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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Unique Ford Thunderbird 'Italien' concept

Even the Americans seemed enamored 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.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien Concept Car' heavily inspired by Italian design and done by its own team. (Picture from: https://bit.ly/2SzPvFI)
Initially, the Ford Thunderbird 'Italien Concept Car' was a styling study from Ford's Thunderbird styling department who actually built of the plywood bucked over which they sculpted the clay model of the roof in their own studios. Construction was done at Ford outsourcing contractor DTS where many other concept cars were built.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien Concept Car' appeared with a unique fastback roof and made of fiberglass and then chrome plated. (Picture from: https://bit.ly/2SzPvFI)
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 carburetor setup.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien Concept Car' beautified with an interior that is entirely covered with red genuine-leather to matches the exterior appearance which is painted in the same color. (Picture from: https://bit.ly/2SzPvFI)
According to documents from 1965, the space-age fastback should be scrapped, like many other show cars in the time. However, the car was sold then quickly sold again to movie and TV actor Dale Robertson. An he kept the car in Southern California for a short time before he gifted it to his gardener, William Warner, who owned it for several years before selling it to an Insurance Salesman named Joe Navaro in 1974.

Navaro repainted it metallic blue and drove it around LA for work. A noted Ford Collector, Don Chambers, recognized 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.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien Concept Car' featured the 390FE V8 with the unique M code T-Bird tri-power carburetor setup. (Picture from: https://bit.ly/2SzPvFI)
The car’s savior 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.

Maruska traveled 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 molding which Maruska tracks down to a Los Angeles body shop.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien Concept Car' had 72 coats of paint that required six applications of aircraft stripper to get down to the metal and fiberglass; all trim was restored. (Picture from: https://bit.ly/2SzPvFI)
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 molding was made of fiberglass 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 fiberglass; 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. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | MECUM | TRADEUNIQUECARS]
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