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
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  • 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.

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Condition definitions
Condition #1: Concours
Condition #1 vehicles are the best in the world. The visual image is of the best vehicle, in the right colors, driving onto the lawn at the finest concours. Perfectly clean, the vehicle has been groomed down to the tire treads. Painted and chromed surfaces are mirror-like. Dust and dirt are banned, and materials used are correct and superbly fitted. The one word description for #1 vehicles is “concours.“
Condition #2: Excellent
#2 vehicles could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1 vehicles that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws, but will be able to find some not seen by the general public. The paint, chrome, glass and finishes will all appear as excellent. No excessive smoke will be seen on startup, no unusual noises will emanate from the engine. The vehicle will drive as a new vehicle of its era would. The one word description for #2 vehicles is “excellent.“
Condition #3: Good
#3 vehicles could possess some, but not all of the issues of a #4 vehicle, but they will be balanced by other factors such as a fresh paint job or a new, correct interior where applicable. #3 vehicles drive and run well, but might have some incorrect parts. These vehicles are not used for daily transportation but are ready for a long tour without excuses, and the casual passerby will not find any visual flaws. “Good” is the one word description of a #3 vehicle.
Condition #4: Fair
#4 vehicles are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped. Paintwork is imperfect, and perhaps the body has a minor dent. Split seams or a cracked dash, where applicable, might be present. No major parts are missing, but the wheels could differ from the originals, or other non- stock additions might be present. A #4 vehicle can also be a deteriorated restoration. “Fair” is the one word that describes a #4 vehicle.
Condition #5: Poor
Running, but battered, incomplete, and perhaps rusty.
Condition #6: Parts car
Parts car.
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