JFK's Ford Thunderbird convertible top
Image courtesy The Thunderbird Registry

In 1961, Ford updated the look of the Thunderbird to the more streamlined style that came to be known as the “Bullet Bird.”  This is the Thunderbird convertible top model that became synonymous with John F. Kennedy, starting with his inaugural parade. In fact, according to the Thunderbird Registry, there were 50 identical Thunderbird convertibles used in JFK’s inaugural parade.

These were a special, ultra-limited edition which were created by Ford specifically for the presidency. It was a somewhat self-congratulatory move, since one of Kennedy’s first acts as president was to appoint former Ford executive Robert McNamara to Secretary of Defense.) These 50 t-bird soft tops were called The Presidential Edition or the Mahogany Thunderbird Convertible. The identical cars were distinguished from other 1961 Thunderbird convertibles by their special paint color, never used before or since.

The cars were used by random participants in the inaugural parade, then were shipped back to Ford. From there, some of them were shipped out to service schools for mechanics to train on. (The vehicular version of donating your body to science.) Others were given to various Ford executives as company cars.

Needless to say, the remaining Presidential Thunderbirds are extremely rare. If you need a replacement Thunderbird convertible top, whether you have an ultra limited edition Presidential version or a regular Thunderbird, we offer a wide variety of styles, colors, and fabrics.