Ford’s proud Thunderbird used to molt every three years, rebooting its already-dramatic styling to new heights each time. The sporty personal car’s fourth generation arrived in 1964 with a trim, squared off new look. The crisp new 'Bird quickly found popularity, setting its best-ever sales record of 90,000 units.
The 1964-66 Thunderbird is called a "Flair Bird" or "Jet Bird” by car fans. Though based on the same '61-63 platform, 1964-66 'Birds boasted all-new bodywork and interior with an enlarged "deep well" trunk that addressed complaints about luggage capacity. It was offered in hardtop coupe, convertible, simulated two-seater sports roadster, and formal Landau models.
Ford intended the 1964 T-Birds to feature sequentially blinking tail lamp turn signals, but obtaining legal permissions from fifty states delayed the feature’s introduction until the '65 model year, a freshening that also introduced Thunderbird's first disc brakes. Luxurious interiors featured swing-away steering wheels, “coved” rear seating, “cockpit” style consoles, retractable seat belts, and flow through Silent Air ventilation.
Fourth generation T-birds’ innovative ventilation system featured outlets below its rear window, a swing-away steering wheel, sequential turn signals, and full-length consoles.
Sales dropped to the 70,000 range for the ‘Bird’s 1965 model year, perhaps due to increased competition from Ford's exciting new Mustang and Buick’s Riviera
Fourth generation Thunderbirds were featured in Thelma and Louise, Coppola’s The Outsiders, and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. Today, “Flair Birds” are experiencing a growth in collector interest, especially convertibles and the mere fifty 1964s with Sports Roadster caps installed as a dealer option. The sleek Sports Roadsters with headrests covering their rear seats that convert it to a faux two-seater remain the most sought after examples.
Written by Jim Cherry
Here’s a great place to find Thunderbird clubs.