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Classic Used Oil Generators: 1962 Ford Thunderbird
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By Vern Parker

First came Ford's baby birds, the two seat Thunderbirds built from 1955 to 1957. They were followed by the square birds from 1958 to 1960. Next were the bullet birds.

For 1962 Ford created a sports roadster model by installing on the convertible model a fiberglass tonneau apparatus that covered the rear passenger compartment, effectively transforming the four-passenger car into a two-seater. The handsome roadster model attracted a lot of attention but it was much pricier than a more common convertible Thunderbird so it did not sell as well.

Consequently, only 1,427 Sports Roadster model Thunderbirds were manufactured in 1962, each one with a base price of $5,439.

When those Thunderbirds were new Al Mason was a sophomore at the Loudon County High School. Like most teenagers he admired the Thunderbirds but was mostly oblivious to the rare Sports Roadster models.

Forty-seven years later Mason and his wife, Barbara, were vacationing near Myrtle Beach in South Carolina where they came across a 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster in a small antique car museum. It had been totally restored in 1985 and the Masons saw what they liked and liked what they saw but still had to think about whether to buy the car or not. They talked about it and then, with no decision made, returned to their Purcellville, Va., home.

A few days later, Mason recalls his wife suggesting that buying that Corinthian White Thunderbird with the red interior would be a good idea. He needed no further encouragement. On June 19, 2009 he hitched a trailer to his truck and returned to South Carolina to claim the 4,631-pound Thunderbird. The odometer showed that the car had been driven 67,332 miles, a figure Mason believes to be accurate.

According to the previous owner, the fiberglass tonneau had been in place for 25 years. For the first time in a quarter century the convertible top was raised.

Documents that came with the car indicate that it was built in California where it was sold locally. The second owner took the Thunderbird to Georgetown, S.C. Before the third owner moved it to Myrtle Beach. Prior to Mason becoming the fourth owner the car was totally restored in 1985.

When the Thunderbird Sports Roadster left the factory it was well-equipped with standard features including:
      • Power brakes.
      • Electric clock.
      • Backup lights.
      • Tonneau cover.
      • Power steering.
      • Electric wipers.
      • Roadster emblems.
      • Passenger assist bar.
      • Tilt-a-way steering wheel.
      • Padded dashboard and visors.
      • Cruise-O-Matic transmission.
      • Kelsey-Hayes chrome wheels.
      • 390-cubic-inch 300-horsepower V-8.

Acceleration tests when the car was new indicate a zero-to-30 mph time of 3.9 seconds. Zero-to-45 mph was achieved in 6.8 seconds and zero-to-60 mph in 10.8 seconds.

At 76 inches in width the sleek Thunderbird is almost two feet wider than its 53.3-inch height.

Optional equipment on the luxurious car includes:
      • Spotlight.
      • AM radio.
      • Tinted glass.
      • Leather seats.
      • Power windows.
      • Windshield washers.
      • Two exterior mirrors.
      • Four-way power seat.
      • Selectaire air conditioning.
      • Stainless side protect strips.
      • Engine chrome dress up kit.
      • 8.00x14-inch white sidewall tires.

The uncluttered lines visually stretch the Thunderbird beyond its actual length of an inch longer than 17 feet. The handsome chrome wire wheels with the distinctive protruding knock-off hubs eliminate the clearance necessary for rear fender skirts.

Other than cleaning and polishing the car Mason reports the only problem he has experienced with the Thunderbird necessitated replacing the power steering pump.

"Once we bought it we were going to drive it,” he says. He keeps the 20-gallon gasoline tank topped off with the highest octane fuel he can find. The thirsty car delivers mileage of between 10 and 16 mpg.

"The grandkids like to ride in it,” Mason says. He is happy to accommodate them with trips to the local ice cream parlor.

"It's a very classic car,” he says, "truly a cruiser.”

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