The World's Most Wanted Car for 1960, the Thunderbird, received a modest
but effective update to its styling which was introduced in 1958. In the
front, a new grille treatment made the Thunderbird appear even more massive
than before. A horizontal bar ran from one end of the grille to the other,
it was thicker in the middle and tapered smaller as it reached each end.
Three vertical bars intersected with the horizontal bar, and segmented
the grille into what appeared to be eight sections. Behind these bars,
a more detailed grille in a finer checked design gave the front end a new
appearance, even though the bumper itself was carry over.
A Thunderbird emblem with a new design was mounted on the header panel
above the front bumper, on the roof sail panels, and on the deck lid between
the tail lights, where it concealed the key lock. A new script also appeared,
this time mounted on the bullet-shaped area of the doors, similar to 1959,
but sans the thicker chromed trim the outlined the area. On the rear quarter
panels, a series of six vertical bars were mounted in sets of three.
The appearance from behind was noticeably changed as well. A new tail light
design offered three round pods on each side, with the inner most pod reserved
for the optional back-up lights, if they were ordered. The middle pod and
outboard pod served as brake and running lights, while the outboard pod
alone indicated a turn.
The interior was freshened up with a new standard upholstery pattern for
the seats and side panels, available in a choice of Morocco Grain vinyl
bolsters and inserts or Morocco Grain vinyl bolsters with Nylon Cord fabric
inserts, in six different colors.
These changes gave the car a freshly updated look, even though its 1½-year
old design really didn't need much updating. The Thunderbird 352 Special
V-8 engine (300 horsepower) was still standard, and the Thunderbird 430
Special V-8 (350 horsepower) could be ordered if additional performance
was desired. A choice of standard, standard with overdrive, or automatic
transmission was available, with the Cruise-O-Matic automatic a mandatory
option with the larger displacement engine.
Optional equipment remained about the same as 1959, with the exception
of one major new announcement: a sliding sun roof hardtop Thunderbird.
The sun roof panel and related hardware was provided to Ford by Golde and
Company and the 1960 Thunderbird was the first American-made automobile
that provided this feature as a regular production option. Even with the
sun roof open, the interior remained warm with the heater on during testing,
even though the temperatures that day were frigid. Wind turbulence and
buffeting inside the car was minimal, even at highway speeds. The panel
could be slid open any amount desired, and locked securely in place with
a twist of the inside handle.
1960 would go on record as the Thunderbird's best sales year to date, with
92,843 cars built for the model year. Despite its enormous popularity with
the car buying public, the Thunderbird did have its critics. Areas of concern
were usually the brakes, suspension, and steering. The T-bird had a rather
soft ride, as cars of this era normally did, and exhibited a degree of
body roll and wallowing in cornering situations. Since the Bird was a heavy
car, the drum brakes all around were susceptible to fade after repeated
hard braking, which was another characteristic of the time, more so than
something specific to the car. Steering was not as responsive as some felt
it should be, but again this was a typical complaint of most everything
at the time short of true sports cars.
Some people had difficulty placing the Thunderbird in any particular classification.
It was a luxury car, but much smaller than typical luxury cars of the day.
It was also less expensive than most, and had a unique interior design
that featured individual front seats with center panel console, a layout
not seen on other cars. The Thunderbird was considered compact in comparison
to full sized cars, but was certainly not small enough to be considered
a true sports car. Performance was good, especially with the 430 engine,
but due to its size and weight, the T-bird was hardly a race car, although
it was being professionally raced at the time.
Where the Thunderbird was most at ease was gracing the driveways of America's
finest homes, appearing at all the top events from coast to coast, including
sports and cultural appearances. The country club parking lots were full
of Thunderbirds, as were the shopping center parking lots, marinas, and
pretty much any location where the good life was enjoyed. The distinctive
Thunderbird was considered cooler than other luxury cars, due in part to
its size, appearance, and its sporty interior that was anything but traditional.
People who drove Thunderbirds were always considered to be a bit more daring
than their peers who drove cars that were...well...we'll just say not as
interesting, and leave it at that. The successful bachelor would be expected
to drive a Thunderbird, as would the respected Doctor who might be considering
retirement soon. A young gal in college was the envy of everyone when she
pulled up in a new Thunderbird on the first day of class. And the older
lady who was widowed years ago but left in very good shape financially
just couldn't resist the T-bird's compact size "...It's so much easier
to park and maneuver..." she tells her jealous friends over lunch...
For 1960, one could choose the classic Thunderbird Hardtop, or Convertible,
or the new Sun Roof Hardtop. All were available in 23 glorious paint shades,
with 16 different interiors to choose from, so there was something to suit
everyone. The compact, sporty, and luxurious Thunderbird defined its own
market in 1958, and reigned supreme over other cars due to its unique proportions,
appointments, and performance. There was really nothing else quite like
it. It truly was the World's Most Wanted Car.