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Thunderbird Gifts
1962 Ford Thunderbird Arbiter Elegantíae

An elegant decree from Ford Motor Company
1962 Thunderbird Arbiter Elegantíae shipping tube

1962 Thunderbird Arbiter ElegantiaeFord Motor Company was generous with gifts to new Thunderbird buyers in the early sixties. Not only did customers often walk out of the dealership with a scale model in the same color as their new car, they would sometimes receive other gifts later, in recognition of their new car purchase. Some of these model cars featured a transistorized radio concealed within, with the detailed interior replaced with the radio speaker. A stainless steel engraved personalized nameplate to affix to their instrument panel or console was a fairly common gift, although they can be hard to find on cars today. A set of Fostoria glasses, with the Thunderbird emblem etched on them were also plentiful at the time, but can be expensive to buy today.

More rare were genuine wood boxes with built-in transistorized radios and a nameplate attached to the lid that could be engraved with a name or initials. Inside, concealed storage space with a card thanking the new owner for their recent purchase of a Ford Thunderbird. Key rings, cuff links, tie tacks, money clips, and other items were also available for dealers to give to their preferred customers.

In 1962, Ford sent new Thunderbird owners a scroll titled Arbiter Elegantíae (defined as a judge of elegance or matters of taste) in a tube covered with metallic gold paper and bearing the Thunderbird script in red ink. Many of these were not kept over the years, or found their way into scrapbooks or the trash can, so very few are left. The scroll (pictured at left) stated:

"Arbiter Elegantíae In Recognition of (owner's name) whose 1962 Thunderbird was built to set a standard for quality and a pattern for beauty unique in all the world. With your taste for excellence you have helped make the Thunderbird a reality, For it becomes possible to lavish so much meticulous care upon the building of a car only when there are people who appreciate this superior craftsmanship. The only place in the world where the Thunderbird is built is Wixom, Michigan. As a consequence, each member of the production team feels a close affinity to every Thunderbird on the road today - and a keen awareness of the fact that wherever you take your Thunderbird, his skill and ability as a craftsman also pass in review. The craftsman, designers, and engineers who created your Thunderbird would like to express their personal pride in this car...and their thanks to you for choosing it."

Signed by L.A. Iacocca, a gold seal embossed with the Thunderbird emblem and "'62" was affixed in the lower right corner, complete with red and blue ribbons.

Photo of Marilyn Monroe taken in April 1962 on the set of Something's Got to GiveIn the example above, you might have noticed a familiar name on the document. While we cannot say at this time for certain, we have reason to believe that the car this item accompanied was indeed ordered by the celebrity, but we are not convinced that the car was actually delivered to her, as her death may have preceded the delivery date. There are, however, items that were found in the car that indicate she had at least driven it at some point. Some Monroe biographers report that Marilyn didn't own a car at all at the time of her death, instead preferring to be driven in a chauffeured limousine or by her housekeeper, Eunice Murray. Apparently Monroe had discharged Murray prior to her death, with Murray's last day of employment being Saturday, August 4, 1962...the last full day of Marilyn's life. (Marilyn was found dead by Murray in the early morning hours of Sunday, August 5, 1962, which seems unusual since she was no longer employed by Miss Monroe at that time.) Knowing she would not have Murray to drive her around any longer, it's very possible Miss Monroe had arranged for her own transportation, and what better car for a Hollywood star than a new Thunderbird? At any rate, we will continue to research this and update this page with more current information once it becomes available, if it ever does.

In addition to this Thunderbird, George Barris was allegedly working in conjunction with Warner Bros. to build a custom Lincoln Continental for Marilyn, which was not completed before her death, and was never delivered to her, although she might have been involved somewhat in its design and development. We're not sure if this was for a forthcoming movie or not, but will provide additional details as they become available. This would have been Marilyn's second Lincoln, as she previously owned a Cashmere Coral 1955 Lincoln Capri Convertible which still exists, and is shown from time to time.

The black and white photo above was taken on the set of Something's Got to Give in April 1962. This movie was never finished, as Monroe was fired by the studio prior to its completion. Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse were also cast for starring roles in this picture. After Monroe was fired, the studio attempted to hire Lee Remick to complete the picture, but Dean Martin refused, stating his contract called for a movie with Marilyn Monroe, and it would be Marilyn or no movie! At the time of her death, the studio was in negotiations with Miss Monroe to rehire her to complete the picture. Whether you believe her death to be suicide (accidental or otherwise), or something more sinister, it is a fact that Marilyn died at her peak. She had never been more beautiful, and her acting skills were more refined than ever before. The unfinished movie was retitled as Move Over, Darling and was released in 1963 with Doris Day, James Garner, and Thelma Ritter in the lead roles. It was a big hit for the studio, and was one of two movies pairing Day and Garner in 1963. (The second movie was The Thrill of It All which features several classic Thunderbirds, among them two 1960 Thunderbird Hardtops and a 1961 Thunderbird Hardtop. Read about them on the Movie and TV-Birds - The Fifties page (opens in new window).

1962 Ford Thunderbird ConvertibleThe car this document was found in is a Corinthian White 1962 Thunderbird Convertible, with a white top and a Light Pearl Beige Vinyl with Medium Beige Bedford Cord interior. Loaded with every option available in 1962 except for the Sports Side Trim and Wire Wheels, this car has been carefully stored and lovingly preserved and still retains its original tires, hoses, belts, etc. The car has been driven in limited amounts on a regular basis to maintain its mechanicals, and has received regular fluid and filter changes, but has to date only accumulated 910 miles on the odometer. So, whether its original owner was indeed Marilyn Monroe or not, this is an outstanding example—if not a perfect example—of a brand new 1962 Thunderbird Convertible. Even all of its original paperwork, including owner's manual, window sticker, etc., were found in the console glove compartment.

There is no doubt that over the years, many Thunderbirds were owned by celebrities. So many, in fact, that we have published a page on Celebrity Thunderbirds. Marilyn Monroe owned at least one other Thunderbird, a 1956 model.

In the future, we will publish a feature on Thunderbird Gifts, and include a link to it on this page once it's online.