Is There Hope For This 1965 Ford Thunderbird?

By the time today’s featured Thunderbird, which is located in Jacksonville, Florida and for sale for $3,500 here on craigslist was produced, Ford had the luxury coupe market to themselves. Ford motor company managed twice to create a niche market. The second time was with the Pony car, specifically the Mustang, which exceeded Ford’s wildest expectations when it was introduced in April of 1964. This Barn Finds Feature is focused more on Ford’s first niche creation, the Thunderbird.

In looking back, the Thunderbird, introduced in 1955, was direct competition for Chevrolet’s Corvette and by 1956 it was evident that Chevy wasn’t going to cede the very limited two-seat sports car market as the ‘Vette started to stretch its legs performance-wise. So, what to do? Well, Ford converted its 1955-1957 Thunderbird to the 1958 Square Bird and the personal luxury coupe was invented. There was no Monte Carlo yet to provide competition, the Pontiac Grand Prix was still a full-size GM behemoth and the Studebaker Hawk was going down for the third time. This specialty model became a new niche for Ford and it worked handsomely. This ’64 to ’66 T-bird was a refinement of the space age design that had preceded it from ’61 to ’63, similar but more current.

A requirement for this luxury coupe segment was power and this ’65 T-bird came equipped with a 300 horsepower 390 CI engine as standard. Speaking of the engine, this T-bird has some issues, the question is whether they are insurmountable to restore this once proud ride to its former glory. Right from the get-go, the engine room shows a detached power steering pump and a beltless AC compressor, though the owner states that the car is “strong running”. I am thinking it must be strong steering as well. The automatic transmission is listed as a “hydromatic” but I’ll take that to mean a Ford Cruise-O-Matic (C6) unit.

The owner is pretty straightforward about the conditions of the floor pans but states that the frame is good. There is one photo present of the underside from the rear of the car but it is not very revealing. The photo from the inside does show some major daylight via the passenger side floor.

As for the rest of the body, this T-bird is on a pretty serious weight reducing plan as the hood, trunk and quarter panels are being reduced to oxide cinders. The hood is now featuring a flow-through ventilation motif. There is evidence that this T-bird has been repainted once as there is over-spray on the driver’s door ID tag – not certain if white is the original color. As for the upholstery, what can be seen looks pretty fair. The driver’s door card has issues but the seats seem to be intact and may require nothing more than a thorough cleaning.

While this vintage T-bird is not as collectible as a Baby Bird or Square Bird, it does have its followers and commanded respect at one time. For $3,500 (or maybe even less?), is it worth taking a chance on restoring this T-bird to “Thunder” or too much of a risk as a “Blunder”?


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  1. Chebby Staff

    It’s a parts car. $350.

    Like 11
  2. Kevin

    Is There Hope For This 1965 Ford Thunderbird? In a word, NO.

    Like 14
    • On and On On and On Member

      That was going to be my post Kevin……. And you are right. I was considering these for awhile, and you can get a running and driving convertible with very little rust for $10,000. Would still need TLC but still, these are great cars, big heavy luxurious machines. Buy wisely………..

      Like 7
  3. JerryDeeWrench Member

    The Birds sure are having a hard time lately. Probably should have went south.

    Like 6
    • Marshall

      This one did fly south (to Florida). But that kind of rust can’t all be from salt being put on the road up north, especially on the hood. A lot of that appears to be from sitting out in the weeds too long, in a very humid environment. Do correct me if I’m wrong. In any case, that thing is too far gone. Parts car! Or possibly a rat rod?!(which I reserve only for something not worth restoring). But even a rat rod beats the crusher!

      BTW, I had a 1965 Teebird back in 1976. Let’s just say that it was easily the fastest car I’ve ever owned.

  4. grant

    Pretty expensive for a good core motor and a parts car.

    Like 4
  5. J_Paul Member

    Considering what decent driver-quality Birds of this vintage are going for (there are a bunch on Ebay in the low-$10,000 range), paying $3,500 for this pile of rust would be immensely foolish.

    Like 10
  6. DanaPointJohn

    Surprise, another POS car from Florida! Unless a car’s history and provenance is proven without any doubt, run screaming from cars offered in Florida.

  7. Rex Kahrs Member

    Speaking positively, Sweet mother or God, crush this fright pig ASAP! Anyone who thinks they could revive this rustbucket needs to have their head examined!

    Now for my negative comments…..

    Like 6
  8. 8banger Dave Member

    Demo Derby!

    Like 1
    • Marshall

      Demo derby is for teenaged cars that are too old to repair, yet too new to restore. But at 55 years old, we got to respect our elderly ancientmobiles! Therefore, demo derby “just ain’t proper”. Yet, if they get too crotchety, a cheap rat rod might be a tad more respectful, yet affordable. 😎

  9. Dave brennan

    Please contact me b4 crushing this !!! I need a few small parts off it!

    Like 1
  10. Pete Phillips

    “Ford had the luxury coupe market all to themselves in 1965”??? What about the 1963-65 Buick Riviera?

    Like 5
  11. Rodney

    I’ve seen worse. Not by much but have.
    I’m going with the parts car crowd.

  12. Wayne

    I have been a fan of the “flair” birds since I was a kid and own 2 as we speak. I have parted out quite a few over the years that would look like show cars compared to this one. Way way too far gone to save.

  13. the one

    Who remembers how the back seat was described?
    Cathedral seating!!!!

    Like 1
  14. John Ruth

    Looks like a Special Landau, only 4500 built.

    • Marshall

      If somebody could not only document that, but also document how few of them remain, that MIGHT justify a restoration, but perhaps only if your Daddy Warbucks!

      • John Ruth

        Trim code shows it is a Special Landau, Tbird registry shows about 300 Special Landaus. I think it is too far gone to restore for a model that basically was a special color.

  15. Mike

    Who thought the passenger side picture looked like it’s filled up with water and the blue is a reflection of the sky?

    Like 1
  16. Gaspumpchas

    Yea I’d yank the 390 and send it to the crusher.Like the guys said, this bird (think its a 64 by virtue of the grille and bumper) Never took off in value, The ragtops were hot for a while but I think they cooled off. You can buy a nice example for less than 10 grand. Good luck!

  17. Lynelle Nowlin

    Another waste of American ingenuity..How and why?..Was thinking that maybe the real chromed over steel bumpers might be up for parts but even those appear as though they have experienced a rust,weed eating disease.Anybody agree that the owner just give it away as a 4 year project car to one of the high school automotive technical programs?Roosevelt High School in St.Louis Missouri might be happy to accept it into their emergency room department.

    Like 1
  18. Navi318

    This is at best a parts car or a resto-mod where being “original” isn’t a question. Have fun with it, lower it, do fun things to it and call it a day. Not worth the price either way

  19. Brian M Member

    My late son had one of these. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these were unit body cars, not body on frame and the rust hole in the passenger floor could indicate serious structural failure. My son’s had the door gap at the leading edge of the passenger somewhat wider at the bottom than the top, which indicated that the car was breaking in two! this is a 65 as indicated by the front fender trim. I think that my son paid $400 for his ten years ago, with working AC and power steering, and it ran like stink (fast) but the brakes needed a lot of attention. Too much rust on this one to make it a worthwhile project. Body and other heavy parts worth $120 @ $.03 per pound for steel these days at the scrapper.

  20. arizman2

    Pretty sure this seller will have to resort to the OBO, the asking price is a joke.

    I have two ’64s that are completely rust free and clean and I don’t xpect to get more than $1,500 apiece for them

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