Tem­po­rary 2-Seater The 1963 Ford Thun­der­bird Road­ster


When Ford in­tro­duced the first Thun­der­bird in 1955, the car was an ob­vi­ous re­sponse to the Chevro­let Corvette: a sporty-look­ing 2-place con­vert­ible, not a per­for­mance mon­ster but a boule­vard cruiser. While the ’Vette would un­dergo mul­ti­ple re­designs as a 2-seater (with in­creas­ing abil­i­ties), Ford made a puz­zling move, trans­form­ing the 1958 T-Bird into a large, boxy 4-seater. Sales fig­ures proved them right, but it was such a ma­jor de­par­ture—and so soon af­ter the orig­i­nal mis­sion.

When it was time for a third­gen­er­a­tion Thun­der­bird in 1961, Ford fi­nally struck a bal­ance be­tween sporty and prac­ti­cal. The “Pro­jec­tile Bird” (as it came to be called) had a sharply pointed pro­file with smooth, un­in­ter­rupted lines. The chrome that ran across the top edge of the side also acted as the door han­dle, one of ear­li­est ex­am­ples of such hard­ware. It looked much lighter and faster than the pre­vi­ous car. Twin rocket en­gine–in­spired tail­lights fin­ished off the flight-themed look.

And if the new de­sign was too

prac­ti­cal, a so­lu­tion be­came avail­able in 1962 and ’63: the Road­ster. Among other fea­tures, this op­tion in­cluded a large re­mov­able fiber­glass ton­neau cover that hid the rear seat and in­cluded fixed head­rests for the two front pas­sen­gers. When at­tached, the re­sult was two fewer us­able seats, a roof that some­how still worked with­out re­mov­ing the cover, and an un­de­ni­ably sexy look.

An­son made a 1:18 scale ver­sion of the ’63 T-Bird as a lan­dau-roofed coupe and also as a road­ster, com- plete with re­mov­able ton­neau. The model is clev­erly de­signed to use the same base car, al­low­ing the nec­es­sary parts to snap into place. The down­side is a pair of holes in the vi­sors where that top would at­tach. The cover is plas­tic and molded in color, which looks good on a black or white model, but on the red, it doesn’t quite match the paint.

The in­te­rior does a re­spectable job of repli­cat­ing the elab­o­rate chrome and stain­less steel that was slathered around the dash, doors, and con­sole. Just about ev­ery­thing else is a sin­gle color (black in this case), so there’s not a lot of vis­i­ble de­tail. The over­all pro­por­tions of the car are nice, but the chrome de­tail falls into two cat­e­gories: chunky and crude, or painted on. The end re­sult of both makes the car look less del­i­cate and sharp-edged than the real thing. En­gine de­tail is pretty ba­sic, with al­most ev­ery­thing ren­dered in black plas­tic ex­cept for the light blue air cleaner. Around back, there is an open­ing trunk that in­cludes the spare tire with full chrome cover. On the real car, when op­er­at­ing the top, the en­tire trunk and boot cover lifted up, hinged at the rear of the car in a com­plex feat of en­gi­neer­ing. It’s un­der­stand­able that a model this size is only hinged like a con­ven­tional trunk lid.

A new Thun­der­bird de­buted in 1964, sim­i­lar in theme to the third-gen­er­a­tion car but a bit more mod­ern. It was avail­able in coupe or con­vert­ible form, but the Road­ster op­tion dis­ap­peared. Fear­ing that the car com­peted too closely with the newly minted Mus­tang, the T-Bird would aban­don any pre­tense of sporti­ness for good with its fifth­gen­er­a­tion redesign in 1967. For these two years, how­ever, the Thun­der­bird Road­ster re­cap­tured a bit of its 2-seat glory days and de­liv­ered a style un­like any­thing else on the road.

The so-called "Pro­jec­tile" styling, to­gether with the road­ster op­tion, re­cap­tured some of the sporty char­ac­ter of the T-Bird that had been miss­ing since 1958.

Two-place road­ster ac­com­mo­da­tions were ac­com­plished through the use of a re­mov­able fiber­glass ton­neau cover that hid the rear seats and faired into the head­rests for the front seats. The cover on An­son's 1:18 road­ster is re­mov­able as well.

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