Automotive Mileposts  
1964 Thunderbird Door Assist Handles
Don't be surprised if you've never seen this rare accessory!
1964 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop interior with accessory door handle (interior shown in Light Gold vinyl)The interior of the 1964 Thunderbird embraced the space age of the time; the materials used and the overall design were the look of the future. Highly sophisticated, the interiors were a bold step forward for the Thunderbird, and began trends that would become a part of the Thunderbird package for years to come.

A true work of art, the 1964 Thunderbird interior flowed from one area to another, boldly combined glistening chrome, pleated vinyl, brushed aluminum, and color-keyed carpeting together in one luxurious unit.

Designed with the intention of providing Thunderbird owners with an even higher level of luxury than they were accustomed to, the softy padded door panels were more highly styled than those on previous cars. Fully contoured, they blended beautifully with the instrument panel and rear quarter trim panels, which then flowed into the coved rear seat design, forming a cocoon of interior comfort and luxury that set the Thunderbird apart in the personal luxury field.

The very top edge of the door panel featured a thin chrome trim strip, from under which the molded door trim began. Thunderbird Hardtops and Convertibles featured vertical roll-over pleats in the vinyl, similar to the pattern of the seats, while the Landaus featured simulated wood graining and a Thunderbird emblem. Below this, a fully integrated and molded arm rest was part of the door panel. The arm rest flowed forward, and as it angled upward near the center of the door panel, it also faded into the panel, disappearing near the top of the door panel, just below the center of the vent window. A strip of aluminum trim followed the contour of the arm rest, visually separating it from the top part of the panel. A "pistol-grip" door handle was mounted at the forward edge of the arm rest, following the same upward angle. Below the arm rest, the smooth contours of the panel were covered in soft expanded vinyl, and the panels featured a carpeted section along the very bottom edge, which was separated from the vinyl on the panel by a chrome strip. Convertible and Landau models featured a courtesy-warning light assembly in the carpeted area of each door. Strangely, the courtesy light was not available on the Thunderbird Hardtop models, although a few have been documented to have either been special ordered or dealer installed with this item when the cars were new.

1964 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop interior with accessory door handle (interior shown in Light Blue leather)While the "pistol-grip" door handle was conveniently located for opening the door, a few Thunderbird customers found its location uncomfortable when closing the door. Although some early advertising photos show a recessed "cup" in the door panel arm rest, this was not provided during 1964 production. Ford would provide the fingertip "cup" on all 1965 and 1966 models, however.

To resolve this problem for the 1964 models, a door pull assist handle was made available to dealers for installation on any 1964 Thunderbird. This handle featured a brushed aluminum trim plate with a color-keyed contoured vinyl strap between two chrome escutcheons, which featured a brushed aluminum insert. These handles were mounted in the same area where the Thunderbird emblem is normally found on the Landau models. Landaus equipped with these rare dealer installed accessory handles had the Thunderbird emblems on the door panel removed at the time of installation to make room for the assist handles. These handles are very rare today, probably due to the fact that few were installed when the cars were new. Most customers were charged for their installation, although dealers did likely install a few at no charge to "make the sale."

1964 turned out to be the second best sales year to date for the Thunderbird, so the lack of an alternate handle to close the door didn't stop very many people from buying a new Thunderbird. We think the handles are quite attractive, and they do make closing the doors more convenient. If you happen to come across a salvage or parts car so equipped, they are certainly worth purchasing, just for their conversation value if nothing else. After reading this, if you just have to have these handles, we'll go ahead and give you the part numbers for the pieces you'll need: Vinyl Strap - 22666 (color-keyed to door panel color), Bezel - 22676, and Insert - 22670.

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