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AUTO AUTHENTICITY:

1964, 1965, and 1966 Thunderbird
Door Trim and Instrument Panels

Should all door panels have carpeting? Courtesy lights?
What color should the top of the dash be? Here are the facts!

The 1964 Thunderbird was cosmetically all new, and the basic look established by them continued, with annual revisions, through the 1966 model year. These annual revisions can create a great deal of confusion as to what is and what isn't correct for each particular year. Since many parts between the years are interchangeable, wrong parts sometimes wind up on a car that shouldn't have them, even though they do fit. Previous owners may be unaware or incorrectly informed about the history of the car, especially when the vehicle has reached this age. Several authenticity questions about the 1964-1966 Thunderbirds are frequently asked of the Automotive Mileposts Customer Service Staff, so we developed this page to help answer a few of them. Among the most popular questions are those concerning the use of carpeting and courtesy lights on the bottom section of the interior door trim panels, and what is the correct color for the top of the padded instrument panel. People also want to know if the radio speaker/defroster grille should match the top of the dash, or contrast with it.

Generally, these questions concern cars with White or Parchment-colored interior trim, since they always use a contrasting color for the interior appointments, namely the top of the instrument panel, coved dash section, carpeting, and center console. So we're going to focus on these two color combinations the most as we try to explain what is correct.

All of this confusion about authenticity is somewhat warranted, as there were a few changes made during the production of this series of Thunderbirds that affected these areas. What is correct for one year is not necessarily so for another. For instance, red interiors use a contrasting color for the top of the instrument panel and the coved section of the panel, but the same contrasting color isn't used for all three years! So, we thought we'd try to provide you with a few details to help clear up any confusion. (Black was the contrast or accent color in 1964, while Burgundy was used in 1965 and 1966.)

INSTRUMENT PANEL
We'll deal with the padded instrument panel first, since it's relatively easy to explain. These instrument panel pads were of one piece construction, with a separate, metal radio speaker/defroster grille mounted at center on the top of the pad, close to the windshield. There was a raised edge along the rear edge of the pad (the side facing towards the passenger compartment, or the rear of the car), that was sometimes the same color as the top part of the pad, but depending on the interior trim color, was often a different color. Underneath the vinyl padded piece, a metal "coved" section housed the instruments, clock assembly controls, etc. It could also match or contrast with the vinyl part of the panel, again depending on interior color. The metal defroster grille up on top is always the same color as the top part of the dash pad.

Take a look at the instrument panel pictured below. You can see that the padded edge we talked about is White, with an Emberglo-colored coved section directly below. If you look carefully in the area of the windshield pillar garnish moldings, you will see that the top of the dash pad is black, as is the metal defroster grille (which can't be seen). This would be correct for a 1966 Thunderbird with a White interior with Emberglo appointments. (See the chart below for specific information on the White and Parchment instrument panels.)

However, if the instrument panel pictured below was from a 1965 Special Landau, it would have Parchment vinyl instead of White around the edges, and it would have Emberglo on top of the pad instead of Black. Yet this very same color combination in 1966, Parchment interior with Emberglo appointments, would correctly have a Black top surface and defroster grille. The '65 Special Landau is the only model with this interior color combination that had Emberglo on the top surface and defroster grille.1966 Thunderbird Town Landau instrument panel (White with Emberglo appointments)

As we mentioned earlier, to add to the level of confusion, the contrasting color used on the top of the instrument panel and in the coved area changed from year to year. For instance, in 1964, Thunderbirds with red interiors had Black as the contrasting color. But in 1965 and 1966, Burgundy was used instead of Black. And while most Parchment and White interiors in 1965 and 1966 used Black as the contrasting color on the top of the instrument panel, the coved section could be Black, Dark Blue, Burgundy, Emberglo, Palomino, Ivy Gold, Beige, Silver Mink, or Aqua, depending on the color of the interior appointments. Also to clarify again, the 1965 Thunderbird Special Landaus all used Emberglo as the contrasting color on the top of the pad, on the defroster grille, and in the coved area below, a rule that applies only to that one specific model, built in 1965 only.

CARPETING
Except for 1964 models with White interiors, the 1965 Thunderbird Special Landau, and 1966 models with Parchment cloth and vinyl trim, cars with White or Parchment interiors do not have carpeting on the bottom of the door trim panels. They are covered in vinyl that matches the upper section of the panel. For all other interior colors, carpeting was always provided on the bottom of the door trim panel, in the same shade and texture of the carpeting on the floor of the car. 1964 models with White interiors had Black carpeting on the bottom of the door trim panels. A few very early production 1965 cars may have left the factory with 1964-style Black carpeting on the bottom of the panels, but we have not been able to verify this with any level of confidence. It is not entirely unusual for early cars to be fitted with components left over from the previous year, hence the confusion. The '65 Special Landau models all came equipped with Emberglo carpeting on the bottom of the door panels, and the '66 cars with Parchment cloth and vinyl all had Palomino carpeting on the bottom of the door panels. However, '66 models with Parchment vinyl interiors all had vinyl on the bottom of the panels. That should clear up the question about carpeting vs. no carpeting for most of you. But for the non-believers, see photos of 1965 Special Landau with Parchment interior and Emberglo carpeting, and 1966 Parchment cloth and vinyl door panel with carpeting.

COURTESY LIGHTS
As for the courtesy lights at the bottom of the door trim panels, all Thunderbirds had them during 1964-1966 EXCEPT for the 1964 Hardtops. We aren't talking about the 1964 Landau models, which did have the lights, just the base Hardtop model. Why Ford did this is anyone's guess, but that's the way they left the factory. The 1964 Birds used the same spotlight-type fixtures that were used for the dome lights in 1961-1963, except the opening for the rear-facing light had a red lens in it. In 1965, Ford changed to a rectangular fixture, which put out a little more light due to the larger lens area. The smaller red section of the lens was still towards the rear of the car.

1966 STEREOSONIC TAPE SYSTEM SPEAKERS
While we're focusing on the bottom of the door trim panels, we thought we'd also point out that all 1966 panels had the die cut section stamped for the speaker openings on the panels. Cars without the stereo tape option didn't have the hard fiber section punched out, and the areas were covered with carpeting or vinyl on the face of the panel. If the car was equipped with the stereo tape option, the holes were punched out and a metal speaker grille was attached to the door panel with four chrome Phillips head screws. These grilles always matched the color of the material at the bottom of the door panel, and never contrasted with it.

Year Interior Color and Material Trim Code Door Panel Carpeting Dash Top Color Comments
1964 White Vinyl 53, 53A Yes - Black Black See note 2 below
1964 White Leather 83, 83A Yes - Black Black See note 2 below
1965 White Vinyl G2, G3, G4, G5, G6, G7, G8, G9, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6, P7, P8, P9 No Black
1965 White Leather H2, H3, H4, H5, H6, H7, H8, H9, Q2, Q3, Q4, Q5, Q6, Q7, Q8, Q9 No Black
1965 Parchment Vinyl 7D, XD Yes - Emberglo Emberglo Special Landau only
1966 White Vinyl* G1, G2, G3, G4, G6, G7, G8, G9, P1, P2, P3, P4, P6, P7, P8, P9 No Black See note below ""
1966 Parchment Vinyl B2, B3, B4, B6, B7, B8, B9, K2, K3, K4, K6, K7, K8, K9 No Black
1966 Parchment Leather L2, L3, L4, L6, L7, L8, L9 No Black
1966 Parchment Cloth and Vinyl 1D, 4D Yes - Palomino Black
* "" Note: Despite reports to the contrary, White Leather was not a regular production option for the 1966 Thunderbirds. A Pearl White expanded vinyl was used for seating surfaces and bolsters.

Note 2: The black carpeting on the bottom of 1964 door panels has been disputed. We are investigating.

DOOR PANEL SUMMARY
There is a logical reason for all this confusion. In an effort to save money, and reduce the number of parts required, Ford simplified the door panels to eliminate the need for manufacturing White and Parchment panels with all the various different colors of carpeting available. Ford still wanted to offer a wide variety of color combinations, but didn't want to add a lot of new part numbers to the picture. In 1967, Ford simplified it even more by standardizing Black appointments on all Thunderbirds with the White interiors, (which were called Parchment in 1967). The upscale SL Interiors in 1967 were matched with a Dark Brown color to harmonize with the Beige cloth inserts in the off-White (or Parchment) vinyl bolsters on the seats.

If you feel short changed by not having carpeting on the bottom of the door panels, don't be. The vinyl actually makes more sense in a way, since it lines up with the kick panel in front and the vinyl facing on the rear seat cushion in back. We have seen restored cars with White interiors and color-keyed carpeting on the bottoms of the door panels, and it certainly doesn't look bad, but it is not correct if originality is an issue. So, if the lack of carpeting really bothers you, by all means go ahead and add it, knowing that it did not leave the Wixom factory that way. The interior designers could have certainly specified it originally, and Ford's cost cutters may have whacked it to save money, a theory we may never be able to verify for certain, but certainly a logical one.

Hopefully, this will clear up some of the confusion. Oh, before we go we should tell you that at least one 1966 Thunderbird with a Parchment and Emberglo interior did have Emberglo as the accent color on the top of the instrument panel instead of Black. Whether this was a left over part from 1965, (the car was very early production), a factory mistake, or a special request by the original owner we can't answer. Clear as mud, right???


Related Information:
1964 Thunderbird Door Assist Handles

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