It was no accident that the third-generation T-Bird looked like it was fired from a rocket silo. Designer Bill Boyer wanted the new prodigy to have “an aircraft and missile like shape,” a subtext that wasn’t lost on an American public vexed by the Cuban crisis and Khrushchev’s declaration of an increase in Soviet military spending.
The Sports Roadster model was the finest incarnation of the ’61–’63 Thunderbird. With Kelsey- Hayes wire wheels and a two-seater fiberglass tonneau, it was one of the most glamorous cars on the block and one of the most exclusive. Virile, vast, and expensive, the Big Bird showed that Detroit still wasn’t disposed to making smaller, cheaper cars.
GM even impudently asserted that “a good used car is the only answer to America’s need for cheap transportation.” And anyway, building cars that looked and went like missiles was far more interesting and profitable.
With the hood down, the Big Bird was one of the most attractive and stiffest convertibles Ford had ever made. The heavy unitary-construction body allowed precious few shakes, rattles, and rolls. Motor Trend magazine said: “Ford’s plush style-setter has plenty of faults… but it’s still the classic example of the prestige car.”
T-Bird drivers weren’t that young, and a Swing-Away steering wheel aided access for the more corpulent driver.
Lesser T-Birds could opt for the Roadster’s wire wheels at $343.
Three sets of five cast-chrome slash marks unmistakably suggest total power.
Odd styling crease ran from fender to door and is the model’s least becoming feature.
Rear overhang was prodigious, but parking could be mastered by using the rear fin as a marker.
With the top down, the streamlined tonneau made the Sports Roadster sleek enough to echo the ’55 two-seater Thunderbird.
Aircraft imagery in the controls is obvious. The interior was designed around a prominent center console that split the cabin into two separate cockpits, delineating positions of driver and passenger.
The front bears an uncanny resemblance to the British Ford Corsair, which is neither surprising nor coincidental, since the Corsair was also made by Uncle Henry. This third-generation T-Bird was warmly received and sold well.
Tinted glass, power seats and windows, and AM/FM radio were the most popular options.
Ford cleaned up the rear of their prestige offering after the demise of the ’58 to ’60 Squarebird. Lights were a simple rounded cluster and the bumper was straight and wide.
18 single shades or 24 two-tone combinations were offered.
Interior designer Art Querfield spent more time on the Tbird’s cabin than on any other car in his 40 years at Ford.
The Sports Roadster could also be a full four seater. Trouble was, there was no space in the trunk for the tonneau, so it had to stay at home. The large tonneau panel came off easily but required two people to handle it.
Sales literature suggested that the T-Bird was the result of the combined efforts of Ford and God.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster (1962)
PRODUCTION 455 (1962)
BODY STYLE Two-door, two/four-seater convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Steel body and chassis.
ENGINE 390cid V8.
POWER OUTPUT 330–340 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed Cruise-O-Matic automatic.
SUSPENSION Front: upper and lower A-arms and coil springs; Rear: leaf springs with live axle.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 116–125 mph (187–201 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 9.7–12.4 sec
A.F.C. 11–20 mpg (3.9–7.1 km/l)