Stored 27 Years: 1963 Ford Thunderbird

I think it’s safe to have a favorite era for a car, I mean, it’s not like we treat our cars like kids or anything – do we? This 1963 Ford Thunderbird can be found posted here on craigslist in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona, where I’ll happen to be in a couple of days. Maybe I should check it out. The seller is asking $3,985 or best offer. Thanks to PaulG for sending in this tip!

It probably isn’t recommended to have a favorite child but as far as a favorite era Thunderbird, this is mine. As almost always, I like them all from beginning to end but the third-generation “Bullet Birds” are my absolute favorite of the entire run. It’s the jet-age era that I like and if it would have been a convertible, especially the Sports Roadster with the fiberglass tonneau cover covering the rear seats, well then it wouldn’t have been $3,985, come to think of it.

Speaking of jet-age, those taillights are great. There’s a real resemblance to the front of the Chrysler Turbine concept, for good reason – the same designer was involved with both cars. The 1961 through 1963 Thunderbirds were the second generation to have, gasp, four seats. Most of us know the story of how the gnashing of teeth was heard almost around the world when Ford came out with the 1958 Thunderbird – the Square Bird – with four seats. Then a funny thing happened, it sold like crazy and the rest is history.

It’s hard to tell any details from the photos of this car, especially interior details. It looks like this car has power windows and factory air-conditioning so that’s a plus on the value and luxury side. The seats look great but this is literally the only interior photo. They do show one of the interior of the trunk and it looks like the missing passenger side door panel is in there along with the rear wheel skirts. Nice. There are also some engine parts, hmm…

The engine is Ford’s 390 cubic-inch V8 which would have had 300 horsepower with a single four-barrel carburetor. The seller says that this car has been parked in a friend’s garage for 27 years and they say that the engine appears to have been rebuilt – it’s painted. I’m not sure what they’re referring to, the one shown in the second photo above? Hagerty is at $6,820 for a #4 fair condition car with AC. Are there any Bullet Bird fans out there? Any thoughts on this one?


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  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    I had a ’63 Landau way back when in ’85. I viewed it as a classic car, others thought it was just an old car. I guess it was 22 years old then. Nowadays a 22-year old car would probably be neither an old car, and certainly not a classic.

    It’s not surprising the door panel is removed. I am certain some poor fellow was trying to make the power windows work. These cars were notorious for having electrical gremlins.

    Scotty….you mention the designer, but don’t name him. Would this be the late, great Elwood Engel? Engel designed the ’61 Lincoln to much fanfare, but left Ford around ’63, yet his design paradigm at Ford carried on for more than 2 decades….Lincolns used that slab-sided motif well in to the 1980s.

    Engel went to Chrysler in ’63, and in ’65 came out with the successful C-Body cars, which are brilliant designs and certainly reminiscent of the Lincolns of a few years previous. I have owned more than a half-dozen Engel-designed cars. Here’s the latest, a 57K mile ’65 New Yorker 6-window Town Sedan. It’s awesome.

    Like 7
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks for filling in the blank, Rex. And, that is one drop-dead gorgeous six-window New Yorker! A six-window, that’s as good as it gets. That ’65 grille gets me every time and those little c-pillar windows are a very unique and elegant touch.

      Like 3
      • Rex Kahrs Member

        Thanks Scotty, not bad for $3500 bucks, eh? And it runs, and I $h!t you not….no rust.

        Like 3
  2. Rodney - GSM

    This was from an era when cars had personalties. When this car went down the road there was no mistaking it for anything other than a space age Thunderbird. You felt like the future had arrived and it was right in front of you.
    Now, every suppository-shaped grey/white/black SUV on the road makes you feel like the future is behind you, literally.

    Like 18
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I could not agree any more than I do about everything you said, Rodney.

      Like 6
    • John E. Klintz

      Right on, right on, Rodney; totally agree! I just bought a nice (not perfect, but nice) 1987 Chrysler Fifth Avenue. It’s my “anti-potato crossover” car. It has more style and luxury, particularly inside, than even many expensive “luxury” cars do today.

      Like 2
  3. George Mattar

    Rodney should be writing these stories. Our best years are behind us as we continue a trip to the bottom of the ocean. I can’t tell one useless SUV from the rest. I work at a Dodge Ram Jeep dealer. All we do is fix this ugly garbage under warranty. Total throw away cars.

    Like 9
    • Willam r HALL

      What it comes down is American Industry and the automotive for sure is run by people only interested in a fast buck not by product people such as designers and engineers. The money only know how to keep dumping junk on the market to make themselves and investors filthy rich.

  4. Billyray

    ’63 Convert. would be my pick too! I thought I was my aunt’s favorite nephew, and that she would let me buy her gently used ’63 red convert. back in the late 60s. But apparently filthy lucre won out.

    Like 2
  5. Gary

    There is a white 58-60 Bird in my area that looks rust free but the paint is flaking off. It has no hubcaps on it and as I drive past it several times a day I think what a awesome NASCAR tribute it would be, patinaed lettering, try to replicate whatever was inside and under the hood/trunk while keeping it street legal and easy for old farts like me to get in and out of. Fun cheap car.

    Like 1

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