I just love the name “Thunderbird”. Don’t you? It’s everything American. Cars that look like rocket ships and jet planes. Refrigerators with their own eco-systems. Roads that look more like shipping lanes. TV sets that look like they’ve just fallen off the Hubble telescope. The USA in the 1950s and 60s was out there – the things they designed looked more like they were coming from 2060 than 1960.
A Hot Wheels of mine which has been around for a good 15 or 16 years now is something that probably engendered that love of the American dream in me – and that is the Ford Thunderbird.
Not many cars can be said to have created their own market niche. We will talk about that in a later post, though, when I showcase my 1955 and 1958 Ford Thunderbirds – this one here is the 1963 third generation Thunderbird.
The third generation T-bird was a complete redesign of the previous models, incorporating a new, sleek bullet shape, introduced in 1961. It came with a 300hp, 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine as standard, with three-speed automatic.
In 1962, an engine upgrade was made to the V8 which included three Holley carburettors, which gave the car 40 more horsepower. Only 200 were sold!
There is little more to say other than it continued the Thunderbird’s trend as a fabulously well-received car, selling over 70,000 units when it was first introduced. With Robert McNamara appointed as secretary of defence during this time, it was no surprise Fords gained more press coverage around Kennedy’s Presidential affairs.
I particularly love the detailing and styling on the car, and the level of accuracy Mattel have made to it.
My favourite part is how they have accurately portrayed the facelift for 1963, where a horizontal styling line was added that ran from the bumper, along the fender then down the door. They even added the accurate chrome strips that were added.
It should also be noted that this model incorporates the fiberglass tonneau cover featured on the sports roadster options for the car, which covers up the rear seats and gives the impression of a two-seater roadster. It became rare due to its price and complexity.
I really like the wheel choice, too, reflecting the wire-wheels used on the sports roadster/landau packages.
I’ve had the car since the beginning of the noughties, and it has lasted well with little damage. The body and baseplate are metal, the body being a funky burgundy/red and white colour. The interior is white plastic, and it is quite detailed but doesn’t quite meet Majorette standards – the steering wheel is just a big ugly blob. Like all Hot Wheels it runs super smooth though, and it weighs a lot. The windscreen is clear plastic and has survived the toy box well, which is more than can be said for some others.
1961-63 T-Bird Facts
- The 1961 redesign went ahead despite the overwhelming popularity of the series 2 model.
- 1963 Thunderbirds used alternators instead of generators.
- The car featured strongly in President Kennedy’s inaugural parade.
- It was 1961’s Indianapolis 500 pace car.
Featured Image: Ford Thunderbird 1963 Car show, by Marcus Balcher. Flickr. Original