1964 Thunderbird Convertible
For 1964 the Thunderbird was restyled in favor of a more squared-off, “formal” look. The Thunderbird’s sporty image had by that time become only an image. The standard 390-cubic-inch 300 bhp (224 kW) engine needed nearly 11 seconds to push the heavy T-bird to 60 mph (96 km/h), although with enough room a top speed of about 120 mph (200 km/h) was obtainable. The softly sprung suspension allowed considerable body lean, wallow, and float except on smoothly surfaced highways; there was an export suspension package available as special order. Contemporary testers felt that the Buick Riviera and Pontiac Grand Prix were substantially more road-able cars, but the Thunderbird remained the leader of the market segment.
The revised ‘bird was initially offered as a hardtop, a convertible, or Landau, with vinyl roof and simulated landau irons. The tonneau cover and wire wheels of the Sports Roadster remained available as a dealer-installed option, although only 50 were sold from the factory. Total 1964 sales were excellent: 92,465, up nearly 50% from the previous year. The 1964 Thunderbird was the only car to have the word ‘Thunderbird’ on the front hood instead of the image of the Thunderbird.
Several features intended for the new generation were delayed until 1965, when front disc brakes became standard equipment and sequential turn signals were added. The latter feature flashed the individual segments of the broad, horizontal tail lights in sequences from inside to outside to indicate a turn. The delay resulted from legal difficulties with various U.S. state laws on vehicle lighting. Sales, impacted by increasing competition (including from Ford’s own Mustang), dipped to 74,972.
For 1966 the 390-cubic-inch V8′s power was increased to 315bhp (235kW). The larger 428-cubic-inch (7.0 L) V-8 became optional, rated at 345 gross horsepower (257.4 kW) and providing a notable improvement in 0-60 acceleration (to about 9 seconds). A new Town Hardtop model was offered, featured a roof with blind quarter panels for a more ‘formal’ look (at the cost of rear visibility). The Landau model was replaced by the Town Landau, which retained the previous model’s padded roof and landau S-bars, but applied them to the Town Hardtop’s formal roof. The Town Landau was by far the best-selling model, accounting for 35,105 of the 1966 model’s 69,176 sales.
There was a very rare special order 427 available through certain Ford dealers for 1963-1965 Thunderbirds, 120 of these “high performance” models were made. Only six are still known to exist today. It is documented that Bob Tasca, a well known drag racer of the 1960s, ordered a factory-fitted 427 1964 Thunderbird with an export suspension and had custom body work done by Alexander Bros. Custom Shop in Detroit. The Birds Performance was said to do 0-60 mph in 6 seconds flat with a top speed of 135 mph (217 km/h). The car’s current whereabouts are unknown. There is a link to another 427 Thunderbird at the bottom of this page.
A black 1964 convertible later had a major role in the TV series Highlander: The Series as protagonist Duncan Macleod’s main mode of transportation. A green 1966 Thunderbird convertible was prominently featured in the 1991 Ridley Scott film Thelma and Louise, starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, a red 1966 Thunderbird convertible was featured in the 1983 film The Outsiders which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and a green 1966 Thunderbird Convertible was featured in the David Lynch film Wild at Heart, starring Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern. See more on the Thunderbird at Wikipedia after checking out the video below.
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