Needs Some Love: 1965 Ford Thunderbird

While sales tapered during its three years of production, Ford’s Fourth Generation Thunderbird continued to sell in respectable numbers. The seller admits this 1965 example needs some love, but it does appear complete. It also seems to be short of the types of rust problems that can plague these classics. The Thunderbird is listed here on Craigslist in Mission Viejo, California. The seller asks $8,500 but may consider trades for the right vehicle.

The history of this Thunderbird is unclear, although its baked Honey Gold paint suggests long-term exposure to harsh UV rays. If it has spent its life in its current location, that is no surprise. A repaint will form part of this restoration unless the buyer wants to cultivate the “shabby chic” look by retaining the car as an original survivor. The thing that surprised me was the lack of visible rust issues. That was a problem that plagued T-Birds from this era, but if this one has spent its life in California, an in-person inspection may reveal good news on that front. The panels are straight, and the trim is complete. The impression this classic conveys is that it could be the ideal candidate for an enthusiast considering their first project build.

If I found this T-Bird in my workshop, I would treat its interior to a deep clean before considering spending a dime. It looks pretty dirty, and there will undoubtedly be parts requiring replacement. However, the seats and other upholstered surfaces show no evidence of rips, tears, or other physical damage. The carpet is past its best, and we don’t get a clear look at the dash pad. However, whipping the interior into shape could prove an affordable and satisfying task. The original owner ordered this classic with air conditioning, power windows, and an AM radio. These appear intact, and I can’t spot any aftermarket additions.

Ford didn’t pitch the Thunderbird to potential buyers as a muscle or sports car, but any vehicle from this era providing 300hp would never be considered a slug. That is what this 390ci V8 produced in its prime, while its luxury leanings are confirmed by the three-speed automatic transmission and power assistance for the steering and brakes. At 4,470lbs, the Thunderbird is not the lightest vehicle on the planet. However, its ¼-mile ET of 16.7 seconds was competitive against the opposition. Inspecting the engine bay reveals that someone installed a billet pulley system, but the original components and air cleaner are in the trunk. The seller indicates the car doesn’t run, and it is unclear when it did last. These old V8s are pretty tough, so coaxing this one back to life may be possible. If I were tackling this build, I would factor the cost of a rebuild into the restoration budget. It may prove unnecessary, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Ford proved it could create a market niche with a new model. The pony car sector owes its existence to the First Generation Mustang, while the Thunderbird is the father of the American personal luxury car. In 1965, sales tapered, but 74,972 buyers chose to give a T-Bird a new home. This one needs its share of TLC, but its complete nature and lack of visible rust could make it an ideal candidate for someone seeking a hands-on restoration project. For all it offers, it could still be considered an affordable option. While it is unlikely to be a mega-bucks car once complete, steadily increasing values suggest it could be a solid long-term investment if the next owner performs the restoration on a strict budget. That has to make it worth considering for the right person.


  1. Michael Garner

    Went to a museum in Arizona this Spring, and they had a 64 Convertible, with the blue/teal paint that was part of the original colors. I have always liked the looks of this year. The tail lights, the long stretch of a rear body section, the steering wheel that slid to the side, all of these things plus the interior and the dash have always pulled me in. We were allowed to get in the vehicles there, and of course I didn’t hesitate. I had a tough time walking away. This vehicle here is a good example, and most likely could be brought back to life for a reasonable cost. But, it’s not a convertible…..

    Like 3
  2. Mike

    Been a VW guy from my teens (bugs, rabbits, Vanagons). My GF had a ’66 years ago and we ended up getting one for cruising. I can never get use to the weight. It’s like riding a cast iron magic carpet.

    Like 6
  3. Wilfrid Leblans

    Ce modèle de Thunderbird est très beau et mérite d’être restauré.
    Je possède en France un modèle “export France” original à finir de restaurer.

    Like 2
    • Emilio Reyes

      Este modelo de auto no entro a mi país cuando ya bastista dejo la presidencia en el 59 de ahí en adelante no vimos nada tan agradable que rodará por nuestras calles me encantaría tenerlo es algo imposible aquí. Solo mirarlo me dan muchos deseos de tocarlo y por qué no manejarlo también.

  4. Richard

    I dont see A/C on this car. The controls and vents would have been in the panel above the radio.

    Like 8
    • William Hall

      Looking at the AC compressor it looks like aftermarket AC

      Like 4
  5. Paul Draver

    The accessory drive on the front of the engine looks aftermarket, since it takes a serpentine belt, which wasn’t invented until the 70’s.

    Like 4
  6. GMB in Maine GMB

    I don’t see a/c in this car– it would be a large chrome vent above the heater controls in the center of the dash, above the console– I owned a ’64 triple black T-Bird convertible with factory a/c years ago–

    Like 3
  7. Dale S

    The 1965 Thunderbird was the first car to be equipped with safety glass all around, and the first year for rear sequential turn signals. It’s on my bucket list.

  8. wuzjeepnowsaab

    That billet serp belt add-on can be sold to recoup some of the cost of restoring this old Bird.

    I am just so drawn in lately by the golds, green-golds, other gold variants of 60’s cars and this one is no different. Love it

    Like 1
  9. Claud

    Switch to fuel injection and overdrive and maybe get better mpg so one can use this overweight luxury tank

  10. George

    Owned many 64 66 tbirds that on the front of the engine is not air. Califorina had smog control in the fifties and sixties most likely that is what that is had a chevy with that on it

  11. Emilio Reyes

    Este modelo de auto no entro a mi país cuando ya bastista dejo la presidencia en el 59 de ahí en adelante no vimos nada tan agradable que rodará por nuestras calles me encantaría tenerlo es algo imposible aquí. Solo mirarlo me dan muchos deseos de tocarlo y por qué no manejarlo también.

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