390 Tri-Power: 1963 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop

This 1963 Thunderbird Hardtop is not just a pretty face because it has the muscle to back those good looks. It is a tidy survivor with a genuine M-Code V8 under the hood, and it is set to go to a new home. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Larry D for spotting a Thunderbird with plenty to offer its new owner. It is located in Rochester, New York, and has been listed for sale here on Autotrader. You can park this beauty in your driveway by handing the owner $34,999.

The Thunderbird presents beautifully, but it appears that it has undergone a few changes in its life. The Tag and a visit to the Thunderbird Registry confirm that the car rolled off the production line wearing Sandshell Beige paint with a Corinthian White roof. It seems that these changes occurred sometime before 2018 because the photo that was posted on the Register in that year shows it wearing the overall Corinthian White that it wears now. That means that the vehicle is not 100% original, which is slightly disappointing for a classic that is as rare as this. The paint does shine nicely, with no signs of any problems. The panels are free from any apparent dings or dents, and there is no evidence of rust. Once again, the Register indicates that the Thunderbird was rust-free in 2018, so it doesn’t seem that anything has changed on that front. The chrome and trim are in excellent order, and there are no visible issues with the glass.

Lifting the hood reveals what makes this Thunderbird special. This car is equipped with a 390ci M-Code V8, although the owner doesn’t indicate whether it is numbers-matching. The 390 is hooked to a 3-speed automatic transmission, while the original owner also ordered the T-Bird with power steering and power brakes. The M-Code was about as good as it got in a ’63 Thunderbird, with the big block pumping out 340hp. This was thanks to the base motor being treated by Ford to the cylinder heads and triple Holley 2-barrel carburetors off the high-performance 406 Galaxie. Throw in a compression ratio of 10.5:1 and a dual exhaust, and the Thunderbird became a luxury car with a decent set of teeth. This combination was enough to propel the Thunderbird through the ¼-mile in 15.9 seconds, which was a full ½-second faster than the regular T-Bird. The engine upgrades didn’t impact top speed, with both cars capable of nudging 134mph. There have been some wild claims made about how many Hardtops received this engine, with one source putting the total at just 28 cars. The reality might be slightly different, but it is still low. The M-Code only briefly appeared in the Thunderbird range, and the Registry shows 39 M-Code Hardtops still in existence today. It is also worth noting that the Register has only been updated in the last few days, so those figures are as current as you are likely to find. The engine bay presents as nicely as the exterior, but the owner doesn’t indicate how well the vehicle drives. However, I have included a video clip at the bottom of this article that includes a walk-around with the M-Code running. It sounds sweet and strong, with no signs of odd noises or smoke.

The changes to this T-Bird aren’t confined to the exterior because the interior now looks completely different from how it would have appeared when the car rolled off the production line. The original owner ordered the car with Beige vinyl trim, but I suspect that the interior was probably changed when the paint color received the same treatment. I don’t have any issues with this interior’s appearance, but I would have preferred it to have remained original with a car of this relative rarity. The thing is that the buyer won’t need to spend a penny in there because the condition appears to be perfect. There is no evidence of any wear or fading and no signs of any cracking or other problems. One fascinating feature of this car is that while the original owner was willing to splash the cash on the drivetrain, they didn’t go mad on the interior. There’s no air conditioning and no power windows. It features its original AM radio and a power driver’s seat, and that’s it. Still, the interior of a ’63 Thunderbird would have felt special when it was new, so who needs all of the toys?

I like this 1963 Thunderbird Hardtop, and I wouldn’t be upset if I found it parked in my garage. My only qualm is that I would have preferred the paint and trim combination to have remained original with a car of this type. I guess that we can’t have everything, but we can always wish for it. The car seems to need nothing, and it is a turn-key proposition for its next lucky owner. With the Registry only showing 39 M-Code Hardtops known to exist today, it’s no surprise that they don’t come onto the market that often. Therefore if one is on your wish list, this one might be the perfect car to consider. It might be a long wait for the next one to pop out of the woodwork.

Fast Finds


  1. Steve Clinton


    Like 5
  2. Tucker Callan

    What does John Rotella think??

  3. Alan_in_Tn

    Beautiful, with some bite behind that bark!

    Like 5
  4. Larry D

    I sent the link for this car to BF. Because I find this car incredibly beautiful, sexy and tough at the same time. I like the “Rocket Birds” or “Bullet Birds” if you prefer to call them that but of the three years they made them, I love the ’63s the most. Perhaps that is because we had a neighbor in 1963 who was a doctor. And he bought his wife a new ’63 Thunderbird. It was a white coupe with bright turquoise interior. I rode in it a couple of times. Once was at night. Oh, how well I remember that. With all the dash illuminated and soft lighting inside the car, I felt like I was in a rocket ready for liftoff! I believe that is the feeling Ford wanted to convey to everyone.
    But the main thing is I have always loved these cars and, for the life of me, cannot why there isn’t more interest in them and they don’t command higher prices/
    We used to attend a huge cruise-in in our hometown each year. All cars coming into town had to be 1972 or older. One time at the cruise-in, some friends and I were standing near the entrance so we could see each car as it entered. And here came a Rangoon Red (bright red) on red ’63 T-Bird coupe and it looked and smelled like a fresh state-of-the-art restoration had just been completed on it.
    I pointed out to those guys to look at the T-Bird. And they all joked and laughed and asked if I was serious. I said I sure was and they just shook their heads and asked what was so great about it. I said the restoration looked fantastic but regardless of that, I just thought that was a beautiful body style of car.
    They just looked away and began talking to each other.

    Like 14
    • local_sheriff

      Totally agree with you the Rocket Birds are the absolutely best-looking 4seat T-birds (IMO the ’55-’57 are in a class of their own). As I understand it here it’s the M-code 390 that makes it rare, ’cause Rocket Birds in general aren’t rare at all. As a personal car sold to more ‘adult’ buyers these have a somewhat high survival rate and one should be able to find a very nice ’61-’63 ‘bird for not senseless $. Of course not an M-code or this nice but still… Really like this one 👍

      Like 3
    • jokacz

      Seems to me they are referred to as “Motorboat Birds”, revisionist history, I guess. Also, as usual the performance figures are wrong, a 300 horse 62 did the quarter in 19.2. I doubt that this car can shave over 3 seconds from that time. http://wildaboutcarsonline.com/members/AardvarkPublisherAttachments/9990439769238/1962-09_MT_1962_Ford_Thunderbird_Road_Test_1-6.pdf

    • Denny Z

      Always liked these cars. Back in 69 my first ride was a 62 convertible. Wish I still had it.

  5. chrlsful

    my fav is the 5th gen up-size due to the rear suicide dors. Kinda like the FE w/its lill expansion tank (this 1 too), frnt end treatment, & vert (’67/71). This 1s well done, no?

  6. Gary

    Not in Texas without working air!!

    Like 1
  7. gaspumpchas

    Beautiful Bird but I’m not sure its worth all that coin, even with the M code. These cars never really took off in popularity, even with the futuristic and very cool styling. You guys think its worth 39 large?? Good luck and stay safe.

    Like 2
  8. CycloneJeff Cyclonejeff Member

    It’s a M code 3×2’s, but the intake is different then the 406 3×2. The T bird one carbs sits level since the motor must sit differently in the t bird. The 406 Galaxie one the carbs sit at a angle like we all seen on most intakes. You can tell from the air cleaner lid.
    Blue Oval Nerd!!!!

    Like 3
  9. Brian

    I was listening to one of those Sunday morning radio flea market shows a few years back, sometimes a good source of cars or parts, when someone called in selling a Ford 3 duece manifold complete with carbs, fuel rails, linkage and air cleaner for $300. Needless to say I drove right there and bought it. When I got home and checked all the carb numbers, they were correct for the ’61 to ’63 Thunderbird. I should have kept it but caved in to an offer of $1800.

    Like 2
  10. Tracy

    I always wondered why they never put a 4 speed in these.

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