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1962 Ford Thunderbird Landau shown in Raven Black
1962 Ford Thunderbird Landau
For 1962, Four Thunderbirds...Introducing the Sports Roadster and Landau
1962 Ford Thunderbird

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Sports Roadster
and Landau

1962-1963 Thunderbird Sports Roadster:
What Went Wrong?


Elvis Presley's Sports Roadster

Arbiter Elegantíae



1962 Thunderbird advertising taglines

When Thunderbird People Rendezvous at a given Hour, on any Turnpike, there's a Hush as if under a Spell...a brief Interlude where clocks tick silently, curves straighten out, and enchantment awaits.

For 1962, four new Thunderbirds greeted prospective new customers in dealer showrooms. The Hardtop and Convertible returned, but joining them were two new models—both variations of the other two. The Landau was based on the Hardtop model, but featured a more formal appearance due to its vinyl covered roof with simulated S-bars mounted on the roof sides. The vinyl roof was available in 2 colors, black or white, and the insert at the center of the S-bar matched the color of the vinyl. This was very likely the model that started the vinyl roof craze, as earlier models that featured vinyl roofs—such as the Cadillac Eldorado Seville—failed to spark interest in them like the Landau did. In fact, for 1963 Cadillac would offer a factory vinyl roof on its Coupe deVille and Fleetwood Sixty Special models in four colors: black, white, sandalwood, and light blue.

The Sports Roadster was based on the Convertible, and featured a fiberglass tonneau cover that was contoured to match the lines of the car. It fit neatly over the rear seat area, giving the car a two passenger seating capacity when installed. Head rests for both front seat occupants were covered in padded vinyl that matched the seat upholstery. Two thumb screws retained the cover tightly in the rear deck area, and a footman's loop just behind the console glove compartment secured it to the rear floor drive shaft tunnel. In less than a minute, two people could remove the cover (which weighs about 25 lbs.) if more than two must travel. And best of all, the top could be raised and lowered with the cover in place. Small articles can be stowed on the rear seat and in the floor area below the cover, which provides much needed space when the top is lowered. (Since the convertible top retracts into the luggage compartment, there is little usable space there with the top lowered.)

Tri-color Thunderbird emblems were mounted on the front fenders, just below the standard script. Flashy Kelsey Hayes wire wheels with chrome knock off spinners were also included, which meant that rear fender shields could not be fitted on any model with the wire wheels, as there was not enough clearance for the spinners.

Image: 1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports RoadsterInside the Sports Roadster, a passenger assist bar was mounted on the instrument panel, and featured a padded, color-keyed vinyl insert to grab hold of. Another tri-color emblem was mounted on the tonneau cover, in the area just below and between the head rests.

Sales of the two new models bumped up Thunderbird production over 1961 totals, which is unusual for a car in its second year of a body style. Total production came to 78,011 cars; 68,127 were Hardtop and Landau models; 9,884 were Convertibles and Sports Roadsters. Exact numbers for Landaus do not exist, as records were apparently destroyed years ago, but it is estimated around 10,000 were built for the year. Records for the Sports Roadsters were retained, and a total of 1,427 were built. This represents an overall sales increase of 4,960 cars, or 6.7 percent over 1961 production. Not bad for two rather specialized models. The Hardtop was by far the most popular of the line for 1962.

Changes to the 1962 models were minimal. The grille became a series of chrome horizontal bars, interspersed with square-shaped bullets between each that gave it a lattice effect if you just gave it a casual glance. Three horizontal spears decorated the rear quarter panels, and new aluminum trim in that taillamps gave them a new look as well.

Standard equipment was virtually identical to 1961, except the Swing-Away Steering Wheel became standard very early in production. New options for 1962 included the wire wheels, which were standard only on the Sports Roadster, but could be ordered for any body style at additional cost. Sports Side Trim ran from the rear of the front wheel well to the decorative spears on the rear quarter panels, and two smaller pieces were added between the first and second and second and third spears as well. A new High Performance V-8 engine was offered, which was basically a 390 with three 2-barrel carburetors and a chrome dress-up kit. This engine provided 340 horsepower instead of the 300 horses the 4-barrel carbureted engines had. And dealers could install an 8,000 rpm tachometer as well, for those with sporting blood.

The opening paragraph of this article uses key words from various 1962 Thunderbird print advertising, which achieved a new level of sophistication and elegance for the 1962 model year. Beautiful cars, gorgeous people, lush settings, and fluent descriptive text made anyone who happened upon an ad want a new Thunderbird. Why, who wouldn't want to live in such a world? The locations depicted a life of endless hours of free time, beautiful homes, expensive clothes, and a Thunderbird waiting to take you to your next destination.

A Raven Black Landau with black vinyl roof and red interior was used in a couple of the ads, and the people in the scenes were obviously dressed up to attend an exclusive ball or dinner party. And what better car to arrive in than a new Thunderbird? The new Landau model was perhaps the most elegant automobile on the road at the time, bar none. Its distinctive leather-grained vinyl roof, accented with shimmering S-bars, certainly bespoke of a more formal lifestyle. A Thunderbird in evening dress, if you will. As appropriate at an exclusive event as any Cadillac Fleetwood, Lincoln Continental, or Imperial LeBaron, few understood that the Thunderbird cost far less than its peers.

Other ads depicted couples enjoying the serenity of a remote pond, with their Diamond Blue Hardtop nearby, or a top down drive on a country road in a Tucson Yellow Convertible with black interior, a Corinthian White Hardtop waiting nearby while a couple shares a romantic moment in a forest, with nothing but the tall trees to interrupt, or a day at the beach frolicking in the surf with a Silver Mink Convertible with matching interior waiting dutifully for your next command.

All of the ads were certainly more enticing than running to the grocery store to buy milk, bread, and eggs, which is likely what most Thunderbird drivers did in their cars, but there's little doubt that the Thunderbird was a part of the good life, wherever and whatever it may have been at the time. And what better way is there to take the boring and mundane out of a day's errands than doing them in a 1962 Thunderbird?

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