The Vista Bird! 1962 Ford Thunderbird Wagon

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the great attractions of the custom car scene is the fact that it allows people to exhibit their own imaginations, and to allow their own visions to crystallize. This 1962 Ford Thunderbird is a perfect example. This car was one man’s vision, and the vision appears to have been brought to reality rather nicely. It is a car that has generated plenty of interest since it was listed for sale. At the time of writing, there have been 49 bids made on the car, and while this has pushed to price to $13,200, the reserve has not been met. The Thunderbird is located in St Louis, Missouri, and is listed for sale here on eBay.

It’s so hard to know exactly where to start with the Thunderbird. The custom work was performed at some point in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and it has withstood the test of time really well. There is a fair coating of surface corrosion on the underside of the vehicle which I would probably address, but the overall impression is of a very solid vehicle. The roof for the wagon was sourced from a 1965 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, and this was blended nicely with the lower standard Thunderbird sheet-metal. The tailgate glass is custom made, while the rest of the glass appears to be either Thunderbird or Oldsmobile, depending on which window you’re looking at. The exterior chrome and trim look to be in good condition, and the overall external presentation of the car is extremely impressive. If you scroll down to the bottom of this article, you will find a reasonable gallery of photos, as well as a YouTube video of the car.

Under the hood is all Ford. The 390ci V8 is backed by a 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission. The engine has had a few upgrades and is now fitted with a Ford 428 crankshaft and high lift camshaft. The car is also fitted with power steering, power brakes, and Hankook white-wall tires which are in good condition. As with the so much about this Thunderbird, the engine bay presentation looks extremely nice.

With so much work having been performed on the exterior sheet metal, it should be no surprise to find that the interior has also come in for some treatment. The front seats were sourced from a 1978 Plymouth Sapporo. The seats have nice covers, which were all restitched to match the original Thunderbird pattern. The car still features many of the original Thunderbird trim items, although some of the original metal trim has been replaced with wood. That is one aspect of the interior that I’m not sold on, but as I said before, a custom car is an expression of an individual’s taste. The original Thunderbird radio is still in place, as is the swing away wheel. The presentation of the interior is also first-rate, and it is a car that you can just climb into and enjoy.

This really is a very impressive custom car, and the fact that it has held together so nicely over a number of decades suggests that the work has been performed to the highest standard. The car has a great look about it, and for someone who was not familiar with the Thunderbird line, it would be easy to convince them that the car rolled off the Ford production line in this form. Being a custom car, it’s one that’s difficult to place a value on, as it will ultimately be worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. It is certainly a car that will attract attention wherever it goes, and one of the attractions of it is that it represents a custom build that is also incredibly practical. I was going to say that this is a car that would suit a person with a family, but that’s making it too simple. This Thunderbird is a car that would suit anyone who wants to own a truly unique vehicle. The big question is, are you that person?

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Comments

  1. j liu

    Station wagon concept aside, tacking on a readily identifiable Olds Vista Cruiser top screams Frankenstein car. If the original roof line was extended and kept original Ford flat, this car would have looked much sleeker. Customs, executed well, can look stunning…this one is garish and looks composed of spare parts lying around. Plus all that additional glass and no A/C. Ooofah!

    Like 12
    • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

      ‘this one is garish’. I like it and give credit to the builder. It would look sleeker without the Vista roof but it is a cruiser wagon and not a Jag. I also like the wood inside, a little sporty and classy. Everything does not need AC. Funny, I did not see this in the early access? I am very happy to see that pics are back. Thanks Barn Finds!

      Like 43
      • bry

        Gotta say. This meld works!

        Like 13
      • PatrickM

        But, I would rather have a/c. This car is great IMO. But, sad to say, bidding ended on Mar 6 for $19,500.00.

        Like 0
    • Cadmandan

      I love these critics that probably couldn’t change plugs in a lawnmower.

      Like 65
      • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

        Jeez Cadmandan, I hope you do not mean me. I remove and clean and gap the plugs on the old Flattie a couple times a year.

        Like 5
      • Jonathan Mudgett

        I remember seeing this car at a car show on the ’90’s in Vacaville Ca. My opinion, beautiful.

        Like 23
      • Jerry Brentnell

        I agree with you real easy to pick apart another mans work! this wasn’t some back yard hack job! and I bet it was not cheap to do either! we had a guy that used to turn up a our local cruise nights with off the wall cars such as he had a lada with a 340 dodge 4 speed in it !right across the back bumper was wrote mopar mustang ass kickin’ machinery!

        Like 5
    • keith carson

      When are you building yours?

      Like 4
  2. mike b

    Refreshing to see a Vista Cruiser roof without a woodgrain sticker below.

    Looking at the profile with thumb place over the rear roofline I see a viable, ah, “Birdero?”.

    Hatch hardware & seats are disappointing solutions, but I give the rest a hearty “why not”.

    Like 17
  3. bobhess bobhessMember

    As someone who has been welding on cars since I was 13 and restoring them most of my life, my cut on this car is that as a fan of the ’73/’74 Volvo 1800ES look it leads me to like this car. Never was a fan of the big Thunderbirds and the skill it takes to make a car shaped like a belly tank into sleek machine like this one gets my two thumbs up. Speaking of the ES Volvos, spent some fun time in this car.

    Like 20
    • Dave

      Love that era of Volvo, wish I could own one (money not an issue, but mywife, you see…).

      Like 5
      • Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

        Dave, you poor chap. Here’s a true story:

        I’ve been wanting a new project, so I decided maybe it’s time to sell my nice BMW 2002 to finance it. At least that’s how I was gonna justify it to my wife. But she said: SELL THE BMW? YOU CAN SELL THAT CAR, I LOVE THAT CAR!
        Then yesterday I brought home one of my dream cars, a ’63 Riviera. My wife absolutely loves it, and she told me again that I can’t sell the 2002.
        I love my wife.

        Like 35
      • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

        True love Rex, you are blessed! That Riv is sweet! Man, and you got to save the Bimmer! She have a sister?

        Like 18
  4. bobhess bobhessMember

    Don’t ask. Picture was right side up when I sent it…..

    Like 6
  5. Lance Nord

    Major fail on the hatch… I’m ambivalent on the Vista Cruiser roof and faux burl wood dash. Otherwise, pretty damn sweet.

    Like 4
    • Joeiinthousandoaks

      I liked it until I saw the rear hatch. Way too high and out of proportion with the rest of the car

      Like 3
  6. Alec

    I actually really like that faux wood dashboard – reminds me of a Facel Vega :-)

    Like 8
  7. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    If I would have heard of this car before seeing the pics, I would have visualized something horrible and garish. But this doesn’t look bad at all. Not sure about the burl trim but otherwise I kind of like it.

    Like 11
  8. PDXBryan

    Big thumbs up! When judging the success of this hybrid it’s important to assess it on it’s merits, not on the knowledge of where the parts come from. Just because you know that lower part is a Ford and the roof is an Olds doesn’t change the fact that the results integrate well. Lots of kudos to the builder!

    bobhess-I’m confused, isn’t a belly tank the definition of sleek?

    Like 18
  9. Bob S

    I find that this is a pretty nice looking custom, and I am no great fan of the styling of most customs. The only area I don’t particularly like, is the tailgate. I feel there is too much rear glass, and it upsets the balance somewhat.

    Like 11
  10. Derek

    That’s nicely done. Shame it’s an auto, but you can’t have everything…

    Like 1
  11. Coventrycat

    I love it, and that dash looks great.

    Like 5
  12. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Now that’s one strange Bird (he says tongue in cheek). The body work appears to be well executed but I’m honestly not sure if I like it or not. Kind of like todays Porsche SUV’s, I know they exist but unsure if I like them or not.
    Have to think on this one some more.

    Like 3
  13. BobinBexley Bob in BexleyMember

    Works just fine, in fact better than the current FoMoCo.

    Like 6
  14. DRV

    I think it’s very well done in concept and execution. A shooting brake Thunderbird! The straight on side view looks fantastic to me.

    Like 11
  15. healeydays

    Maybe I’m weird, but I like it. Yes, it has it’s issues, but it is definitely something unique that if you pulled up at a car show, it would draw a crowd asking lots of questions. I found the dealer that is selling it, and there was a pretty good writeup with history.

    https://www.motoexotica.com/inventory/listing/1962-ford-thunderbird-vista-bird-custom-wagon/

    Like 6
    • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

      Thanks for the link healeydays, great info. I was disapointed to read the hatch is inoperable. Kind of takes parts hauling out of the picture.

      Like 2
      • Concinnity

        “For the hatch lid, he had a custom tempered glass, added hinges but the struts are inoperable, from a Pinto hatchback at the top, fitted a generic T-handle at the bottom, bookended by two cabinet locks in the lower corners.”

        That makes it sound like the hatch works but that it needs new struts to hold it open.Gas struts are easily available in a variety of sizes to complete the job. Or you could just carry a wooden prop rod.
        It would make a great parts hauler.

        Like 1
  16. 8banger DaveMember

    Saw this a few days ago on Craigslist. Very cool and the roof does not bother me at all. And I would drive the hell out of it.

    Like 6
  17. morton

    That is actually rather cool.
    Looks like something out of the Jetsons.

    Like 7
  18. SFM5S

    I like it. It doesn’t look like a kit car but rather something realistic that might have come from Ford.

    Like 8
  19. HoA Howard AMember

    I’ve seen this car before too. There’s a reason Ford never made it. Kind of clashes two universes. The T-bird was a 4 place gentleman’s cruiser, whose last thought in the world was a station wagon. I like the color, and the dash, and looks well done, but no thanks.

    Like 1
    • Mountainwoodie

      It’s pretty cool.

      Finally I get to disagree with HoA..:)..I like it. Just redo the seats and roof liner in something other than rabbit fur, fix the tailgate and voila…I d be a happy camper. Don’t get why it’s so polarizing it seems to work pretty well design wise. Besides the torpedo T Bitds were huge …..makes sense as a wagon

      Like 6
  20. mike c

    Let’s keep personal criticisms out of discussions here…Monitors, where are you?
    This is supposed to be a place to view old cars and comment on cars, not on others perceived but unknown mechanical abilities..eh, cadmandan? Most folks deriding others may be the person themselves, who does not know one end of screwdriver from the other.
    I personally detest our polarized political landscape and venturing on here to see cars and comments helps me escape from the non-stop lunacy of the current abhorrent human behaviors being exhibited everywhere, everyday. Don’t bring that sickness here.
    Please respect others, even if you disagree. Not everyone will find beauty in the same thing and we’re better for that diversity. If you like the car, fine, if you dislike the car, also fine.
    Respect that, respect others opinions, show others the decency you would like shown to you. Enough, please.

    Like 10
  21. John Holden

    Adam, I couldn’t agree with you more when you say “and for someone who was not familiar with the Thunderbird line, it would be easy to convince them that the car rolled off the Ford production line in this form.”
    I think the car looks great and yes, as other readers have said, it reminds of the Volvo P1800 estate.

    Like 4
  22. Chris In Australia

    Vista ‘dome” erased.

    Like 15
    • Mark H.

      Thanks for doing this. It allows me to see that I like the dome version better. The dome actually seems to add a bit of styling balance that this version lacks.

      Like 7
      • Mountainwoodie

        Exactly. From the profile view the curve of the Vista side glass complements the torpedo shape of the original TBirds’ lines.

        I dont know what the reserve is but I’m guessing above 25 G’s….really stunning imho and if the interior was replaced with a period correct T Bird interior say in some sort of light blue or turquoise…it would really pop as the flippers are wont to say.

        Another case of I wish I had money to burn!

        Like 2
  23. David

    looks nicer than the actual t-bird of that year IMO. I’m sure an A/C will find its way into the car someday. Pack the kids in, play license plate bingo, and go on vacation, sans seatbelts! haha

    Like 1
  24. bobhess bobhessMember

    PDXBryan…When you successfully put something square on something shaped like a belly tank and make it look good you’ve succeeded as far as I’m concerned. It’s a nice piece. Interesting difference on the “un vista cruiser” top. I like both looks but sort of lean toward the Vista look. Rear hatch could have come off a Volvo 1800ES…..

    Like 2
  25. PDXBryan

    Thanks Chris In Australia
    Your picture confirms that I prefer it with the Vista Roof. In fact, I love it! The T-Bird and the Vista both have strong ‘space-age’ styling cues that mesh incredibly well. I also dig the large rear hatch that enhances the bright greenhouse and the burled wood dash. It always amazes me how resistant so many car guys are to combining their style with utility. Give me a practical, stylish wagon/estate/shooting brake anyday!

    Like 6
  26. 433jeff

    I applaud the builder nicely done, although i looked quick , someone did a great job , and love my f%*€?< wagins. As far as changing a sparkplug, I usually put it on the head to check for spark and then notice the key is off, then im amazed at how quick it starts. Nice one of one custom

    Like 2
  27. mainlymuscle

    I’m pretty sure this is the one I saw at an auction in Ca. last year.Same color,and this dealer buys a lot of cars there.Does not look near as good from close up.older build,and poor finishing.

    Like 1
  28. Sal

    I think it actually looks better with the vista roof.

    Thanks for your photoshop skills, Chris in Australia.
    Those giant tail lights and the ‘skylights’ really do compliment each other in some weird way.

    Like 3
    • Chris In Australia

      My pleasure. Perhaps I’m a frustrated car stylist at heart, but since my perspective skills suck, profile pics are my favourite. I’m a GM bloke, but I quite like the looks of the ‘bullet’ and ‘flair’ ‘birds. Just don’t tell my mates!

      Like 6
  29. robert gressard

    I love it! Being a wagon fan, I have five, and the great T bird look this is a match that works’ I wonder what the buy it now is or the reserve?

    Like 0
  30. Steve

    Thunderbird “Shooting Brake”! (Google it. I am surprised that the term has yet to be applied here. I am an old school Chevy truck and Farmall tractor guy, but have recently expanded my horizons). I am torn between whether I like it better as is with the vista roof or without, but I would rock it either watt.

    Like 2
    • Rob

      Is that a Marlin roof on the ’63 Italien?

      Like 1
  31. Burger

    Not a hardcore follower of FOMOCO show cars of the period, but Mopar had a strong fascination with space-traveler wagons when fins were king. This T-bird wagon looks like it could easily be a period factory show/concept car. 👍

    Like 4
  32. Arthell64

    I like it.

    Like 0
  33. MadHungarian

    I like the car until I get to the back, where, I’m sorry, the builder suddenly phoned it in. While it’s apparently not actually a Pinto hatch, the Pinto hinges make it look like one.

    Making a functional tailgate seems to be the trickiest part of a wagon conversion, especially where the gas tank is a flat tank under the trunk floor with a center filler. Many of the Cadillac wagon conversions use the entire rear structure of a GM clamshell wagon, including the sidesaddle tank. The rear bumper would need work too. Not easy But if you have the checkbook to start a project like this, why not finish it right?

    Like 1
  34. charlieMember

    My wife, who has a great sense of design, likes it. But she likes the ’36 Chrysler Airflow too. Chaquon a son gout, or whatever the French is.

    Like 1
  35. Lino

    I love it! Just as i love the 2019 riddler winner “CadMad”

    Like 1
  36. Wayne

    I have always liked the style of these birds but would like the cars more if they were about 2/3rds the size and 1/2 the weight. I like the custom work done to this car. (being a former Vista Cruiser owner)
    Chris In Australia, thanks for the photo-shop skills. (not my forte) I always wanted to take a Datsun 510 2 door and splice on a wagon roof. (with a one piece rear side glass) Chris In Australia, can you “pop-out” a picture of the Datsun described?
    And I have always been an 1800ES fan. I would have bought one new. But could not find one with a manual transmission at the time.

    Like 0
  37. James Turner

    This Thunderbird wagon looks very well executed with the vista cruiser roof. It sort of puts in mind the Dodge Magnum car/ station wagon or whatever the category it fits in.

    Like 0
  38. leiniedude leiniedudeMember

    Still out there gang, Ended: Mar 06, 2019 , 4:58PM
    Current bid:US $19,500.00
    Reserve not met

    Like 0
  39. Little_Cars Saul

    I too agree about the liftgate! Not so much for the amount of glass (Nader would have a fit about this if it was factory). But about the placement of the struts holding the thing up. Every photo makes it look like the right one is not positioned the same as the left. I would have liked to have seen some other way to engineer the hatch to stay open. Maybe a delicate frame with struts or coils mounted on the back pillars. Do my eyes perceive a paint mismatch between the drivers door and looooooong quarter panel?

    Like 0
    • Burger

      When doing a period looking custom, the “fail” always comes when the builder lets modern tech sneak into the build. The unframed glass would be very cutting edge for the day, but the struts used were still a solid decade away. The guy should have hunted up a pair of mechanical struts off a 50’s-60’s wagon and figured a way to make them work. Could not be any harder to do than what we see here. Of course, that is assuming he cared.

      Like 1
  40. Suttree

    Beautiful execution and workmanship but what’s the fascination with making a station wagon out of cars that are just fine as they are?

    Like 0
  41. Little_Cars Saul

    Funny it is called a 1959 Cadillac wagon when it looks like it has 1960 rear fins. And looks odd without the 59-60 windshield profile.

    Like 1
  42. BMW4RunninTundra

    I like this car!!!!! I think the fit and finish, though showing its age albeit quite well, is amazing. The interior could use some “generalizing” as in making all the various bits and pieces more alike. I’m not a fan of the exterior color but I believe that was a factory Tbird color so…..
    Here is a personal question. (since I am unable to find an email address to address this off the forum. For those of us who do not have the time to stay current in their viewing, why are the eBay listings being shown as unavailable now? I used to be able to see them no matter how far behind I got. Thankfully, in this case, there is a gallery but that is not the norm. It appears to be a “Barn Finds” cut off, not an eBay? I will wait to see if this gets picked up by the powers that be.

    Like 1
  43. Little_Cars Little Cars

    BMW4RunninTundra–when you click an eBay link and the car is no longer listed, you should have the button that says “see original listing.” Ebay keeps those up indefinitely from what I recall. You will see if it sold, met reserve, or was pulled off in advance of the end of the auction. As far as I know, Barn Finds doesn’t cut stuff off as all they are doing is consolidating other online sales portals for us to see cars in one place. PS: this BF is already a month old, so the eBay auction ended.

    Like 1
  44. Danny from Oz

    Looks like a hearse.

    Like 0
  45. Jack Hammer

    Beautiful conversion. Haters go hide.

    Like 0
  46. bill mason

    They did an excellent job making it look as if Ford producted this car!

    Like 0

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