Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe T-bird boasts cool sequential turn signals that would be later shared with the Shelby GT350. Let’s see if that alone is worth turning out its asking price.
There aren’t that many Toyota models that are rightfully considered to be collectible, and I’m not sure the 2002 Solara Convertible we looked at yesterday could legitimately be listed among that extremely small cadre of keepers. Still, that little car’s cleanliness and usability—it would make an excellent weekend or day-trip car—held substantial appeal. At just $3,000, it seemingly was also a steal, earning a substantial 78 percent Nice Price win.
Have you noticed that they don’t make Thunderbirds anymore? No, you probably don’t care. That’s a style of car—the four-seat personal coupé—that’s pretty much fallen from favor. Of course, it’s quite possible that Ford will someday resurrect the nameplate and append it to some sort of electric crossover, ala the Mustang Mach-E. Maybe they’d call it the Thunderbird Lightningbug. Yeah, it’s probably best that the name is left to the annals of history rather than become diluted by some insipid attempt to bring equity to a whole new category.
That also allows us to enjoy older editions like this 1965 Thunderbird hardtop coupé. This black on black T-bird represents the model’s fourth generation, which is also the third with four seats.
The original T-bird was a two-seater, intended to compete with the likes of Chevy’s Corvette and a slew of imported sports cars that were hitting the market in the 1950s. Things didn’t work out according to Ford’s plans and in 1958, after three years of two-seater travails, Ford took the T-bird in a different direction, switching it from a small body-on-frame design to a new, larger unibody platform that made room for two extra seats and a lot of gaudy styling. Car buyers ate that up and Thunderbird sales quadrupled in less than a year.
The following generation kept the four-seat formula but wrapped that in a clean “Bullet Bird” body. As a nod to the T-bird’s two-seater roots, a fiberglass cap was made available to cover the rear seats on the convertible.
This generation eliminated the jet-age styling of its predecessor, but in place of that, it offered what would become this model’s defining feature—sequential tail lamps. These would cycle through a series of bulbs on each side whenever the turn signal was activated, a clever and iconic design element. Carrol Shelby would later take these lamps and make them a design element of the ’68 GT350. That’s right, the ’68 Shelby had tail lamps from a car that went out of production two years earlier.
Those sequential lights are all mechanical in actuation. The turn signal switch activates an electric motor which turns a set of cams with electrical contacts in sequence. As the cams turn the contacts switch in order, and then start over on the next revolution.
The seller of this T-bird doesn’t say whether those are still working. The ad does note that this Bird has been in storage since 1984. It goes on to say that it was started and driven a year ago but will need carburetor work to get it running on the regular. That carb is bolted to a 300 horsepower 390 V8 which is backed up by a Cruise-O-Matic 3-speed automatic with a column shifter. This being a ’65 it enjoys a few updates over this generation’s first model year. Those include disc brakes in front and the aforementioned and super cool flashing turn signals.
The bodywork is claimed to be straight and without issue, although the paint shows its age and the copious collection of chrome appears a bit dull. Tires are white walls, as they should be, but look like they’re older than you and me combined.
The interior is said to need a new headliner as the one that’s extant is pin-holed. That probably means this was a smoker’s car, as was pretty much everything back in the day. The rest of the interior looks a bit tired but is a fascinating time capsule of ‘60s decadence. If you’ve ever wondered what establishment the hippies were protesting against in the flower power decade, this interior is it.
Today we can take it for its kitsch, and enjoy the horizontal speedo and rectangle in a circle secondary gauges. There’s A/C here, but it’s doubtful to be working. You probably won’t care because you’ll be too busy playing with the cool airplane-style vent controls to notice.
As a project, this T-bird looks to be a solid base, and while it’s been off the road for decades, its being dealer offered might mean that any back registration has already been dealt with. The asking price is a modest $2,999 which seems a deal for any ‘60s survivor, but in the world of Thunderbird collectors that may prove too much for this model, fun turn signals or no.
What’s your take on this classic T-bird and that $2,999 price? Does that seem like a deal to bring it back to life, phoenix style? Or, does its condition and that price make this a bird you would not even try to flip?
H/T to Douglas Higbee for the hookup!
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