Rat Rod or Restore? 1963 Ford Thunderbird

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

Here at Barn Finds, we’ve seen a few Thunderbirds that are in need of total restoration, but the owner of this car has already started the process, and it will be up to the new owner to complete it. There is, however, one aspect of the car that is a little bit odd, and we’ll get to that later. If you are looking for a Thunderbird project car, then you will find this one listed for sale here on Craigslist. It is located in Orland Park, Illinois, and is being sold with a clean title.

The owner says that 90% of the bodywork on the Thunderbird is complete and that the car is in primer. The car certainly looks nice and straight, but I did notice that the majority of the chrome trim and badges are still on the car. I’m surprised that these weren’t removed during the restoration, or perhaps they have just been reattached for the photos, so I’m not sure what’s going on there. The Thunderbird was available in 1963 with optional wire wheels, and while this car is fitted with wire wheels, they are non-genuine.

The Thunderbird is fitted with a 390ci V8 engine, a 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. The owner says that the Thunderbird starts, runs, and drives well. He is so confident in this fact that he suggests that the new owner could drive it home. The only mechanical issue that he identifies is an exhaust leak at the manifold which will need to be fixed.

This is where things go a little strange for me. The car looks like it started out life finished in Rangoon Red (judging by the paint in the door closes). The fact that it is fitted with red carpet makes sense in this context, along with the other red interior trim items. However, the seats look to be finished in Chestnut Brown and Beige, which wasn’t a combination available in 1963. Personally, I probably would have fitted new covers to the seats before fitting them to the car, because it really does look odd. The rest of the interior looks to be in quite good condition, although that cover on the dash doesn’t give us a look at the state of the pad.

The owner of this Thunderbird suggests that it could make a cool rat rod project, but I’m not so sure of that. To me, the rat rod look just isn’t there, but that’s personal opinion. There is a bit of work left on the car, but if the bodywork has been completed to a decent standard, it is possible that there really isn’t that much left to do. The owner has set a price of $4,200 for the car. I have seen project cars that are cheaper than this, but none of these were capable of running or being driven. I’ve also seen a lot of more expensive ones. It may require a bit of investigation, but this is a Thunderbird project that may hold some real potential.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. J Liu

    Also, the A/C compressor is missing. It had A/C from looking at the center vent, only on an A/C car. Under the hood, one of the hoses is left dangling. $$

    Like 1
    • Rick McKee

      It does not look like this car was AC equipped. I had a 63 white with a gold interior power everything but no AC. It was not a standard item back then, The one hose to really worry about is the bypass hose between the w/pump and manifold no one ever replaced them and they would split and send water direct into the factory air cleaner.

      Like 1
      • Ken

        It is a factory A/C car. Compressor is missing.

        Like 0
      • Howard Scheetz

        I remember that little hose well. Nearly impossible to replace, unless the water pump was removed / replaced.

        Like 0
  2. David Frank David FrankMember

    Sadly, these T Birds just aren’t worth much. For example, here’s a nice, well-sorted driver at the museum with an asking of $8500 that is getting no interest. This example on Craigslist must be worth far less than the asking. It appears any project, even free, will leave the builder upside down after even a minor restoration.

    Like 6
    • Brian

      Have to agree with that assessment.
      These are beautiful cars when restored, but the parts are not cheap nor plentiful.
      Unlike a Mustang , replacement sheet metal and interior parts are pricey.
      Plus, these are big unibody cars that were prone to rust. The photos show a wavy fender and quarterpanel. If this car is full of body filler just walk away. The work and expense won’t be worth it. Go out west and find one with a solid body. Way cheaper in the long run.

      Like 0
  3. Tim Deal

    I do’nt know why these cars have little value they have a great body line?

    Like 5
    • Brian

      Tim I expect the reason is that t-birds aren’t muscle cars. If it were a Mustang, Cougar, Falcon or even a Fairlane, your parts would be more plentiful and cost less. These cars don’t share many parts with other Fords beyond the powertrain. Even Galaxies have more aftermarket support. Interior parts and other trim items are not available via reproductions. Just having the bumpers rechromed will set you back more than the asking price of this whole car.

      Like 0
  4. arizman2

    The bullet birds just are not worth much. I have two ’63 convertibles that are in great original shape. I have been waiting for many years to see if the values would go up but alas, they are boat anchors.

    Like 7
    • Mountainwoodie

      Yikes….. is that a convertible on the left? Wont the top cave in? How much is a boat anchor worth? They look pretty nice. Too bad you dont get to use them.

      Like 0
      • arizman2

        Ya, both are converts. the stuff isn’t heavy, I have had them both loaded up more than that in the past ! They take up all the space in the garage so I have to use them for shelf space !

        Like 0
    • Mike

      Arizman2, if you want to part with one…let’s talk

      Like 0
      • arizman2

        I am considering parting with one, probably want to keep the whitish one as it has factory air and in Arizona that comes in handy. I think I have the Ford factory gate release on the other one, it is the one that runs the best, the white one has a leaky torque converter seal. I also have a couple of nice 64 hardtops I really need to get rid of.

        Like 0
  5. stillrunners

    Finally some honesty….yes they are nice looking….but the maintenance if needed is not fun under dash fer sure and under hood second. Speaking from owner experience….still at that price maybe ?

    Like 0
  6. Brian

    Maybe a buy at half the asking price. Obviously a poor quality respray. Being a rust belt car, it probably has rust hiding in alot of places. I would look this one over well. Rebuild of an old FE like this one will not be cheap if done well.

    Like 1
  7. 64 Bonneville

    arizman2, why not post your ‘Birds’ on Barn Finds? The bullet ‘Birds are undervalued, according to Hagerty. Also they were more of a “Personal Luxury Car” than a muscle car. The initial cost when new, would have put them in about a mid level management price range back then.
    would like to have a “bullet ‘Bird convertible w/ air, but am working on restoring a 67 full sized Olds 2 door hardtop. (age and health have slowed me greatly on getting it done, sort of a last hurrah)

    Like 0
  8. James

    Got flubber?

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds