Hagerty.com

The 1964–66 Thunderbird is the ugly duckling of the family


#1

Ford’s Thunderbird was late to battle Corvette for American two-seat supremacy when it arrived in 1955, but it brought plenty of horsepower and it had style. After one short, three-year generation, the Thunderbird abandoned the fight against the Vette and moved on to cushier, more cruise-friendly pastures. It became an early iteration of the personal luxury car. Those second-generation cars were a bit clunky, styling-wise, so Ford made up for it with the 1961–63 models and their sleek, chrome-clad elegance.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/02/08/1964-66-thunderbird-is-ugly-duckling

#2

I don’t agree. I think those cars look very nice. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I get that, but those cars stand up pretty well.


#3

I still think it looks OK . Not the prettiest and certainly not the homeliest on the outside. The inside …WOW! Loved those curved back seats. I’d but one just for those.


#4

Listen good friends at Hagerty it’s brutal that more people don’t pay attention to the Flair Birds and Glamour Birds (especially the Glamour) It’s a joke that the Riviera is pulling the dollars it is when the Thunderbird performance was equal to or even superior in cases. God a 68 T-Bird had the same horsepower as a GTO and more torque so it was no slouch once it got going. I guess this just means that these cars will be easier for people like me to get and that’s awesome!


#5

64-66 is my favourite styling of the Thunderbird. I love the straight lines and bold front grill. The interior and options are also the best years for Thunderbird in my opinion. As mentioned beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.


#6

I totally agree, and have never understood why the 64-66 Thunderbird hasn’t been more popular among collectors. The convertible with the top down is a beautiful car and performance is about what would be expected from a heavy luxury style car. The ride was good, too. One of the best parade cars there is! Suspect they will appreciate at some point. They are affordable and unique, too.


#7

As the proud owner of a first generation E-code and a tenth generation SC, my next one may be one from the 64-66 stable. I love the 63 convertible, but the 64-66 convertibles have great lines and enough horses to get you from point A to point B. Let’s face it, you don’t buy one of these to race. More of a weekend cruiser that still has the ability to “get up and go” when needed. Getting into the fifth - seventh generation - not so pretty IMO.


#8

How about the 64 to 66 convertibles with the top going into the trunk.


#9

I always thought that massive chrome bumper on the front of the 64-65 looked like it was going to drag the front of the car right down to the ground. The thin bar and valence on the 66 really cleaned up the general appearance. Regardless, I think it was the interior that really sold these cars. Slipping into the driver’s seat made you feel like Buck Rogers. Especially the tilt-away steering column. It’s a pity the acceleration and handling didn’t live up to the promise. If the 428 had been available in '64 and made standard, as well as the disc brakes, a good thick set of sway bars could’ve made the Thunderbird into a real driver’s car, instead of another Barca-lounger-on-wheels.


#10

Is it me, or is it possible that you are saying that the 67 to 71 generation is raising in value faster than the subject generation?


#11

Ugly Duckling? Not compared to the birdbeak 61-63 IMHO. After the 2 seaters, the '58-60 and '64-66 and were the best looking early T-Birds. The '70 & '71 and entire 6th Gen T-Birds should fight it out for the ugly duckling trophys.


#12

I agree with most of the previous comments that the 64-66 are ugly ducklings. I think the only reason for lower prices is because most of these birds are in less than desireable condition and parts are in the ransom range. T-birds were not intended to be racers but could handle the road well enough to have a great day on the road. Nothing that a few suspension mods couldn’t improve without breaking the bank. Personally I like Gens 1-4. Each has it’s unique appeal. If a car puts a smile on my face after a 50 mile run through the twisties - it’s a keeper!


#13

I can’t in good faith call any of them ugly ducklings, I’m probably biased in my opinion due to the fact that I inherited the disease for t birds from my father. Between the both of us we have had over 40 of these from 57-04 with most being 64-66. At the moment I have a 65 a 70 fastback and the duck of all ducks, a 80 Silver Anniversary. Are they as popular as other cars? No, but, there is something about having cars that not everyone else has and I certainly didn’t get into them with the hope of making money as I sure like getting them but never seem to get rid of them.


#14

Not impressed with the “Ugly Duckling” description in the article. The author to start with endeavors to pit the Thunderbird’s vs the Corvette… the T-bird was always an upscale cruiser and never a sports car. I feel that the guy who wrote this should take his seeing eye dog back for a closer look. I would bet that he has never been in a 64 to 66 Thunderbird. I have had mine since 67 and sold a Corvette to buy it


#15

My parents had both a 62 and a 66. The 66 was a better car mechanically, as Ford had fixed the issues the 62 had with drifting all over the road at freeway speeds. The interior on the 66 was far better looking. The body style on the 62 looked back to the late 50’s; the 66 looked forward to the 80’s.


#16

I had a '65 coupe when I was in high school and always thought the '66 had perfected the design. It had the 390 and it was a bit of a dog, even to a teenager (or maybe especially).


#17

Dear readers/posters, Hagerty is gleaning its information from requests for insurance, vehicle inquiries, sales figures, and the like. Thereafter, they report their findings in articles such as this, on the Beautiful IMHO, 64-66 T-Bird. Using terms like ‘Ugly Duckling’ as a descriptor is artistic license, based on the data - the other Generation of T-Birds have stronger values, that’s it. Please look at point three in the posting rules; comment on IDEAS not the PEOPLE sharing them. IMHO…

Have a great day all!


#18

Don’t you DARE show this article to Thelma and Louise!!! sorry, couldn’t resist.


#19

When I was 5 years old (in 1967) I rode in a '61 T-bird owned by my friend’s mom. I was smitten, and the “bullet birds” have always been a favorite of mine. From then on, the Elwood Engle designs were what I gravitated to (and now own/drive).

The next generation ('64-'66) Birds cars are no slouch either, and are by NO MEANS an ugly duckling. Evolved design, yet still clearly aircraft influenced. Same jet-age “cockpit” interior, and an even more futuristic dash than the earlier Birds. The Landau option made them even richer. These were the original personal luxury cars. These weren’t built as sports cars then, and shouldn’t be frowned on for not being sports cars now. I have driven several and really enjoyed the experience.

Just because their values haven’t caught up to others, don’t make them the ugly duckling…


#20

As the proud owner of a ‘64 hardtop, I had to chime in here. I’m very pleased to see so many others respectfully disagreeing with this article’s message. I guarantee you, my white ‘64 and my brother’s black ‘64 get more looks, hoots and hollers rolling down the road than any common muscle car, tri-five Chevy or Corvette. I’ve been stopped by countless people who want to admire the car and tell me a story from their childhood about how their dad or someone they knew had one of these rad Thunderbirds. And of course they want to see the tilt away wheel! Cars are all about the emotions we have and I’ve quickly learned these ‘birds hold a special place in many people’s hearts.
The styling of the flair bird is amazing. It mixes high class, jet-age wonder and mid-century clean lines perfectly. I don’t care what Hagerty says about value. Value doesn’t mean anything when a car makes you smile every time you drive it.
I won’t lie and say these cars don’t have drawbacks. They are big, heavy luxury cars. Parts are expensive. The shock towers and unibody construction make modifications difficult.
But none of that matters when I’m driving it.

America loved this car too! The ‘64 had the second highest production number of any year Thunderbird. Eclipsing 90,000 units!

Also, they need to stop comparing the little bird to the Corvette. They were in different market sectors. The fact that they were both front engine, rear wheel drive, two door, two seaters is about it. The Thunderbird was marketed to the person who wanted style and refinement; a gentlemen’s car. The Corvette was a race car that finally made it to the street.