Ford’s Thunderbird was late to battle Corvette for American two-seat supremacy when it arrived in 1955, but it brought plenty of horsepower and it had style. After one short, three-year generation, the Thunderbird abandoned the fight against the Vette and moved on to cushier, more cruise-friendly pastures. It became an early iteration of the personal luxury car. Those second-generation cars were a bit clunky, styling-wise, so Ford made up for it with the 1961–63 models and their sleek, chrome-clad elegance.
In 1964, another new Thunderbird generation bowed, this time with a more formal roofline and the same 390 FE V-8 as its predecessor. Its front-end styling was an evolution of the 1963’s bullet nose, giving the pointed front a new design language while the rear moved to horizontal rectangular taillights that weren’t as fanciful as their jet-inspired predecessors. It’s a fine-looking car, especially in convertible form, and far less brutal than the 1958–60 models.
Despite its classic looks, fourth-generation Thunderbird’s prices are lagging behind the earlier models. Part of that is due to much higher demand for the earlier convertibles (each generation has hardtop models in the $10,000 range). Prices for the ‘64–66 T-Bird range from $4800 for Fair (#4) condition examples, all the way up to $23,100 for Concours (#1) condition models. Your average 1964–66 T-Bird in Good (#3) condition is $10,000, with an additional 10 percent on top for factory A/C. Second-gen Ford Thunderbirds are a little pricier, bringing an average of $13,200 in Good condition and as much as $28,100 in pristine Concours condition. Third-gen prices are similar: First-gens are the most expensive; it’ll cost you $30,100 for a #3-condition first-gen Thunderbird, $42,200 for a #2, and $65,900 for a #1.
“The audience is limited since most people drawn to cars of this era want the sporty stuff, and there are, of course, lots of choices of car in this era and price point,” says Hagerty Valuation Editor Andrew Newton. “The T-Bird doesn’t really stand out and that may be why it’s plodding along with middle-of-the-road prospects for future appreciation.”
The following generation, which lasted from 1967–71, gave us the first four-door Thunderbird. With its landau top and overwrought trim, it was a one-car funeral procession. However, that same generation gave us a muscular, stylish hardtop in 1970 and ’71 that practically looks chopped from the factory. With a real big-block V-8 for the first time since the MEL 430, those coupes still bring higher values than the base ’64–66 Thunderbird, making the 390-powered model the lowest-priced early Thunderbird coupes.