We spotted this 1961 Ford Thunderbird convertible in the Summit Racing Retail Store near Akron, Ohio.
1961 marked the first year of the T-Bird’s third generation that spanned from 1961-63.
So yeah, even though the Thunderbird nameplate itself was less than ten years old, it was already in its third generation—one the earned the nickname “Bullet Bird” thanks to its long pointed “beak” up front.
When it debuted in 1961, the third-gen. Thunderbird was not only tapped as the Pace Car for the 1961 Indianapolis 500, it was also used in the inauguration parade for President John F. Kennedy.
Since the one we spotted is a 1961 edition, under the hood likely resides Ford’s then-new 390ci FE big block engine good for around 300 horsepower. The 390 was the only available engine from 1961-63, though starting in ’62 you could opt for a 390 equipped with a trio of Holley two-barrel carburetors that made closer to 340 hp.
A three-speed automatic was the only transmission you could get.
For 1961, Thunderbirds were offered in both a convertible and hardtop, but in 1962 a “Sport Roadster” package was offered that used a hard tonneau cover to conceal the rear seats of the convertible, mimicking the look of a two-seater—though it wasn’t a hot seller at the time.
By 1963, the third-gen. Thunderbird reached its Swan Song, as Ford prepared to make room in the lineup for the upcoming sport coupe, the Mustang. As a result, the Thunderbird would soon find itself upsized again and, as the 1960s ended, equipped with an extra set of doors.