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1961 Ford Thunderbird
By Greg Warner

Classic Car Articles by Greg Warner Like the launch of the "Space Age", the new for 1961 Ford Thunderbird (or affectionately, "T-Bird" for short) had many styling cues which reminded one of rockets, bullets, aerodynamics and maybe even some "low-level" flying down the highway. This was the third generation for the Ford Thunderbird model and it "borrowed" many styling nuances from the rapidly growing aerospace/aeronautical industries. The car, designed by Ford's Bill Boyer, sported new tail lights, which resembled rocket-like turbines and the "edgy", angled belt-molding was a polished trim piece that ran the entire length of the car, beginning at the massive, chromed front bumper running all the way to the rear to the top edge of the deep-dished, yet projecting round tail lights. The side profile of the sleek and sexy, new for 1961 Ford Thunderbird (available in either a 2-door coupe or convertible configuration) has been described as missile-like, wing-shaped or a like that of a "screaming" bullet and actually looked fast and sporty even at a standstill. The whole car reeked of speed and style and was very well received by the buying public who purchased just over 73,000 units (10,516 were convertibles) for the 1961 year model.

The interior was (in keeping with the above mentioned aeronautical theme) designed by Ford's ubiquitous interior designer, Art Querfeld, to resemble a dual-cockpit compartment, which complimented both the driver and front seat passenger with many pleasing visual effects and loads of "space". The wide center console lead to a sweeping swath of brushed aluminum in a seemingly continuous panel which started at the front of the storage compartment, which was placed in the center console (to eliminate the "seams" that a traditional glove box would have used) and then split at the dash to curve left and right and continue through the doors and further into the rear passenger compartment. The steering wheel assembly was enhanced by a new "swing-away" design which allowed easy entry and exit for the driver.

The chassis remained little changed from the 1960 model, but a new version of the 352 c.i. V8 was introduced with the new for 1961 Ford Thunderbird and the only available motor was the 390 c.i. V8 producing some 300 hp and was coupled to a three-speed, "Cruise-O-Matic", automatic transmission which was connected to the dual leaf-spring, live rear-axle. The wheelbase was 113 inches and the front suspension was coil spring with upper and lower A-arms and "improved" drum brakes all the way around. The "Bullet Bird" (as it was affectionately called by some) was able to reach 0 to 60 mph in just about 10 seconds and had a top speed of around 115 mph. Not bad for a luxury performance car that weighed just over 4,000 lbs! For many reasons, including its dynamic good looks, it was chosen as the Indianapolis 500's "Pace Car" for 1961 and also ran in many NASCAR events as well.

Check out this beautiful, clean, unrestored, original 1961 Ford Thunderbird with only 74,000 miles and no dents or rust, offered right here on classiccars.com by its owner in Chetek, WI, Feel free to contact the owner by email for further information on this very reasonably priced collectible classic that anyone would be proud to own and drive! Well, while you're at it, you might as well peruse the other thousands of vehicles we have to offer 24/7, with new listings daily! Again, thanks for reading and remember to drive safe . . . but have a blast! Life's short, drive your dream!

Quiz-O-Da-Week: A new car "limited warranty policy" milestone was reached in 1961, what were the minimum amount of months and mileage now offered by all major automotive manufacturers?

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