Tango Is the Most Extreme 1963 Ford Thunderbird to Ever Walk This Earth

I've said this before, and I'll say it every time I get the chance: the Ford Thunderbird is, in my book, the most beautiful car to roll out on American roads in the 1950s and 1960s. Sure, Ford's entry into the luxury car segment lasted for a lot longer than that, but it's those first two decades of its existence that keep captivating me to this day.
1963 Ford Thunderbird Tango 18 photos
Photo: Mecum
In all, the life of the Ford Thunderbird spanned half a century and eleven generations, briefly interrupted at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. Gen one and gen two, the cars made under this name between 1955 – 1957 and 1958 – 1960, respectively, are the pure definition of beauty for me.

That's probably because the Thunderbirds made during those years retained all the flowing lines and incredible details of the age's design, while at the same time coming across like a machine unlike anything the competition was doing.

The car that brought us here today is not part of these first two generations, but a member of the third (1961 - 1963). It was, if you will, a transition model that switched the Thunderbird design language from the style of the 1950s beauties into the more utilitarian, performance-oriented style of the muscle car era.

Starting with this model, round began to turn into square, flowing into edgy, and class into punch. Not ugly per se, the third-gen did mark a serious departure from what came before, not only from a design standpoint but also when it comes to the engine and other mechanical bits.

Whereas the first and second iterations of the model are quite common on collectors' lots and at auctions, the third one and beyond are somewhat more akin to exotic appearances. Especially when we're talking about a custom build as extreme as this one.

The car in this form is the work of someone named Rick Dore, one of the most potent names of the custom car industry ever since back in the 1990s, and a sort of TV personality thanks to Discovery Channel's Lords of the Car Hoards show. A specialist in roadsters, he really seems to have gone overboard with this Thunderbird here, one the world got to know over the years as the Tango.

There is still some 1963 Thunderbird left in there, but you can barely notice it hiding under the extremely modded body. And a heavily modified body is not something we get to see every day for this model.

A roof chopped by three inches was carefully lowered onto the rest of the metalwork, it too far from what it used to be back when it rolled off the factory floor.

Starting up front we see a 1961 Thunderbird hood that's been stretched and received a restyled scoop. It lowers itself into one of the most glamorous grilles a car from this family has ever seen, flanked on either side by headlights enclosed in custom frames.

Behind the grille and under the hood we're treated with extended fenders that fade into more pronounced doors with no handles. At the rear, the panels there received the same stretching treatment as the front fenders.

The look is completed by the simply stunning rear with a shaved trunk and rounder tail lights that look like the nozzles of jet engines – a nice exaggeration of a stock feature.

When all the bodywork was done with, the car was dressed in a powerful shade of orange called Tequilla Sunrise. It's a perfect contrast for the Italian Pearl White interior, it too dotted by patches of orange detailing.

This play between these two hues can be seen pretty much everywhere, from the bucket seats to the door panels and the dashboard to the rear bench. As a touch of uniqueness, the center console on the floor is doubled by a matching overhead one on the roof. A Panasonic stereo capable of holding ten CDs (if you still have such things in such a quantity lying around) sends music power to MTX amplifiers and speakers.

As impressive as this car is visually, as common it seems mechanically. The engine bay holds in its embrace a 390ci powerplant with an Edelbrock carburetor and undisclosed performance levels, running the Thunderbird's factory transmission.

The car's wheels are of Colorado Custom make and sized at a tiny 14 inches in diameter. They wear whitewall tires and are supported by an air suspension system. Leaf springs and 3-inch spindles complete the setup.

The 1963 Ford Thunderbird Tango is listed for sale as part of the Mecum Fall Special auction taking place in Indianapolis in early October. Presently included in the Schneider Garage Collection, it's going with an apparent and undisclosed reserve, but no mention as to how much it is expected to fetch.

Oh, and it also sells with a diecast model car mimicking the real deal, so that should be worth something as well.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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