Custom Ford Thunderbird Proves Cars Look Better With an Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser Roof

All photos: motorexotica (ebay) unless otherwise stated

For sale on eBay right now is a 1962 Ford Thunderbird with a 1965 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser roof grafted onto it. It is a reminder that the Vista-Cruiser’s roof is the greatest lid to ever adorn an automobile.

I’ve expressed my love for the Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser before, but it cannot be overstated: the skylights in that glorious raised “Vista-Roof” are not windows to the heavens, they are the heavens themselves.


That’s why I’m such a fan of this 62 Ford Thunderbird with a custom Olds Vista-Cruiser roof on its rear—a car that we actually wrote about in 2012. The Thunderbird is a hell of a vehicle itself, with this one being the third-generation “Bullet-Bird,” named after its sleek look.

The recessed quad headlights are amazing, as is that chrome front bumper that wraps along the front lower edges of the fenders, and just look at that gaping grille. It’s wonderful.

But the huge fins, and especially the lower ones—called skegs—are what really do it for me. Match them with sweet round taillights and the Vista-Roof, and I mean, is there a prettier rear end on this earth?


You can read the complete story of how this stylish machine came to be on the eBay listing, but here are the main bits of the operation, which took place sometime around the late ’70s:

Mr. Dye, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, owned a body shop there that also did customizations. Dye imagined the possibilities of blending the Scenic-Cruiser roof from a 1965 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon with a 1962 Ford Thunderbird hardtop coupe, plus various other parts. It is estimated that Dye put more than 400 hours of labor into this project.

It took two tries to obtain the roof; a tornado destroyed the first one he ordered from a local junk yard before he could claim it. He found a second donor vehicle and detached the roof himself. Dye briefly had second thoughts about the alterations after he sliced the T-Bird’s roof. He slapped the roof on from the donor Olds and was astonished at how well it fit. The B-pillars had to be rolled out slightly to meet the wider roofline of the wagon but the rest was natural.


The floorpan was kept original, and houses a spare tire, though there’s wood placed over top, and color-matched carpeting above that. The lower part of the Thunderbird’s rear end—including the bumper—is original, though the glass hatch in the back is custom, using Ford Pinto hinges and a “generic T-handle” at the base, along with “cabinet locks” in the lower corners. Interestingly, the seats in the car are out of a 1978 Plymouth Sapporo.


Under the hood is a 390 CID V8 out of some 1969 Ford. The motor has apparently been modified with the crank and cam out of a 428 CID, and it bolts up to a three-speed Cruise-O-Matic, which is the same type of trans that would have been standard in the T-Bird, though it’s not apparent if this one is original.


The listing says this car, whose bids have reached—as of this writing—$28,900, comes with a bunch of documents and photos of the conversion process, which is nice, though just looking at these pics, the roof addition appears to have been well done.


This may be blasphemy, but I think this Vista-Bird actually looks better than the Vista-Cruiser itself. Well, the 1965 model shown below, that is, since I actually prefer the second generation, late ’60s to early ’70s models.

Image: Olds

That said, I’d still rather have the real Vista, because I firmly believe that few things in this world are better than a three row, bubble roof-having, nine passenger-hauling, rear-wheel drive wagon powered by an Oldsmobile “Rocket” V8.

One hundred cubic feet of cargo capacity is absurd, and as much as I like the T-Bird look, it’s absurdity like that that I need in my life.


Still, it’s a testament to the incredible powers of the Vista-Roof that it was able to improve the look of a Bullet-Bird, a vehicle which was already straddling the boundaries of perfection. It is proof that any car can be improved with the magic of the Vista.

h/t: Christopher (The Way Back @ Jalopnik/Facebook)

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About the author

David Tracy

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).