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Automotive Mileposts  
1961 Thunderbird
Production Numbers

1961 Thunderbird script - unique in all the world
1961 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop shown in Palm Springs Rose
63A - Hardtop 62,535 ($4,170)
76A - Convertible 10,516 ($4,637)

INTRODUCTION DATE: November 10, 1960
Production Started: October 3, 1960
Production Ended: August 10, 1961
Hardtop shown at left in Palm Springs Rose
Unmistakably New, Unmistakably Thunderbird

Thunderbird for 1961 was a car that was hard to ignore. Indeed, you would have had to be a hermit to not notice this car! Not only was its new styling "unmistakable", as the ads would tell you, it was front and center at two of the big events held during its model year. The first opportunity to appear in the limelight was the Presidential Inaugural Parade. Ford Division General Manager Robert McNamara (June 9, 1916-July 6, 2009) was appointed Secretary of Defense by President-elect John F. Kennedy. One of the final duties McNamara would perform at Ford before leaving for his new position, was to authorize production of 50 special Thunderbird Convertibles to be used in the parade. Many were painted Mahogany Metallic, a Lincoln color that was available on T-Birds by special order. They featured White convertible tops, and Light Pearl Beige vinyl interiors.

On May 30, 1961, the 50th (Golden) Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 was celebrated. Front and center was a Thunderbird Convertible, painted a specially-mixed Gold Metallic color that was not a Ford color. This car featured a Light Pearl Beige Leather Interior, and had special graphics on the side designating its Official Pace Car status. One other convertible, also Gold Metallic, had the special graphics, and served as the backup car. This one differed from the Official Pace Car in that it had a Black Leather interior. Ford also provided 32 additional Thunderbird Convertibles as transportation for VIPs during the celebration. These cars were also painted the special Gold Metallic color, and had Black Leather Interiors, but featured different graphics on the sides to identify them as "Official" cars.

With the exception of the Official Pace Car, which was given to Indy 500 winner A. J. Foyt as part of his winnings, all of these special cars were later sold to the public by various Ford dealers around the country. So, be alert to the VIN plate if you happen to come across a 1961 Thunderbird Convertible. It might very well be one of the Indy 500 or Inaugural Parade cars! Pay special attention to any blank spots left on the plate, as well as any series of numbers preceded by "PAO". The date code for the Indy 500 cars would be stamped "21C". Or, in the case of the Inaugural Parade cars, check to see if "Y" (Mahogany Metallic) is stamped on the VIN plate as the color. Since other colors were used for the Parade, also look to see if "30M" is stamped on the VIN plate as the date. You might uncover a unique part of history that could make your 1961 Thunderbird Convertible unmistakably unique in all the world.
1961 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop shown in Cambridge Blue Metallic
Whether coming or going, there's something about a 1961 Thunderbird that catches your attention. From the sleek, smooth, front end that becomes one contour all the way to the powerful rocket-inspired tail lamps, the T-bird looked unique, there was no mistaking it for something else. Compared to other cars on the road at this time, well...actually, there is no comparison! 1961 Thunderbird Hardtop shown above in Cambridge Blue Metallic.
Official Pace Car of the
50th Anniversary
May 30, 1961

Additional information:
1961 Ford Thunderbird Indianapolis 500 Pace Car

1961 Ford Thunderbird Contents

Specifications | Paint | Trim | Standard Equipment | Optional Equipment

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