1961 Ford Thunderbird

Indy Pace Car Convertible
Multiple records set at Mecum Indianapolis 2021
Friday, 14 May - Saturday, 22 May 2021
Sale Price
22 May 2021
Sold Date
Lot Number
Visually maintained
Mecum Auctions
Auction House
Chassis no. 1Y73Z137951, Indy 500 Golden Anniversary Gold with pace Car graphics over black vinyl, 390/300hp, automatic, wheel covers, whitewalls, fender skirts, console, power steering, power brakes, power windows, factory AM radio.

Evaluation: Represented as one of 34 T-Birds sent to the 1961 Indy 500 as a “festival car” (cars used in the parade and to ferry people around before the race) and one of four known to still exist. Finished in special paint not available on the normal T-Bird. Older, possibly original chrome showing light scratches. Repainted at some point, but now showing plenty of touch ups and scratches. The panel alignment around the tonneau is uneven and the doors stick out a tiny bit. Paint flaking off the wheels. Good, largely original interior with the signature swing-away steering wheel. Unrestored but tidy underneath. Not treated as a precious collector’s item given the mileage (70,599 showing) and the wear and tear, but a very rare genuine event car used at the race’s golden anniversary, and this is certainly the right town to bring it to for sale.

Bottom Line: 1961 was a big year for the Thunderbird. It was the debut of the third generation “Bullet Bird,” Kennedy’s inaugural parade used 50 Thunderbird convertibles, and a gold Thunderbird served as pace car for the Indy 500’s 50th anniversary race. But being such a rare Indy 500 festival car selling in Indy didn’t translate to big bucks here. It’s a modest result, all things considered, and the car would have had a lot more bidders eyeing it had it been properly restored.

by Andrew Newton
29 May 2021
A story about


  • Scott C. AKA 61BULLET says:

    That’s the going rate for any unrestored 61 thunderbird convertible. Has she been a pace car, different story altogether.

  • Zachary says:

    No IT was NOT!!! It was totaled in 1969. 18 wheeler doing a WIDE U-
    Turn ran over it on Irving Blvd in Dallas.. need to check the VIN. My family owned it.. had A J Foyt’s name on papers once the glove box. And on stickers under the good.. Oil and an embossed sticker with his name imprinted on it. It was a lite metal flake gold over beige paint (not classy to not strip it down to metal for the repaint) with beige interior.. not white. I have some photos of it somewhere. Contact me if you want more info.

    Insurance company (?? Don’t remember name but should come to me) wouldnt let me have it.. even offered to pay for it. Said TOTALED.

    • Zachary says:

      ok.. I stand corrected.. I didn’t know they had duplicate pace cars.. but the one we owned was THE Pace Car A J Foyt won at the race.. He had it in Houston and we purchased it at a used car lot on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas.

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