Live Auctions

45k Original Miles: 1961 Ford Thunderbird

Taken at face value, this 1961 Ford Thunderbird seems to tick the right boxes for potential buyers. It is a two-owner survivor that remains original and unmodified. It has 45,000 original miles on the clock, and its numbers-matching V8 sounds superb. It isn’t perfect, but it could suit somebody who wants to tinker with a straightforward project car. Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, you will find the Thunderbird listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding currently sits at $1,000, which is below the reserve. The owner offers a BIN option at $17,500 for those wishing to avoid the auction action.

While classic cars can be extroverts, this Thunderbird is a study in subtlety. Its cause is aided by the original owner’s decision to order it wearing Honey Beige paint. It is not a vibrant shade that will appeal to everybody, but it seems to deliver for those seeking a classy appearance. It isn’t clear whether its two owners have performed any restoration work or whether the paint is original. If it is as it left the factory, its condition is quite impressive. There’s no evidence of significant flaws or problems, and the panels look straight. I can’t spot any penetrating rust, but there is evidence of surface corrosion in various locations around the vehicle. That would prompt me to perform an in-person inspection if I were considering handing over my money for this classic. I’ve mentioned this idea in the past, and there are times when I must sound like a broken record (at least, to those of you who are old enough to remember what a record is!). An inspection can seem an inconvenience to some potential buyers, but it is less so than having a classic dropped in your drive that is riddled with unknown problems. I’m not suggesting for one moment that this will be the case with this T-Bird, but I’m merely emphasizing that it is one of the most basic but essential weapons that any classic buyer can have in their armory. The exterior trim looks excellent, and there are no issues with the tinted glass.

Turning our attention to the interior, it is one aspect of this Thunderbird that sends mixed signals. It is upholstered in Beige, which matches the exterior, and at first glance, it presents well for a survivor. There are rips and splits on the driver’s seat, and I believe these are beyond repair. The buyer will probably choose to source replacement seat upholstery, and if they want to ensure color consistency, they may decide to spend $640 on a complete set of covers. There are some cracked plastic trim items inside the car, and the tops of the door trims are also split. I noticed the dash pad has cracked towards the front on either side of the speaker grille, but one other aspect of this interior causes me concern. Closely examining the supplied photos reveals that some plated components have begun to bubble. This in itself is not a drama because they could be restored or replaced. My concern is that this could indicate that this car may have spent time in a damp environment. Once again, this reinforces why an in-person inspection is so vital. It may be nothing, but it is worth checking for peace of mind. There have been no after-market additions to this interior, and the original AM radio remains intact.

I’ve probably treated this Thunderbird a bit harshly to this point, but it’s time for some positive vibes. Things improve when we start looking at its drivetrain. It appears that it is original and numbers-matching, with the engine bay occupied by a 390ci V8 that pumps out 300hp. Bolted to this V8 is a three-speed automatic transmission, while the luxury credentials of this classic are reinforced by power steering and power brakes. Ford marketed the Thunderbird as a luxury car, but it could get up and move if the driver gave it a poke with a sharp stick. While a ¼ mile ET of 16.3 seconds may not sound that impressive by today’s standard, it stood up well in 1961. It seems that this T-Bird is in sound mechanical health. The owner includes this YouTube video of the vehicle running, and that 390 sounds sweet. He claims that it has 45,000 genuine miles on the clock but doesn’t mention verifying evidence. This Ford runs and drives extremely well and is ready to be enjoyed by its next owner.

This 1961 Thunderbird isn’t perfect, and some question marks are hanging over it due to the presence of surface corrosion. If this proves to be nothing dramatic, returning it to its former glory should be straightforward. With spotless examples capable of easily topping $30,000 in today’s classic market, even at the BIN, that leaves room to move on this restoration before its viability comes into question. It appears that there is nothing complex required, making it an ideal candidate for a first-time restorer. The new owner could complete most of the work in a garage or home workshop, and with a little bit of cold weather remaining before summer hits, I can’t think of a better way to spend time than in a workshop returning a classic like this to its best. Can you?

Comments

  1. Bo

    “Inspection is always a good idea.” Great advice.
    I have a friend who went through a neurotic bout of buying cars on Ebay from the west coast. Some were ok with one parts car showing up and being a fantastic driver in very good shape, but most showed up being far less than described. If you’re paying $2500 fine but if you’re going to lay out over $10 000 plus shipping you’re crazy not to know what you’re buying.
    I love this generation of Thunderbirds. I’m always surprised at how affordable they are.

    Like 22
    • Tbone

      Great interiors as well

      Like 15
  2. Mark C

    I didn’t used to think I was too crazy about this generation of t-birds, but I think I hadn’t seen many in good shape, as these were cheap and rusty when I was a kid. But I love this car today. Tbone is right, the interior is great. I’d fix the seat and tinker with the other bits as I go.

    Like 9
  3. David

    What a beautiful car; I think it’s the color that is making this one shine. I was not a big fan of this particular year , but this one makes me change my mind.

    Like 10
  4. George Mattar

    I am with David. Was not a big fan of 61 to 63, but after seeing this for $17,000 and that POS rotted 69 Charger on this site for twice the money, I will take the T Bird. You could drive this Bird immediately and enjoy it. Not that Charger. I am looking for a 64 to 66 T Bird convertible, but they are fairly high in price for a good one.

    Like 5
  5. John S

    Good looking car. Needs an air conditioner

    Like 3
  6. Bound4Glory

    Man that is hideous, all that is missing is Laverne and Shirley

    Like 2
    • Doug

      Back in the day, we used to refer to these as the ‘ Blunderturd “. Once Ford changed to the 64-65, they didn’t look so bad. From the side these looked like Ford was going after the ‘ Dagmar ” look.

    • joenywf64

      I could just imagine what you would think of this …
      https://www.carstyling.ru/en/car/1954_ford_fx_atmos/

  7. Frank Sumatra

    I still cannot understand what Ford was doing in 1961 when I look at a 1961 Corvette. It’s obvious what they were doing but weren’t there any “Car Guys” at Ford? I guess they sacrificed the T-Bird for the Mustang they knew was coming.

    Like 1
    • cyclemikey

      They were selling cars that people wanted to buy.

      1961 Thunderbird sales: 73,000
      1961 Corvette sales: 11,000

      Like 28
      • Steve Clinton

        There ya go, whether you like it or not!

        Like 3
  8. Old Beach Guy

    I love those 61-63 T-Birds. I saw that car sitting on the lot on E. Independence Blvd. while passing through Charlotte last Thursday. Glad to see it on BF

    Like 8
  9. A.J.

    ’61 T-bird was the first car my wife and I had. She and her dad bought it at the local Ford dealer for $800 and she drove it to my duty station in Texas. One of the best riding long haul cars I’ve ever owned.

    Like 9
  10. Frank Armstrong

    A little bit of credit where credit is due: The seller posted several closeup pictures of places that have flaws. The dash pad splits, front seat cover wear and chrome deterioration on steering wheel ring. Obviously, this Thunderbird has some storage conditions issues that do indicate it needs a thorough inspection, but if you like it, bid accordingly.

    Personally, I find the beige on beige color scheme a good choice for a luxury ride like this series of Thunderbird.

    Like 7
  11. jeff

    They need to post some undercarriage photos. If the chassis is not crusty or rusty this would be a great car. Honey beige was a very popular color in 1961-63. An earlier commenter was correct. It would be best if it had AC

    Like 5
  12. MikeB

    I used to not care one way or another about this era of T-Birds but I have to say- this is a really handsome car indeed. Plus it has a beautifully designed interior.

    Like 4
  13. trav66

    This looks like a true survivor. BIN seems like a steal considering what it costs to restore anything nowadays. Jump in and drive it! Great looking T-bird!

    Like 5
  14. Rod Cherokee

    The front looks very much like the UK lemon the Ford Corsair, a short lived mistake !

  15. Bob Mck Member

    I bought a 63 Roadster. It was the most expensive car I ever bought. However, it drives really nice and turns heads. Someday I may sell it for another toy that I must have.

  16. Tom

    Bought one just like it out of a museum for 7200 in perfect condition. Can’t believe his buy it now price.

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