The Thunderbird first rolled out its generation of revolutionary four-seater Squarebirds in 1958. A huge commercial hit, these roomy sedans lobbed 10 inches off of the then-standard car height, giving the Squarebird its roadster appeal and sports car look. Sitting 52.5 inches off the ground and costing anywhere from $3,755 for a hard top to $4,222 for a convertible, the Squarebird evolved over the next several years.
The 1960 Ford Thunderbird (Squarebird) continued the revolutionary design of its predecessor, maintaining a uniquely square design that became the blueprint for many of today's two-door sedans, including the luxury lines built by Lexus and Mercedes. With its full-length center console and front bucket seats, the 1960 T-bird model got a new grille as well as the option of a new, manually operated sunroof for hardtops. It sold a brisk 92,843.
The 1961 Ford Thunderbird (Bullet Bird) marked the advent of the third generation of Thunderbirds. It had a bigger and longer design with a roomier interior. With a sharp point at the nose, the profile view was a stunner with the top down. The sleek, streamlined contours made for one of the most stylish car designs of the 1960s. The car came with a single option engine, the larger 390 cubic inch (6.4 L) FE-series V8, the revolutionary "swing away" steering wheel, floating rear view mirror and several optional features including air-conditioning, power seats, power windows and AM radio.
The 1962 Ford Thunderbird (Sports Roadster) was a limited edition two-seater model fitted with a fiberglass tonneau over the rear seats which made it look like a two-seater. The Sports Roadster introduced subtle trim modifications and popularized the vinyl roof option ("Landau") which made this model a moderate seller with 78,011 coupes and 9,844 convertibles, despite complications that arose with the conversion and with the newly designed 48-spoke Kelsey Hayes wire wheels.
The 1963 Ford Thunderbird (Sports Roadster, Landau) introduced the AM/FM radio, vacuum assisted door locks and a new grille texture. The Landau model gained in popularity and added slight changes such as a wood grain trim. The "M-Code" version, with its 390 V8 generating 340 horsepower, was introduced with this new line.
The 1964 Ford Thunderbird (Jet Bird, Flair Bird) featured a markedly sharp and square design with deeply sculpted sides and large rear taillights. Its predecessor's dual headlights and grille design were maintained as were the versions made available -- the hardtop, convertible and Landau.
The 1965 Ford Thunderbird (Jet Bird, Flair Bird) showcased dazzling new taillights with added functionality. The new sequential turn signals lit the segmented lamplights horizontally to indicate each turn. With the introduction of standard front disc brakes as well, the 1965 model left the other major components of its predecessor unchanged.
The 1966 Ford Thunderbird (Jet Bird, Flair Bird) was redesigned for a more modern, integrated and luxurious look. With a new patterned grille (the "egg crate") and a sizable, centered Thunderbird emblem, this Jet Bird's revolutionary style joined the taillights into a single plastic panel. Optional engines included the standard 390 cubic inch (6.4 L) V8, the 390 cubic inch (6.4 L) V8 and the 428 cubic inch V8 with a four-barrel carburetor that produced 345 horsepower.
The 1967 Ford Thunderbird (Big Bird, Thunder Jet, Glamour Bird) was the first of the fifth generation. The all-new chassis marked an end to the convertible model, the unibody construction and the hood scoop. A large, four-door luxury sedan determined to distinguish itself from the Mustang, the 1967 T-bird model utilized the new body-on-frame construction, which significantly reduced vibration and noise through its system of rubber mountings. The fighter jet-styled grille, which encased concealed headlights, and the "suicide doors" with its rear edge hinges for rear seat access rounded out the model's new design features.
The 1968 Ford Thunderbird (Big Bird, Glamour Bird) was modeled to look similar in appearance to its immediate predecessor. The interiors as well were subtly similar but the new model had several detailed modifications. The front bumper, front fenders and front turn signal indicators were redesigned. Newly designed side marker lights, interior trim and interior door panels made for distinctive changes, many of which complemented the new vinyl patterned alligator grain on the tops of the Landau models. A new and powerful 429 cubic inchV8 (7.0 L) produced 360 horsepower.
The 1969 Ford Thunderbird (Big Bird, Glamour Bird) remained largely unchanged except for the unique new grille and two tail lights, which replaced the cross-chassis bar light. Sunroofs were introduced as a new option. With two more Glamour Birds to follow, the '69 T-bird is widely revered as a gorgeous, iconic American classic.
Fun Facts about 1960-1969 T-birds
President John F. Kennedy's inaugural parade prominently displayed a third generation Bullet Bird.
Thelma and Louise drove a 1966 T-bird off a cliff in the 1991 hit road movie co-starring Brad Pitt.
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