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The Ford Thunderbird is an Iconic car...no colledction is complete without at least one. Three men are generally credited with creating the original Thunderbird: Lewis D. Crusoe, a retired GM executive lured out of retirement by Henry Ford II; George Walker, chief stylist and a Ford vice-president; and Frank Hershey, a Ford designer. Crusoe and Walker met in France in October 1951. Walking in the Grand Palais in Paris, Crusoe pointed at a sports car and asked Walker, 'Why can’t we have something like that?'
Walker promptly telephoned Ford's HQ and told designer Frank Hershey about the idea. Hershey took the idea and began working on the vehicle. The concept was for a two-passenger open car, with a target weight of 2525 lb, an Interceptor V8 and a top speed of over 100 mph. Crusoe saw a painted clay model on, which corresponded closely to the final car; he gave the car the go-ahead in September 1953 after comparing it with current European trends. Unlike the Corvette, the Thunderbird was never a full-blown sporting vehicle; Ford's description was personal luxury car, and the company essentially created this market segment. There was some difficulty in naming the car, with suggestions ranging from the exotic to the ridiculous (Hep Cat, Beaver, Detroiter, Runabout, Arcturus, Savile, El Tigre, and Coronado). Crusoe offered a $250 suit to anyone who could come up with a better name. Stylist Alden "Gib" Giberson submitted Thunderbird as part of a list. Giberson got the idea during a lightning storm when he saw an illusion of a bird getting hit by lightning, but this happened because of his view. Giberson never claimed his prize, settling for a $95 suit and an extra pair of trousers from Saks Fifth Avenue. According to Palm Springs Life magazine, the car's final name came not from the Native American symbol as one might expect, but from an ultra-exclusive housing tract in what would later be incorporated as Rancho Mirage, California: Thunderbird Heights
The car was shown at the Detroit Auto Show in 1954. The first production car came off the line in September, 1954, and went on sale in October as a 1955 model, and sold briskly; 3,500 orders were placed in the first ten days of sale. Ford had only projected building 10,000; eventual 1955 sales were 16,155. Although the original Thunderbird was successful, the corporation's executives -- particularly Robert McNamara -- felt its sales volume was small. Market research suggested that sales were limited by its two-seat configuration, making it unsuitable as an only car for families. The second generation, introduced for the 1958 model year, was designed as a four-seat car.
1961 saw new and much sleeker styling. Sales were strong, if not quite up to record-breaking 1960, at 73,051 including 10,516 convertibles. A new, larger 390 cu inV8 was the only engine available. The Thunderbird was 1961's Indianapolis 500 pace car, and featured prominently in US President John F. Kennedy's inaugural parade, probably helped along by the appointment of Ford executive Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense.
The Thunderbird for 1961 introduced several firsts for the automotive market. The most distinctive feature of the 1961 to 1963 Thunderbirds was the highly touted 'Swing Away' steering wheel. With the transmission in the park position the steering wheel would slide approximately 18 inches to the right allowing the driver to exit the vehicle easily. Other innovations include a floating rear view mirror. Common on all autos produced today, this feature was first found on 1961 Thunderbirds. Depending on variable options Thunderbirds for 1961 could be purchased with options like air conditioning, power windows, power seats, AM radio, fender skirts and white wall tires. Several standard features, like power steering and power brakes, back up lights and bucket seats were costly options on most other autos.
This nice custom T Bird Convertible is a fairly recent creation completed in 2000. We are uncertain of the OD was set to Zero when the car was restored or if it has in fact 109k miles on it. The car features a Tri Power carb set up, Roadster kit, Kelsey Hayes Wire Wheels, and a Chromed Engine Bay and Underhood.The car has won many awards at cars shows and cruise ins. Featuring the Swing Away Steering Wheel, Power Windows, and correct AM Radio, the car has had a newer top installed and had some front end work completed recently. The car runs and drives exceptionally well, everything works, and it has a very nice exhaust note. This is a turn key car you and jump in drive home and enjoy immediately!