How Can I Tell If I Have An Official 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster?

12/1/2019
Greg Zyla
Q: Hi Greg, I’m from Susquehanna County, PA, and my father has some Thunderbirds. One of them is actually mine, namely a ‘61 Hardtop.
 
However, the other two are convertibles and one of them is a 1962 Sports Roadster. But there is a question as to its roadster originality.
 
My father is quite sure it's original, but a lot of them apparently were put together from regular Thunderbird convertibles. His car is a red 1962 with red interior and it has the 48-spoke wire wheels which I read the originals came with along with all the other stuff a roadster should have.
 
However, my dad’s serial number is 103559 and everything I research says the first real roadster built in 1961 started with serial number 105xxx.
 
 
According to the experts, the first real Sports Roadster was built around Sept. 14, 1961. Dad’s car production date is Sept. 7, 1961.
 
So, is it possible this is one of the first production Sports Roadsters, and that the date and number aren't that precise? Is it possible to get documentation at this time to prove one way or another?
 
We did not search yet under the seats or carpet for the factory build sheet, so we might do that. Thanks for any help you can give on this. It was not an issue really, as my dad loves cars and enjoyed working on them. But at 85 years of age and my mom just dying, he is liquidating his playthings and slimming down his stuff.
 
There is quite a large value difference between a convertible built to roadster and a real roadster, so I just want to make sure he gets a fair price and any buyer gets what he is paying for. Thank you. Sincerely, Lanny Leonard, from Pennsylvania.
 
A: Lanny, my sympathies on the passing of your mom and thanks for the interesting letter.
 
First and foremost, try and find the build sheet as that would clear everything up in one minute. As to the values, you are correct that an original 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster, of which only 1,427 were produced, is priced way higher than a “normal” convertible.
 
The Sports Roadster was actually a four-seat Thunderbird covered by a fiberglass tonneau cover which made it look like a roadster. It was certainly one of the best-looking cars from 1962 and I remember I ran to “Jack’s Toyland,” in Vineland, NJ back then to buy the AMT 1/24 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster model kit for $1.49.
 
The 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster package included the 48-spoke Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels you mention, which were originally blamed for an accident Elvis Presley had while making a sharp turn. Kelsey-Hayes immediately recalled the wheels and made them stronger with no further incidents.
 
The front end of the Thunderbird Sports Roadsters had special badges on the fenders and a special Sports Roadster front grab-bar on the dashboard.
 
The only engine available that year was a 390 V8, with either one four barrel at 300 horses or an “M” code 390 with three two barrels delivering 345 horses. All Sports Roadsters came with the Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission and the “Rangoon Red” exterior finish was the only color available in 1962. The convertible top was black.
 
Although I am going to look further into your question as to originality, I don’t feel you’ll be able to get the top dollar Sports Roadster value based on your VIN and the fact that you don’t have any foolproof validity.
 
According to the VIN, your dad’s car is a regular Thunderbird convertible and not a Sports Roadster. However, and this is a big “however,” just as Ford did a few things under the wraps like it did with its NASCAR 1959 Holman-Moody Thunderbirds and many of the drag race packages from 1961 to 1964 that had different VIN numbers, there is always the outside chance that your dad’s car did arrive at the dealer in Sports Roadster trim as a “pre-build” model to display at the dealership.
 
Going against you in a big way is the color of your dad’s interior, as red did not appear until the 1962 VIN 107xxx number as black vinyl was the only color available for the first 465 Sport Roadster interiors. (Only four red vinyl trim Roadsters appeared much later in the 107xxx VIN number sequence).
 
The odds of a “one-off” Sports Roadster could be in your favor based on the build date that was just six days prior to the official start of the Thunderbird Roadster assembly that I found to be Wednesday, Sept. 13 of 1961. The build sheet would have the Sports Roadster trim number/option listed for sure, even with the red interior.
 
Thus, your answer lies in that build sheet that may still be sitting under the back seat, which I hope it is. Please let us know if you find it, and I’ll contact some of my friends at Ford to find out more on the possibility of a “pre-build” Thunderbird Sports Roadster the week prior. But for now, your dad’s car is a Sports Roadster “tribute” until proven otherwise.

 
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