The Cappy Collection M Roadster




Jerry Capizzi's Cappy Collection

Saturday, November 11, 2006

1963 Ford Thunderbird "M" Roadster

LOT: 317



$125,000-$150,000 US

Chassis No. 3Y89M100215

Offered Without Reserve

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $192,500


 One of only 37 built, this California example is not only equipped with every available option, but it has been restored to Concourse condition and has earned National Best of Show and AACA Senior Grand National Awards.

340bhp, 390cu. in. “M”-Code overhead valve V8, three two-barrel Holley carburetors, three-speed automatic transmission, front independent and rear leaf-spring suspension, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 113"

Legend has it that the inspiration for the Thunderbird was born in October of 1951 while Ford Division general manager Lewis Crusoe and styling consultant George Walker were visiting the Paris Auto Salon. Like most Americans, the two gentlemen were taken aback by the curvaceous European sports cars they saw there, especially the Jaguar XK120. However it was not until they came upon GM’s experimental two-seater Le-Sabre that Crusoe asked the obvious question “Why don’t we have something like that?” Walker without hesitation replied, “Oh, but we do!” At which point he kindly excused himself to call his crew in Dearborn to begin work on a two-seater concept… one that would eventually become the Thunderbird.

However charming the story may be, it is nothing more than myth. In reality, Ford had been experimenting with two-seater and roadster concepts of the sports car genre since the late 1940s. However, the sports car market represented a grand total of 0.27% of the total American market in 1951, a market simply not large enough to justify a Ford contribution. All that would change just two years later when Chevrolet unveiled the Corvette to the world. A sales success and a halo-car for Chevrolet, Ford clearly saw the gauntlet had been thrown, and within a month work began on what would become the Thunderbird.

Recognizing the limitations of the American Sports car market, the Thunderbird was throughout its existence designed to be a “personal car” and never a pure bred sports car. A perfect blend of European style and American comfort, reliability and performance, the Thunderbird in its first year outsold the Corvette by nearly a 24 to 1 margin. Over the ensuing years, the Thunderbird would evolve as a succession of variations were introduced. After the first generation, the Thunderbird was only offered as a two-door four-passenger vehicle. This opened up a greater market of potential buyers while at the same time disappointed many roadster enthusiasts. As Ford fielded complaint letters urging them to bring back the two-seater, they simply could not ignore the ever-increasing sales each iteration of the Thunderbird design earned.

After complaining about the loss of their beloved roadster in the second generation Thunderbird, many expected that their voice had been heard at Dearborn. However, when the third generation Thunderbird was introduced once again as a four-passenger vehicle, the roadster purists were beside themselves with discontent. Lee A. Iacocca, then Ford Division chief, was tired of hearing dealer complaints and put designer Bud Kaufman in charge of deriving a solution. Kaufman came up with a fiberglass tonneau that perfectly concealed the Thunderbird convertible’s rear seats while integrating a headrest for the front seats.

Conveniently, the convertible top could be raised with the tonneau cover inplace.

Available as a dealer installed item, the tonneau cover was made available near the end of first year production. Sales of the tonneau cover were so promising that Iacocca asked Kaufman to have a Sports Roadster variant of the Thunderbird ready in time for introduction as a 1962 model year car. The Thunderbird Sports Roadster package consisted of Kaufman’s tonneau cover, a passenger side grab bar, Kelsey Hayes wire wheels with knock off centers, which caused the elimination of the rear fender skirts due to insufficient clearance.

The 1963 Thunderbird Sports Roadster presented here is an extremely rare car because it is the first of only 37 Sports Roadster produced with the high-performance “M”-Code engine. This special engine featured three two-barrel Holley carburetors enabling the 10.5:1 high compression 390 cu. in. V8 engine to produce an impressive 340 horsepower.

In addition to the very rare engine, this rust-free Thunderbird, originally from California, is fitted with every single convenience option offered in 1963 which included factory air conditioning, leather upholstery, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seat, power door locks, the rare rotunda tachometer, windshield washers, tinted glass and seatbelts.

The Sports Roadster was treated to an extensive concours quality restoration. Attempting perfection in both workmanship and authenticity during the restoration, the Thunderbird succeeded in achieving both as demonstrated by its results at VTCI and AACA events. Winning not only standard judging awards, the uniqueness of the Thunderbird earned it several specialty awards such as the VTCI Larry Seyfarth Best of Show Award, the AACA Bomgardner Award for Best 1942 or Newer Restoration, and two AACA Preservation Awards.

Today the triple black Sports Roadster displays a condition worthy of the show field. It is a standout constituent of the Cappy Collection which is, in itself, a tremendous feat.

Show Results

1st Place

Larry Seyfarth Best of Show Award

1994 VTCI International Convention

Tampa, FL

1st Place Junior

1995 AACA Central Spring Meet

Waukeshaw, WI

1st Place Senior & Best of Show

1995 VTCI Regionals

Carlisle, PA

1st Place Senior

1995 AACA National Fall Meet

Hershey, PA

Bomgardner Award

(Best 1942 or Newer Restoration)

1996 AACA Annual Meeting

Philadelphia, PA

1st Place Grand National

& Preservation Award

1996 AACA Grand National

Huntsville, AL

Senior Grand National

1997 AACA Grand National

Cedar Falls, IA

Preservation Award

1997 Central Division National Fall Meet

Cedar Falls, IA



  1. 1.On the auction floor

  2. 2.Engine Compartment

  3. 3.PCV and throttle connections