Automotive Mileposts  
1964 Ford Thunderbird Landau shown in Caspian Blue paint
1964 Ford Thunderbird Landau in Caspian Blue
(The house may look familiar because it's the one from the "Hazel" TV show.)

So different...so beautifully different!
1964 Ford Thunderbird
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1964 Thunderbird Auctions

Production Numbers

ARTICLE:
Was There A Sports Roadster In 1964?

Mechanical Specifications

ARTICLE:
Transistorized
Ignition System


ARTICLE:
Deep Well Trunk

Exterior Paint Colors

Interior Trim

Standard Equipment

Optional Equipment

Golden Palomino Show Car

FEATURE:
1964 Thunderbird Door Assist Handles

AUTO AUTHENTICITY:
1964 Thunderbird Door Trim and Instrument Panels

AUTO AUTHENTICITY:
1964 Thunderbird Seat Belt Light

AUTO AUTHENTICITY:
1964-1971 Thunderbird Safety-Convenience Control Panel

FEATURE:
1964-1979 Ford Thunderbird Reclining Passenger Seat

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Did you know?
Original cover for "Fun, Fun, Fun" single by The Beach Boys
"Fun, Fun, Fun" by The Beach Boys

Well, she got her daddy's car
And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
Seems she forgot all about the library
Like she told her old man now
And with the radio blasting
Goes cruising just as fast as she can now
And she'll have fun fun fun
'Til her daddy takes the T-Bird away


This song was based on a true story. The Wilson Brothers—Brian, Carl, and Dennis—grew up in Hawthorne, California and hung out at the local Foster's Freeze (still located at 11969 Hawthorne Boulevard, just north of 120th Street—across from the Hawthorne Plaza Mall). Nicknamed "Frostie's," it's the hamburger stand mentioned in the song. Brian Wilson saw a friend of his drive through in her father's Thunderbird, and got the idea for the song! The Beach Boys recorded the song on January 1, 1964 and it was released one week after The Beatles' "invasion of America" began. The rest of the story is 1960's Top 40 AM Radio history!

1964 Ford Thunderbird: So Different...So Beautifully Different!

From all appearances, the 1964 Thunderbird was all new. But underneath it all, it really was the same old Bird. The drive train was essentially the same as 1963, and truthfully, there really wasn't much need to change anything. The Thunderbird 390 Special V-8 combined with Ford's Cruise-O-Matic transmission were rock solid and dependable. With 300 horsepower under the hood, the T-bird was swift in flight, but not really the fastest car on the road. Despite this, the 390 moved the Bird with authority and was quick enough to make people take notice, should the driver desire to do so.

Even though sales had been somewhat disappointing during the 1961-1963 time period, the Thunderbird still sold pretty well, and even in its third year, it outsold the new 1963 Buick Riviera by about 50 percent. The personal luxury car market segment would be getting increasingly competitive in the years to come, but for 1964, it was still the Thunderbird's show all the way, because it had what everybody wanted: good performance, luxury, all the latest gadgets, and strikingly beautiful interiors and exterior styling that quickened the pulse.

And really, looks are what counts in this market, and for 1964 the Thunderbird had them. Gone was the rounded, rocket ship theme which was replaced by something more reminiscent of the 1958-1960 Thunderbirds. The lines were more square, the features more chiseled, and the taillamps were bigger than ever before. Still sleek and fluid, but a bit busier appearance than its predecessor.

In front, a massive bumper and grille with horizontal bars stretched from end to end, and retained the same basic appearance and shape of the previous series. Two chrome bumper guards were mounted low near the center, with turn signal indicators mounted near each end. "THUNDERBIRD" was spelled out on the leading edge of the hood, and a prominent hood scoop appeared about halfway back.

The Bird's taillamps were now rectangular, and covered more than half of the width of the rear bumper. An inset between the lights spelled out "THUNDERBIRD" and chrome emblems were mounted in the center of each lens. Centered below each taillamp was a back-up light with ribbed glass lenses.

New standard features were evident everywhere you looked. Fender-top mounted turn indicators put an end to driving for miles with your turn signal on. Vent windows now had handles to roll them open and closed, which eliminated the small handles that messed up carefully manicured nails, and also helped to hold them in place at high speeds and when doors were slammed. A new Silent-Flo Ventilation System pulled tons of air out of the car, and it did so with all the windows up, and in complete silence. Coved rear seats with a center fold-down arm rest gave rear seat passengers a cozy, cocktail bar atmosphere, and created additional leg room by encouraging them to sit facing toward the center of the car.

New Contoured Thin-Shell Front Seats were slimmer and more form-fitting than previous Bird seats. The thinner design allowed for more rear foot room, and the contoured design was more comfortable, and tended to hold the occupant in place better on sharp turns.

A "Fasten Seat Belts" reminder light was mounted on the console, and new right and left cowl air vent controls were mounted so that either the driver or front passenger could adjust them. Gauges provided information on oil pressure, fuel level, engine temperature, and charging system performance. The 1964 Thunderbird introduced the linear speedometer, which changed from a white bar to an orange bar with increasing speed.

The seats and trim panels were upholstered in a new super soft expanded vinyl, with a pleated pattern. They looked so much like leather it was difficult to tell the difference. A Pompeii patterned cloth and vinyl trim combination was also offered in four different colors at no charge. Door and rear quarter armrests were softer than in 1963, and bright chrome and aluminum accents were everywhere you looked. The interior of the 1964 Thunderbird was truly space age at the time, and may have looked intimidating to people at first, but after a few minutes behind the wheel, that intimidation turned into adoration.

Several interior trim and exterior paint finish colors warrant a mention here. Samoan Coral was a bright, peachy pink color that was only offered in 1964, and there are some who believe this particular color adds value to any 1964 Thunderbird originally painted in this shade. The Rose Beige vinyl interior color was another hue that was offered for just two years, in 1963 and 1964, and looks especially good on these cars. Rose Beige is a pale lilac or lavender color that was very popular during the mid-sixties, and made a brief come back in the mid-seventies on the Thunderbird and Continental Mark IV-Mark V. Pair up the Rose Beige interior with the matching exterior paint color, or with Vintage Burgundy paint, and you have a real eye catching color combination.

Another interior color to look for is Light Gold vinyl. It's a cross between a yellow and a green, and features darker green appointments on the instrument panel, carpeting, etc. Again, it was only offered in 1963 and 1964, and is different from the somewhat darker shade offered in 1965-1967, which was known as Ivy Gold. A Florentine Green exterior finish looked very nice with this interior, and was only offered in 1964. Pair the Light Gold interior with Cascade (dark) Green paint, and it really dazzles the eye!

1964 Thunderbird instrument panel lit at night (click for larger image)Perhaps one of the most dramatic aspects of the 1964 Thunderbird is the lighting of the instrument panel and its controls at night (pictured at left). It's truly beautiful. Controls and gauges are positioned so they're easy for both driver and front passenger to operate, and lighted for clarity during darkness.

New options introduced in 1964 include Automatic Speed Control, with controls mounted on the driver's side of the console, that maintained a set speed without pressure being applied to the gas pedal. This was supposed to be ready to go a year earlier, but never made it to production, despite being listed as an option in the sales catalog. A Reclining Passenger Seat was just the thing for long trips, and featured an integral headrest built-in to the upper seat back that could be raised to support the head when reclined. A Safety-Convenience Control Panel included the Vacuum Door Locks introduced as an option in 1963, and added lights that flashed when a door was ajar, fuel was low, or when the emergency flasher had been activated.

The 1964 Thunderbirds sold very well, and put 1964 in the number two spot for sales to date, and just missed beating the 1960 sales year record by 378 units. Buick's Riviera, in its second year, wasn't able to even come close to the Thunderbird in sales, despite having taken steps to make sure customers knew the Riviera was affordable. For some strange reason, this meant eliminating leather interiors from the options list. If a customer demanded leather, Buick would build a car with it, but very few were ordered this way. Riviera sales fell for 1964, even though Buick Division had lifted the production threshold of 40,000 it had put in place for 1963. Only 37,658 Rivieras were sold, despite many changes to improve the car.

Once again, the Thunderbird was it if you wanted to impress and amaze your circle of friends. Advertising for the T-bird featured beautiful color photography and emphasized the new instrument panel and interiors. Television advertising was produced to promote the new cars, and featured a Brittany Blue Landau, a Wimbledon White Hardtop with Palomino interior, and a Rangoon Red Convertible.

Want to guess one of the changes made during production that still bewilders 1964 Thunderbird owners today? A relay was added to the brake light circuit during production, and a kit was released to retrofit cars without the relay. Many an owner scratches their head in wonderment after replacing the brake light switch only to find the lights still don't work! After verifying the bulbs are good, they fear the turn signal switch has gone bad, and sometimes even replace it only to discover that...you guessed it...no brake lights. The secret is the relay, located in the engine compartment, cleverly located behind the windshield washer fluid bag! So, if you have a 1964 T-bird without brake lights, check behind the washer bag to see if you might have a bad/missing/unplugged relay.

And here's some trivia for you: Ford had originally planned on debuting the sequential rear turn signals for the 1964 model year, but had to delay it for a year because the new sequential turn signal flashing sequence had to be voted into motor vehicle laws in all states before the cars could legally be driven in them. And, typical of government, there were a few states that still hadn't made it legal when the time came to start building the 1964 models! So, the feature was delayed for one year, and got introduced on the 1965 cars instead.

There's no question about it, the 1964 Thunderbirds rank high on most collector's lists of favorite Thunderbirds. They offered the right look, the right features, and the most new gadgets, and even though they had a completely new look to them, they were all unmistakably Thunderbirds. And that's about as close to sheer exhilaration as a person can possibly get.


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