Yes, there are cheaper T-Birds out there, but if you only collect the best, then this car requires no excuses.
Now before you go running off to grab your price guides and gear up to send me an E-mail about the price tag on this incredible 1960 Ford Thunderbird, please take a moment and examine it carefully. First and foremost, it’s a real-deal J-code car, which means a rare 430 cubic inch V8 lives under the hood. Second, it has every single option you could get in 1960, including factory A/C, power seats, power windows, and leather upholstery. Third, it has won every major award such a car can win, including four AACA National First Prizes and the bare-metal restoration is simply stunning in every way. The short version is that this is quite likely the finest example of its kind anywhere and the price is but a fraction of the cost required to get it there. Yes, there are cheaper T-Birds out there, but if you only collect the best, then this car requires no excuses.
1960 was the final year for the first of the 4-seater T-Birds, also known affectionately as the “Square ‘Birds.” Bigger and more luxurious than the previous 2-seaters, it was a runaway sales hit with more than three times more cars sold in 1958 than in 1957. For many enthusiasts, the 1960 models are the pinnacle of Square Bird styling, offering unique details that set them apart from earlier models, most notably the delicate ‘Thunderbird’ script on the doors, three sets of hash marks on the quarter panels, and heavy grille bars in the front bumper opening. Together with the stunning code J Monte Carlo Red paint (which is this car’s original color, by the way), this Thunderbird is a one-car parade everywhere it goes. As I mentioned, this was a bare-metal rotisserie restoration to the very highest standards, and as such there’s really no place for substandard work to hide. The doors fit beautifully and do not require a heavy slam, the hood latches closed with a gentle push, and yes, that miraculous top extricates itself with acrobatic ease from beneath a flush-fitting deck. The paint glows with a vivid brightness that the best red cars show, not too orange and not at all pink, but rather a deep, rich red that looks incredibly inviting. We’ve gone over the car pretty carefully and can’t find a flaw, and while we don’t ever claim that cars are perfect, some cars get closer than others.
Of course, in any discussion of a big American convertible from this period, chrome is a critical issue. Fortunately, someone seems to have written a pretty big five-figure check to get all the bright stuff on this ‘Bird into show-ready condition. The front bumper and grille assembly alone is reputed to have cost nearly $10,000 to restore properly, and that’s just some of it! Note the lovely little bombsight ornaments atop the front fenders, the traditional Thunderbird logo on the nose, the aforementioned script on the doors, and, of course, that gigantic rear bumper that curls around the jet-inspired taillights. It’s all in first-rate condition with nary a blemish to be found. The grille-like inserts behind the round taillight lenses are crisp and bright, the lenses themselves are as-new, and the deck lid-mounted antenna makes for a sporty look. If you thought you’d find a discount here, guess again. The car has exactly zero compromises.
Square ‘Bird convertibles also had leather upholstery on their options list, with this lovely ragtop carrying code 85 red leather bolsters and inserts. The genuine leather upholstery pattern for 1960 differed from that of previous models, and did not match the upholstery patterns for the cloth and vinyl upholstery nor the all-vinyl interiors. The pattern utilized for the genuine leather interior was of a vertical pleated design, which extended to the door trim panels and the rear quarter trim panels, all of which has been exactly replicated in this car. The difference is apparent the moment you touch the seat before sliding behind the wheel, and while there are some minor comfort marks on the leather, it remains in excellent condition. There’s a lot of red inside, including the matching carpets, dashboard, and ornate door panels, but it’s offset by the beautiful ivory-colored steering wheel, bright instrument panels, and white-faced instruments that prove that white gauges are not a recent invention. Experts will quickly spot the round control panel on the center console that manages the factory Select Aire A/C system, as well as the four ivory switches for the power windows. The driver’s bucket seat is also power-actuated, and combined with the swing-away steering wheel, getting in or out is always graceful. All the gauges are fully operational, the lights, horn, signals, and wipers work like they should, and even the factory-installed AM radio pulls in signals loud and clear. The brake pedal proudly calls out the power brakes that live underneath and Thunderbird logo floor mats keep it looking tidy inside. And yes, that incredibly complex white power convertible top operates properly, stowing itself in the trunk in a matter of seconds, a process that never fails to amaze onlookers. That trunk is also neatly finished with a correct mat set, full-sized spare tire, and a correct jack assembly.
There are no reliable production records on how many J-code Thunderbird convertibles were built with the 430 cubic inch V8, but the answer most experts offer is, “Not many.” This one is legit, with the all-important J as the fifth digit in the VIN, and experts will note that all the authentic parts are there, from the unique expansion tank to the fuel pump atop the engine block to the oversized white air cleaner helping it inhale. It’s quite correct in every way save for the bright red ignition wires, but you can’t really blame them for adding a little flash because they sure look great. The black valve covers wear paint that’s as good as many cars’ bodywork and the block itself is black as well. Correct hose clamps, Ford script hoses, and even a fresh reproduction wiring harness make this engine bay very accurate. You could literally swap out the battery and the plug wires and have a trophy-winning car at any Thunderbird meet in the world. That’s how good this car is.
It also runs as well as it looks, starting easily with a turn of the key and idling smoothly even when it’s cold. That’s the product of a lot of tuning and tweaking after the restoration was finished, a step that most restorers and trailer queen owners tend to skip. It means that this ‘Bird is highly road-worthy and ready to drive, and with 490 pounds of torque on tap, the 430 inch V8 moves the big ragtop with genuine authority. Actually, performance is remarkable, mostly because the Thunderbird isn’t nearly as heavy as it looks, with a curb weight under 4000 pounds. Yes, it’s big, but it’s a middleweight with a heavyweight’s punch, making it a great deal of fun to drive.
Although you could technically get a 3-speed manual transmission in your 1960 Thunderbird, most came with the 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic found in this car, and it’s a much better choice for a luxury machine. Rebuilt and reliable, it doesn’t seem to mind the huge amounts of torque churning through it and it clicks through the gears easily and unobtrusively. The door tag claims that there are 2.91 gears in the 9-inch rear end, and the car’s impeccable highway manners suggest they’re still there, making this car effortless at almost any speed. In 1959, they converted the rear suspension to leaf springs, which seems anachronous today but actually resulted in improved ride and handling for the big Thunderbirds. Power steering is probably mandatory on anything this big, so you can wheel this convertible around with just your fingertips, and the big 11-inch drums with power assist are powerful and confidence-inspiring. And again, as a fully-sorted car and not just a trailer queen, it tracks straight, rides smooth, and stops well so you can enjoy it as intended. Many of its siblings wear showy chrome wire wheels, which were an accessory, but if you want absolute authenticity and the top prizes, you go with the painted steel wheels and simple hubcaps, plus a set of 8.50-14 BFGoodrich Silvertown wide whites to really make it sparkle.
Go ahead and look around, you won’t find a better car with the J-code engine and this many options. As I said, the best always costs more, but you do get what you pay for and given the astronomical costs of restoring the various chrome and convertible top components on these cars, even an expensive Square ‘Bird is a bargain compared to the cost of restoration. Shopping price will always get you something inexpensive, but shopping quality will get you something exquisite and once you’ve gotten over the price tag you’ll have one of the world’s very best Thunderbirds in your garage, ready to drive or show at virtually any level. That kind of peace of mind is often worth the cost. Call today!