No Reserve 1961 Ford Thunderbird Convertible Barn Find

History shows that there have been several occasions where Ford has caught the opposition napping with a new model. The most obvious was the original Mustang, which broke new ground in both concept and marketing. Another notable inclusion to the list is the Thunderbird. The company attempted to capture the essence of the two-seat European sports car in a package that offered a more refined and luxurious motoring experience. The Thunderbird grew in physical dimensions in subsequent years, but this didn’t prevent it from selling in record numbers. Our feature car is a 1961 T-Bird Convertible that the seller found hidden in a barn. It proved to be a surprise packet, and he has managed to coax its V8 back to life. It needs a total restoration, but it seems to be a hot prospect as a project vehicle. Located in Independence, Oregon, you will find the Thunderbird listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has surged beyond the reserve and currently sits at $8,800. It seems that a new home is mere days away for this promising classic.

The Thunderbird currently wears what appears to be Raven Black paint, but it is worth noting that a previous owner performed a color change at some point. The owner indicates that it originally wore a more lavender shade, and I suspect that it was probably Palm Springs Rose. When you consider that another repaint will be on the agenda, the buyer could choose to retain the existing shade, or the option would be there to return it to its original appearance. Where this Ford holds an ace up its sleeve is when it comes to the question of rust. It isn’t unusual to see Thunderbirds of this era with significant problems, but this one is a breath of fresh air. The floors and frame show nothing beyond surface corrosion, while the panels appear clean. This looks like it will be a project where the buyer can ignore the grinder and welder. The soft-top raises and lowers as it should, but the top itself is beyond salvation. However, since replacements in the correct material and color are easy to find for less than $500, addressing this shouldn’t break the bank. Most of the trim looks like it would respond positively to an application of a high-quality polish, and the glass looks like it has survived with no issues.

When we turn our attention to the Thunderbird’s interior, we find upholstery and trim that has seen better days. The seats are shredded, the door trims are similar, and they have also been cut to house aftermarket speakers. The seller offers a lifeline because he does include a second set of upholstery in red leather. He describes its condition as being very nice, although the supplied photos reveal a couple of faults. It would be worth cleaning everything and conditioning the leather because that may return it to a very presentable state. I’d then consult an upholsterer to ascertain whether they could repair the flaws. The replacement is complete, including items like the console. However, using this may also peg the buyer to a repaint in Black, because I suspect that Red trim and a Palm Spring Rose paint job may not work that well together. Still, that would come down to a question of personal preference.

The 1961 Thunderbird may not have been a hard-edged performance car like the Corvette, but it was also no slug. This car is equipped with what is believed to be the numbers-matching 390ci V8 that would’ve produced 300hp in its prime. Ford added a three-speed automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes in keeping with its luxury leanings. Pointed at a ¼-mile, this classic should dispatch the distance in around 16.3 seconds. That may not be muscle car fast, but it was still a respectable number for a vehicle with luxury leanings. The owner believes that the T-Bird has a genuine 37,000 miles on the clock, but he doesn’t indicate whether he holds any verifying evidence. After years of inactivity, he has coaxed that 390 back to life. The car runs and drives, although it is a long way from being classed as roadworthy. It has a water leak, and the brakes need attention, but it appears that the buyer will be commencing the restoration process from a reasonably sound base.

As a compromise, the 1961 Thunderbird Convertible is an interesting one. It offers the potential of relaxed and refined top-down cruising for its new owner. However, poking that V8 with a stick should see it get up and moving in a reasonably spritely manner. It is common to see these as barn finds riddled with rust, so a solid find like this is pretty significant. That helps explain why the bidding has been spirited and why it appears that the owner will have no trouble finding it a new home. Are you tempted to make that home yours?


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  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    I know I’ve said this before, but what a timeless design these early T-Birds were. Especially the space aged cockpit and wrap-around dashboard. Hopefully, someone will bring this one back to its former glory.

    Like 18
  2. Will Fox

    The ‘bullet Birds’ of `61-`63 are some of the most desired in the post 2-seater years. “77 Sunset Strip” TV show helped to drive desirability of these, showing what the “in crowd” were seen driving. Being the first year, IMHO, these are the best models. with styling cues shared with the `61 Lincolns which were brand new that year as well. This example appears fairly solid and complete, with minimal, if any, body rust. Once fully restored, a buyer will have a real show stopper.

    Like 6
    • Ted-M

      Also think of Paul Drake on Perry Mason!

      Like 2
  3. Malcolm Boyes

    My wife inherited a “Palm Springs Rose” (pink) 61 T Bird coupe from her Mom. What a gem. That 390 made it a very healthy performer and Pink with a black interior was just right. Sadly my driveway was full with a 56 Coupe De Ville , a 58 Ford Country Sedan ( with Interceptor V8) and my newly acquired 56 356 A P car..nowhere to safley keep this beauty and it was sold and went to Norway. One I will always regret..just love this style ..Coupe, Convertible or two seat roadster..sad what became of T birds down the road after this lovely model.

    Like 2
  4. Vince H

    I drove and maintained one of these for a guy I was in the Army with. He worked nights so I had the car then. I liked the way the steering wheel swung out of the way. It was a black convertible too.


    if you look at the sellers previous ebay auctions he has sold this car twice before?

    Like 1
  6. Lowell Peterson

    I love these! But! Don’t start cryin’ about the fake ‘investment’ when the $40k or more resto makes it worth the $30k that most of you would be willing to offer for it when finished. I suggest to clean it up, vinyl seats redo , mechanical refresh and drive it. There are many of these that are nice…..already out there.

  7. AJ

    One of the best riding long distant cars I’ve ever owned. Whenever I had a leave I would drive mine from Texas to Chicago. Straight through with my wife sleeping in the passenger seat and son sleeping in the back.

  8. Bill Hall

    One huge issue to watch for on a T Bird convertible such as this is top mechanism. They opened into the trunk and are rather complicated. I know this from Eons ago. My Dad and Uncle found a 63 Galaxie convert to fix up.
    It came out nice and my Uncle decided to sell and took a 61 T Bird Convert in trade. It looked half decent but was otherwise awful. The could be manually operated but that was a real pain.

  9. Malcolm Boyes

    I think i if had a drop top T bird of this generation I( the only one I would want) I would hunt down a roadster tonneau..cover the back seats and never put the top up. That said..I’d be perfectly happy with a coupe/hardtop. I think all these powered convertibles from this generation were complicated and expensive to fix “down the road”. I knew a guy who spent a $$$$ fixing the top on his Lincoln Continental..

  10. Johnny C.

    The fact that this year/model was one of, if not the best designs of the Thunderbird legacy, goes without saying! I can imagine 1961 when the first owner drove into the driveway for the first time with a brand new black T-Bird convertible… (This one was originally lavender, but never mind that for this dream) what a rush that would have been! But alas, the years went by and the novelty wore off. 137,000 miles (despite what the ad says) were not kind to this poor thing and eventually it ended up looking as it does today. For it’s condition, the price seems a tad high…

    Like 1
  11. Billyray

    How well I remember these when they were new, as an 11 y.o. boy! They seemed so low and just floated by. Even then there was NOTHING even remotely similar. It was a thrill to behold, AND rather rare! My neighbors couldn’t afford such pizzazz.

    Like 1
  12. BobK

    One of the truly beautiful milestones in American design, along with its Elwood Engle design sister the 61 Lincoln Continental, which gets more notice.

    However I’m afraid the article got the Thunderbird story wrong: as iconic as the 55 to 57 cars were it was the next generation that really made an impact on the market. Except for the initial year 1958, production of the four-seater exceeded The 3-year total of the two seaters every year, well into the ’60s.
    The four-seater Thunderbird was a landmark car because it brought luxury to a smaller size. It became THE “doctor’s wife’s car” and inspired the Riviera the Toronado the Eldorado the Chrysler Cordoba etc – and Even the blue collar Monte Carlo
    And yes, be careful of the top mechanism

    Like 1

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