1. I don’t know if Kennedy liked the ride but he rode in the Thunderbird when he attended the INDY 500 opening parade
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Ford Fairlane 1966 images

The standard engine for the 1966 Ford Fairlane GT is a 390 CID FE V8 and the GTA version would be further equipped with the new SportShift Cruise-O-Matic 3 speed automatic transmission. Both the GT and the GTA high compression 390's produce up to 335 bhp (250 kW) with the 4- barrel carburetor. Mid-year there were 57 only units of the Fairlane 500 two door hardtop, in white only,  roll off the assembly line with an "R-Code" 427 CID V8 developing 425 bhp (317 kW) and these are all bolted to the  "top-Loader" four speed manual, specifically made to race in the  NHRA and IHRA super stock class.

289 CID V8 3 Speed Automatic

MCF thanks Gateway Classic Cars for the images providesd here

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Ford Fairlane 1966 500XL 428 Cobra Jet 4 Speed

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