1961 Thunderbird Design Development

By Jim and Cheryl Farrell

This post had to be removed temporarily. It will be reposted at the end of March.


  1. Jay S

    The literature also talks about an Elwood Engel alternative for the ’61 which was rejected for the T-Bird but, at Bob McNamara’s suggestion and expanded to 4 doors, became the classic ’61 Lincoln.

  2. Marty Martino

    Wow , this would have out Cycloned Harley Earls swan song ,the Cadillac Cyclone concept !
    Interesting that Bill Mitchell clipped the fins on the Cyclone soon after he replaced Earl .
    Wonder who would have clipped them on the Bird ?

  3. Very easy to see where a lot of the design elements of the production car came from…
    Very neat…


    Dave Holls worked on the 1959 Cadillac and he told me that the fins were slightly higher than the roof when the car was shown to the GM Board of Directors. The studio knew that they would say lower the fins so they raised them to that height just before the show.

    I always preferred the 1960 version, my neigbor had a black convertible with a red interior and a white top. It was beautiful.


    It is amazing how cooler heads eventually prevail. That Thunderbird turned out to be a really beautiful car, one of my altime favorites, especially in turquoise.

  6. David McIntosh

    An Art Center professor once said “from the ridiculous to the sublime” (Solon). As a fan of the ’61 design, it looks like the Lincoln and T-bird both had some great direction to achieve the beautiful cars that were produced from those early creative but outrageous experiments. The whole industry dropped tall fins at the same time: the ’61 Chryslers, Mitchell’s ’61 GM turnaround from the fin era, ending the ‘Buck Rogers’ school of design for more sane, practical, and really much more beautiful, coherent designs.

  7. Norman Gaines Jr.

    1961 would have been very interesting with a Thunderbird that, in passenger-side profile, looked like a ’61 Cadillac shorn of its lower fins. Wonder how the design team would have fared after that? That the actual ’61-’63 became the last memorable Thunderbird is a tribute to the redesign of the original clay model. The Rocketbird ended up being a sensational combination of space-age shape with a touch of elegance. Too bad it wasn’t available with a manual transmission..

  8. Great to see the Thunderbird with the fins from the Nucleon and Palomar concepts, both by Powers out of Tremulis’ studio from five years earlier! Amazing that those fins had such longevity, even in clay. The final product was spectacular!

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

clear formSubmit