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1963 Ford Thunderbird and
Lincoln Continental 12-Mile Road Test

Owners taking delivery of their new cars found they'd already been driven

1963 Lincoln Continental with road test inspection teamEvery functional assembly of each 1963 Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental was tested during an exclusive extra step taken to provide outstanding excellence in each of these great motorcars. This is no random sampling or quick checking procedure, each Thunderbird and Continental received a thorough 1½ hour examination by a specialist who checked every detail of its operation. Sixteen men devoted to testing every Thunderbird and sixteen men for each Continental, qualified by experience and training for their task and periodically checked on their performance, devoted full time to making certain Thunderbirds and Continentals would be ready for their owners when they were delivered to them.

The tests were realistic. The scores of checks all involved conditions which a Thunderbird or Lincoln Continental owner would experience; the road test for each car included more driving operations than would normally occur in traveling many times the test distance. The driver who conducted the final examination is a Thunderbird or Lincoln Continental's most knowledgeable friend, as well as its severest critic! He was intolerant of anything short of the highest standards in his appraisal.

During this unique extra step, the test driver rechecked every working system. Each was required to function properly—and the functions must blend together to produce the outstanding overall qualities of operation which made the Thunderbird unique in all the world and the Continental America's finest motorcar.

Careful attention to the smallest details—as evidenced by the lengthy test procedures listed in the test manual—characterized the completeness of the final inspection. For example, each cigar lighter was operated. Lighters were required to engage without excessive pressure, heat the element within a reasonable time and pop out with an audible, but not objectionable, sound!

1963 Ford Thunderbird HardtopThe radio, the manual seat controls or six-way power seat, power door locks, all switches and controls and manual or power windows were tried and evaluated with the same precise care. Windshield wiper operation must have been immediate, smooth, quiet and in proper wipe pattern. At a given driving speed,washer spray must contact windshield glass at the most effective point and wiping action must have continued for a specified time after the water was shut off.

A test driver went through each Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental methodically. He measured the pressure required to turn knobs and operate controls, and made certain they fell within limits calculated to provide ease and convenience of operation. Before starting on the road test, he checked engine starting time. Cold engines must start within prescribed time limits in temperatures down to zero degrees, or they fail and are returned to the factory for repairs before they are tested again.

As a driver guided each Thunderbird or Lincoln Continental over the route, he was constantly attuned to the way it covers ground, how its steering, brakes and handling characteristics feel. Steering must be light and precise. Braking action must be even. The engine must deliver power smoothly and without indication of strain or stress, flattening out the hills and pulling through tight turns with almost effortless ease.

During the entire 12-mile test, Thunderbird and Continental quality was under the keen scrutiny of the tester. He had to complete a "Road Test Inspection Record" sheet after the final inspection to show that every phase of the test was covered. Further, the tester had to sign his name to the sheet indicating he alone was responsible for properly completing the tests.

In all, some 189 items were checked. Each Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental must have met the high standards required in each case before it left the factory en route to its eventual owner. If any unsatisfactory points were uncovered during the final inspection and 12-mile road test, they were corrected and the items were reinspected before final approval was granted.

This kind of testing was costly and time-consuming, but it was typical of the extra care that went into every Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental—care that was designed to give owners outstanding satisfaction and reliability from the first mile. It helps to explain why Ford said that no motorcar was more thoroughly proved before its first owner-mile than the Ford Thunderbird or Lincoln Continental.

The 12-mile road test was performed on all 1961-1969 Ford Thunderbird, Lincoln Continental, and Continental Mark III automobiles assembled at the Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, Michigan before they were approved for shipment. This program was very expensive, and was phased out after the 1969 production run and replaced by a new program that was less labor and time intensive, and used computers and special equipment to complete the tests. This allowed the personal opinion of the tester to be removed from the process, which provided more accurate results.