Rare Classic: 1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster

Ford introduced the Third Generation Thunderbird in 1961 and immediately found itself with a styling winner. The car looked lower and more elegant than its predecessors, and sales were all that Ford could have hoped. The company released a limited edition version called the Sports Roadster, and those vehicles remain the most desirable in the Third Generation range. Our feature 1962 Thunderbird is one of those cars and has covered a mere ten miles since undergoing a meticulous restoration. It is set to go under the hammer, with the seller listing it here at Mecum Auctions in Schaumburg, Illinois. They consider it one of the stars of their auction, and it will cross the blocks on Saturday, October 15th. I must say a huge thank you to Barn Finder Larry D for spotting this fantastic classic.

The early 1960s was a fascinating period in history. The world was caught up in the space race. While the Soviet Union beat everyone to the punch with Sputnik and the feat of sending Yuri Gargarin into orbit, the American public’s imagination was captured by the government’s desire to land the first human on the moon. This enthusiasm was visible in many aspects of daily life, and vehicle styling was no exception. Nowhere was this more visible than in the appearance of the Third Generation Ford Thunderbird. From its sharp and aerodynamic nose to taillights that looked like rocket motors, the Thunderbird had it all. This T-Bird appeared in Ford’s showroom in 1962 and is a special vehicle. It is 1-of-1,427 examples of the Sports Roadster variation and has just emerged from a meticulous restoration. Its Silver Mink paint shines beautifully, and like the panels, it looks flawless. The color is consistent across the car, including on the fiberglass tonneau, which is one of the defining features of the Sports Roadster. This addition gave the Thunderbird the appearance of a two-seater, although removing the tonneau revealed the back seat for those requiring a four-seater. The chrome and trim shine impressively in the sun, while the 48-spoke Kelsey-Hayes wheels, another feature unique to the Sports Roadster, are in as-new condition. Hidden from view is a new black convertible top, and with spotless glass rounding out the interior, it wouldn’t stretch credibility to state this classic looks like it just rolled off a showroom floor.

Ford offered buyers in 1962 two engine choices for their new Thunderbird Sports Roadster. The rarer and more potent was the M-Code 390ci V8, producing 340hp. Only 120 vehicles received that motor before the company quietly dropped it from the Thunderbird range. The rest received the Z-Code version that pumped out 300hp. There were no transmission choices, meaning that every car featured a three-speed automatic and power assistance for the steering and brakes. The Sports Roadster should still be considered a luxury car rather than a direct competitor to Chevrolet’s Corvette. The curb weight of 4,540lbs reinforces that focus, and while that makes the T-Bird a heavy beast, it could still cover the ¼ mile in 16.6 seconds. Thanks to the aerodynamic body, it would run out of breath with the needle nudging 128mph. The owner commenced their restoration with a numbers-matching classic with 49,000 miles on its odometer. They aimed to achieve a “factory” appearance and succeeded with the engine bay. It presents superbly, with all the correct decals and features intact. They restored the entire drivetrain, and the car has covered a mere ten miles since they completed their work. That means the buyer faces the satisfying task of breaking in a “brand new” vehicle that is sixty years old.

The owner’s quest for perfection continued when they tackled this Thunderbird’s interior. Not satisfied with reproduction seatcovers available off the shelf, they employed an upholsterer to create new upholstery in factory-correct custom-tanned Red leather. The rest of the trim and carpet are a perfect match and look flawless. The correct grab handle on the passenger side of the dash is a feature unique to the Sports Roadster, while the bright trim and chrome are in as-new condition. The new owner also receives air conditioning, power windows, a power driver’s seat, and an AM radio that reinforce the luxury credentials. I usually avoid using the term “time capsule,” but slipping behind the wheel of this classic would instantly transport you back to 1962.

The rarity and condition of this 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster guarantee it will generate interest when it hits the auction blocks. It is a car that proves the whole can be worth more than the sum of its parts. The features that set a Sports Roadster apart from a standard Convertible are the tonneau, the wire wheels, a few badges, and the grab handle on the passenger side of the dash. None of these items cost Ford a fortune, but the impact on potential value is profound. While an immaculate Convertible will regularly command a value above $45,000 in the current market, the price of a similar Sports Roadster will soar beyond $60,000. That demonstrates that the right combination of features and relative rarity can prove a winning combination, and it will be fascinating to see whether that is borne out by the price when the hammer falls.


  1. alphasud Member

    I wonder if the interior was always upholstered in red. Personally the light blue and red works for me and makes this strikingly beautiful. This is the same color combination I am doing on my Corvair Corsa. Factory color was mist blue which looks very similar. it will be fun to start on that project when I get it back from the body shop hopefully by the end of the year. One thing for sure anyone wanting to restore a car needs to have a lot of patience. We are talking years and finding a shop willing to do paint and body is next to impossible in my area. In fact the guy doing mine said no more after mine.

    Like 9
    • Kevin

      Good color combo, and the Corvair should look fantastic
      Unfortunately the body shop story is common, there is simply more money on insurance crash damage.
      Also enthusiast are part of the problem as my body shop friend tells me there are 3k paint jobs and there are 30k paint jobs. Everybody wants to pay 3k but they expect it to look like a 30k job.

      Like 2
    • Chuck Dickinson

      The car isn’t light blue, it’s silver. Ford’s Silver Mink has a hint of blue to it, and perhaps these photos show it to be more blue than it is (or should be).

      Like 3
    • Philip

      What area do you live?

  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Attractive and impressive. Big buck restoration. Curious to see what it brings at auction.

    Alphasud’s experiences do cast a bit of an ominous cloud over the hobby.

    Like 7
  3. Joe


    Like 6
  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Beautiful! I know I’ve said it before but the Bullet Bird is the most gorgeous of the T-Bird stylings. After the hideous Square Bird I think that Ford hit the lowest and the highest of Bird designs with these two consecutive models.

    Love the color scheme and everything else about this roadster.

    Like 10

    Fantastic, however, you wouldn’t want drive on a daily basis. If I could afford to buy it I would and drive it as much as I could.

    Like 4
  6. JW454

    Nice…. Looks like something Paul Drake would drive.

    Like 7
  7. Anthony Caruso

    Wow! that car is a true work of automotive art. A pleasure to the eye. I so miss the days when cars had style and grace no matter the size and cost range. Today’s cars are mostly designed by blender systems that punch out homogenate shapes. I call them all “Smurfmobiles”. These days you have no idea what it is till it gets close enough to see the crest. I long for my teenage days when this ford was produced. You could tell a half mile away what was approaching. I now drive a vehicle for reliable transportation. The days of being proud of your hot looking car are gone forever.

    Like 4
    • ccrvtt

      I agree, even the exotics look a lot alike. But in the real world you might try a Challenger, a Mustang, or a Corvette.

    • John E. Klintz

      Not necessarily Anthony. While I agree that the current crop of “potato” crossovers in white, grey, or black becomes more disgusting every day, there are a few good new cars left. However, for style, a vintage car will win hands down every time; I agree. At some point I hope the current silly crossover fad implodes just like the behemoth fad of the late ’60’s and ’70s did.

      Like 2
  8. scottymac

    ANTHONY: Sorry you feel that way, but you don’t have to, you know. At 70, I can still fold myself into my S550 (2015-2022) Mustang. It’s a pleasure to drive (6 speed stick) and I can gaze at its lines endlessly. Ford all the way, baby!

    Like 5
  9. edward mcmahon

    I seem to remember the 406 F/E in the sports roaster, if my old memory serves me right . ? .

    • Larry D

      @edward mcmahon

      No, there never was a 406 in any Thunderbird. They all had 390s during that era. Now, there was an M-code engine available as an option which had three 2-barrel carburetors atop the 390 making 340 HP. The 4-barrel 390 made 300 HP.

      The soonest there was an engine other than the 390 available was the 428 which came out in 1966 as an option.

      Like 1
  10. Larry D

    On the sitcom, Hazel, Season 2 Episode 27, George Baxter’s sister stops abruptly in front of George’s house when she sees her and George’s mother mowing George’s yard. And the car she was driving was the exact duplicate to this car in being a Sports Roadster as well as Silver Mink with bright red interior. The one difference is that her car was a 1963. That was the 2nd and LAST year they made the T-Bird Sports Roadsters.

    While there were 1427 copies made in ’62, the next year saw a mere 455 units produced. That was one rare car she was driving. And who knew at the time?

    Link for that show: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1348608/?ref_=tt_mv_close

    Like 2
  11. Rw

    I think Andy’s rich girl friend had one.

    Like 3
  12. Michael Hall

    I used to live in the southeastern corner of Vermont. Westminster area. There was a red 1963 T-bird Sports Roadster I used to see driven by a woman in her early 50’s. Her name was Delores Wettach Williams. Ted’s 3rd wife. She had a reputation of having a lead foot. This was in the early 1970’s right after they divorced. Every time I saw her behind the wheel, top was down, hair blowing in the wind wearing a pair of Ray-Bans.

    Like 1
  13. Larry D

    You wrote: “I think Andy’s rich girl friend had one.”

    You are correct. Hers was a ’62. The only good pic I could find of her Sports Roadster has been colorized to have Acapulco Blue (Silver Blue) paint with black interior. I always thought it looked red.


    Like 1
  14. DeBorah & George Mattar

    The comment about driving beautiful cars is gone forever is due to idiots driving clapped out cars without insurance and the driver is likely stoned or has a phone glued to his face. I have a 50 year old Corvette and drive it as often as weather permits, but to say it is nerve wracking is an understatement. Tailgaters, people pulling out in front of you and of course, soccer moms with a 60 oz Starbucks in one hand and cell phone in the other driving 99 mph to get to the mall in a 5,000 pound Escalade. That’s why those days are over. This T-Bird is stunning. I remember them new.

    Like 2
  15. Larry Ashcraft

    My wealthy uncle had a large collection of Lincolns and T-Birds. He gave his daughter (my cousin) one of these to drive to college in Fort Collins CO in the late 70s. Hers was red with a red interior. After she got caught in the rain and he spent a good half day cleaning the wire wheels, he gave her something different.

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