Unique 1963 Ford Thunderbird ‘Italien’ concept for sale!

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

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Thunderbird Italien front quarter Thunderbird Italien front quarter
Thunderbird Italien rear quarter Thunderbird Italien rear quarter
Thunderbird Italien side profile Thunderbird Italien side profile
Thunderbird Italien interior Thunderbird Italien interior
Thunderbird Italien engine Thunderbird Italien engine
Thunderbird Italien boot Thunderbird Italien boot
Thunderbird Italien undercarriage Thunderbird Italien undercarriage
Thunderbird Italien front quarter period Thunderbird Italien front quarter period

Truly one-of-a-kind concept car up for grabs, but it doesn't come cheap

Even the Americans seemed enamoured by Italian design of the 60s, with all of the Big Three at the time flirting with lines penned from storied Italian design-houses like Ghia and Pininfarina.

While Chrysler enlisted Ghia for a number of limited edition models, Ford decided to have a go at penning an Italian-inspired swoopy coupe themselves.

The notion of a fastback Thunderbird had been floating around for some time, with a number of sketches being penned before the final design and construction.

Thunderbird-Italien-rear-quarter.jpg

The result was this gorgeous ’63 Thunderbird ‘Italien’ concept car with a unique fastback roof. Heavily inspired by Italian design, through a concertedly American lens; the car featured the much-loved 390FE V8 with the unique M code T-Bird tri-power carburettor setup. The car's now for sale, for a cool AU$1 million dollars on Hemmings’ classifieds.

According to documents from 1965, the space-age fastback was sledged to be scrapped – like many show cars – however the car was sold then quickly sold again to movie and TV actor Dale Robertson.

Robertson kept the car in Southern California for a short time before he gifted it to his gardner, William Warner, who owned it for several years before selling it to an Insurance Salesman named Joe Navaro in 1974.

Thunderbird-Italien-front-quarter-period.jpg

Navaro repainted it metallic blue and drove it around LA for work. A noted Ford Collector, Don Chambers, recognised the car and tried to buy it for years. Navaro was steadfast but Chambers eventually acquired the vehicle, registering it in 1989.

By this time, the car had degraded after years in the sun. Chambers held on to the car until 2005 when he sold it due to health reasons.

The car’s saviour came in the form of Tom Maruska, a noted ‘Bullet Bird’ specialist who had already had 15 restorations under his belt. Maruska is also a noted restorer of rare concept cars; with the Mercury XM-800 concept already under his belt, and the Mercury Turnpike concept still in the works.

Thunderbird-Italien-engine.jpg

Maruska travelled to LA from his home in Duluth Minnesota; struck a deal and shipped the car back to his shop in February 2006.

The body was largely undamaged and rust free thanks to a life in Southern California. It was mostly complete save for some of the moulding which Maruska track down to a Los Angeles body shop.

Thunderbird-Italien-boot.jpg

Maruska stated that: "the story goes that somewhere in the past, the piece was removed by a repairman and kept as collateral because the owner at the time, most likely Dale Robertson’s gardener, didn’t have the funds available to pay for the repairs".

The rare and unique piece of moulding was made of fibreglass and then chrome plated; the owner of the LA shop wanted US$10,000 for it, so Marsuka passed and instead recreated his own exacting piece by hand-turning one single piece of metal.

The car had 72 coats of paint that required six applications of aircraft stripper to get down to the metal and fibreglass; all trim was restored, with Maruska reupholstering the vehicle by hand. The Plexiglass rear and quarter windows were restored by a specialist and every nut and bolt was returned to better-than-factory condition.

By August 2007, the car was completed. It later sold at Barrett-Jackson’s 2008 Scottsdale auction to the sum of AU$938,600.

The car is now on sale via Hemmings’ classifieds, advertised for a touch over AU$1 million.

 

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