8 September 2014

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Lot 103

1962 Ford Thunderbird 'M-Code' Sports Roadster

  • Chassis no. 2Y89M154999

Sold for £44,800

340 bhp, 390 cu. in. M-Code OHV V-8 engine with three 2-barrel Holley carburettors, three-speed automatic transmission, front independent and rear leaf-spring suspension, and four-wheel power-operated drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,870 mm

  • A genuine M-Code Sports Roadster
  • Factory air conditioning
  • The sportiest of the “Bullet Birds”

Chevrolet’s iconic Corvette may have kicked off America’s love affair with the sports car in 1953, but in 1955, many more motoring enthusiasts opted to put Ford’s new Thunderbird in their driveway instead. The luxury two-seater’s popularity grew through to 1958, when Ford added a back seat to the car, and by 1960, which was the final year of production for the second-generation “Squarebird”, the Thunderbird had outsold its rival nine to one.

Nineteen sixty-one saw the introduction of the third-generation Thunderbird, which was now much more of a personal luxury coupé than a sports car, and it also saw the minting of another nickname for the four-seater, “Bulletbird”, which was assigned for the car’s sharply pointed nose and rounded sides. Sales were strong but slowing by this time, so Ford lent an ear to some dealers’ and customers’ cries for a return to a two-seat roadster-style Thunderbird.

Lee Iacocca appointed designer Bud Kaufman to come up with a fix, and he did: a removable fibreglass tonneau that would cover up the Thunderbird convertible’s rear seats and incorporate headrests for the front-seat occupants. The cover was originally a dealer-installed option, but in 1962, it found its way onto new Thunderbird order forms as part of a Sports Roadster package, which also included a passenger-side grab bar, Kelsey-Hayes chrome wire wheels with knock-off centre caps, and a rear wing skirt delete, to clear those gaps.

Thunderbird Sports Roadster production numbered 1,427 units in 1962, but it went down to just 455 in 1963, making them rare birds indeed. Even rarer were Thunderbirds ordered with the monstrous 390-cubic inch tri-power V-8, which was designated by an “M” in the VIN, thus resulting in the nickname of “M-Code” cars. These cars breathed through a set of three Holley two-barrel carburettors and put out some 340 horsepower at the crankshaft, which is to say that they were plenty capable of shaming any Corvette-driving challengers.

Ford turned out just 37 M-Code Sports Roadsters in 1963. The car shown here is one of those, as identified by its serial number, which also includes the crucial “M”, identifying it as having been built with this most desirable engine. It is finished in the most classic colour combination of Rangoon Red over black leather upholstery, and it is equipped with such wonderful features as factory air conditioning, power windows and top, power steering, power brakes, and the chrome engine compartment “dress-up kit”. Naturally, as it is a Sports Roadster, it is fitted with the iconic Kelsey-Hayes wheels. Overall, it presents beautifully and is ready to be presented as one of the few authentic examples of this very rare Thunderbird on the European continent.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more