Ford’s glamorous 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster was a star at birth. While at the peak of his popularity in the Fall of 1961, Elvis Presley purchased one of the first Thunderbird Sports Roadsters built. Then Picture if you will, an early Sports Roadster featured on an episode of "The Twilight Zone," on February 2, 1962. Yet, despite its splashy debut, the Sports Roadster was built in comparatively small numbers relative to the standard Thunderbird.
This special edition in the Thunderbird range was designed in response to some customers who felt the T-Bird had grown too soft, particularly those recalling the original two-seat 55-57 models. While performance wasn’t changed, this new option package did give the T-Bird a striking new look. The integral components of the Sports Roadster include the fiberglass tonneau cover, passenger assist bar, wire wheels, and Roadster-specific emblems on the front fenders and tonneau cover. This tonneau was a relatively simple yet striking design piece transforming the standard Thunderbird convertible into the Sports Roadster by covering the back seat and adding jet-age aerodynamic headrests behind the front seats, giving the big four-seat Thunderbird a welcome dose of sportiness and style. Designed to be easily removed, owners could change from a sleek, sporty two passenger roadster to a four-passenger convertible in a matter of minutes. Critically, Ford designers ensured full operation of the convertible top regardless of the tonneau cover being in place. Additionally, the top is fully automatic except for latching or unlatching the top’s frame to the windshield header. The included Kelsey-Hayes Wire Wheels are among the most beautiful wheels ever created, and at $372.30, they accounted for over half the cost of the Sports Roadster package. Priced at $5,439 without any extras, it was $1,118 more than the Hardtop, and $651 more than the standard Convertible. Amazingly it was just $149 less than a Cadillac Sixty-Two Convertible!
Total 1962-3 Thunderbird production run was 141,324 of which just 1,882 were Sports Roadsters, 1,427 for 1962, and a further 455 for 1963. The glamorous Sports Roadster may not have been an outright sports car, but it reinforced the Thunderbird’s unique position as a style and luxury leader for Ford. It was then and is today a highly desirable and collectible milestone in the T-Bird’s enduring legacy.
This 1962 Sports Roadster is truly a stunning example boasting a highly detailed, high-quality restoration. Finished in a dazzling and factory-correct combination of Rangoon Red over black upholstery, it is beautifully presented with outstanding paint, chrome, and detailing. A copy of the original invoice documents this as a genuine Sports Roadster, delivered to Ward Motors, Inc of Newark, New Jersey with an MSRP of $6,012.70. This T-Bird is restored to a standard rarely seen on similar cars, and has been maintained to a high standard while in a private collection. Receipts and records date back to the 1980s, showing the car was cherished by previous owners who spared little expense on its care.
As a factory Sports Roadster, this T-Bird features the all-important tonneau panel, wire wheels, and special badging, while power comes from a 390 cubic inch, 300 horsepower, V-8 from the FE family of powerplants that includes the mighty 427. Topped with a single 4-barrel carburetor and mated to a Cruise-O-Matic transmission, this T-Bird glides effortlessly down any road of your choosing, thanks to bottomless reserves of torque and a remarkably refined chassis. The doors open and shut with precision, and panel fit is exemplary, notable for a large American cruiser of this era. According to the invoice, equipment includes the signature swing-away steering column, pushbutton radio, power windows, power seats, power top, heavy-duty battery, power steering, and power brakes.
The outstanding restoration continues in the cabin, which features factory-correct black upholstery accented with sparkling chrome and aluminum accents for a sophisticated, upscale ambience. As with the body, detailing is superb, with crystal clear instruments and a factory correct radio. The spotless engine compartment includes chrome air cleaner, proper “Thunderbird” valve covers, and correct stickers and tags.
This Thunderbird drives as expected, with excellent road manners and a relaxed character that make it an absolute joy to cruise down your favorite boulevard. And while it is superbly restored, it is also a thoroughly enjoyable car to use on the road. Truly one of the finest examples we’ve encountered, it would be appropriate to show or drive. Prepare to be the star and your next cars and coffee.
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