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Part 3, Assembling the Danbury Mint 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster

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Pete Rovero
(@pete-rovero)
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First, a little history…

Ford produced 1,427 Thunderbird Sports Roadsters in the 1962 model year. The Sports Roadster was initially available in 7 different colors, an eighth one was added in early 1962.  Color choices were:

Corinthian White, Rangoon Red, Raven Black, Chestnut, Diamond Blue, Silver Mink, and Sandshell Beige. Castilian Gold was the late addition.

The most popular color combination was Rangoon Red with Black vinyl interior.  Nearly all of the first 465 Sports Roadsters produced were built in this color combination with the exception of four, which all had red interiors.  I couldn’t find a production breakout by color, but the least popular color according to sources on the web was Diamond Blue with only a handful produced.  This color was exclusive in 1962 to the Thunderbird and the Lincoln Continental (as Platinum) and not available on any other Ford Motor Company product.

VintageThunderbirdClub.net did a color survey of their registered cars in 2010 with the following results:

IMG 7084

Forty-seven percent of the total production of Sports Roadsters was represented, a substantial amount considering the age of the car!

Just 455 1963 Sports Roadsters were produced.  The total number of Sports Roadsters produced over the two model years was 1,882 making these cars rare and collectible today.

 …and a personal Sports Roadster Story

Flashback to 1963.   I was 8 years old and had been building model cars on my own for a little over a year.  The Sprouse-Reitz Five and Dime store in the local shopping center was having a model car contest and I really wanted to enter.  Part of the requirements of the contest is that you had to buy your model kit at the store and enter it at the time of purchase.  My mom, being the supportive stay-at-home mother that she was, took me (and dragged my two sisters) to the store. Using my allowance that I saved up, I purchased an AMT ‘63 Ford Fairlane kit as my entry.  I wanted to paint it candy apple red over a gold base coat, so we got the spray paint and I was left to my own devices.  Well, things didn’t work out very well with the spray paint and I ended up making a mess out of the Fairlane.   It definitely was not suitable to enter into a model car contest. OK, back to the Five and Dime with Mom.  She agreed to pay the $1.98 for the replacement model kit (I must have begged, cried, or something) and we came out with a  ’63 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster kit.  I wasn’t going try spray painting again,  that was too risky, so I decided to paint it the best way I knew how:  with a small model brush. I painted it red with black interior, a rather lumpy paint job if I recall, but I thought it looked great.  Once finished, we took it back to Sprouse-Reitz as my official entry into the contest.  All of the models were displayed in the front window for about a month for all who passed by the store to see.  I loved going by the store and was excited to see my Thunderbird in the window with all of the other models.  Needless to say, I didn’t win, but it was a great experience and one reason why the Sports Roadster is special to me.  This is all that remains of my contest entry 58 years later:

IMG 7127

 

OK, back to the present!  Let’s get this Sports Roadster back together.

Our subject Thunderbird Sports Roadster will be dressed in Color code T, Sandshell Beige, with a combination Light Pearl Beige/Medium Beige/bronze metallic interior.  I initially thought that this exterior color would be boring—certainly not an exciting sports car color.  And while it’s not sporty, it definitely is not boring.  In fact, it looks quite elegant and changes the whole demeanor of the car.

When we left off, the body was stripped of its Corinthian White paint.

IMG 9796

 

Body and panels scuffed with a 3M super fine finishing pad and ready for primer sealer and color coat

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IMG 6641

 

I don’t have pics of the primer coat, but below is the body in color coat. Color is PPG water base with a urethane clear coat.

IMG 6609

Mocked up assembly

IMG 6610

 

Due to the way the panels are painted their undersides have to be painted once they have fully dried, usually one or two days later.  Here, the undersides are prepped and masked off, ready for color as well as the chassis engine compartment.

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In color:

IMG 6616

 

Trunk area masked and painted:

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Underside of hood painted

IMG 6627

 

Radiator shroud and support mounted in place

IMG 6628

 

Trunk panel going together

IMG 6617
IMG 6618

I use Gorilla Super Glue to attach the plastic hinge pieces to the trunk lid and for all trim pieces.  I like it because it’s not a gel and has a small tip.

GorillaSuperGlue

 

Next up:  Chassis and interior paint and assembly

The Sports Roadster’s interior floor pan is all plastic, no “funny fur” carpeting, so this makes thing a little easier. The simulated carpeting is textured plastic.

IMG 5168 (2)

 

This Bird’s interior will have black floor mats and medium beige carpeting.  The area is first scuffed with a 3M superfine pad to aid in paint adhesion.  Then the floor area is sprayed with flat black lacquer.  Flat black has just the right amount of sheen to it.  Semigloss is too glossy.  I like lacquer because it dries much faster than enamel.

IMG 6629

 

Once dry, the floor mats are masked off with 3M edging tape.  It’s thinner than regular masking tape and cuts easily with and x-acto knife.

IMG 6630

 

Next, the medium beige flat vinyl paint is applied.  I paint the interior cowl portion of the chassis at the same time.  This requires a bit of masking.

IMG 6631

 

Here,  the chassis is partially assembled with the down top in place.

IMG 6634

 

Next, the seats, head rests, door panels, quarter panels, console, dash, and sun visors are ready for paint after scuffing and cleaning. I tape these parts to paint sticks so I can hold them and get good paint coverage. If you tried painting them on a flat surface without tape the air pressure from the paint gun blows them all over the place.  Not good! Water base vinyl paint will also be used on these parts.   The color that I had mixed was too dark so I mixed in some white get the proper tone to match light pearl beige.

IMG 6638

 

All painted.  The cushion side of the front seat backs and console lid are painted after the backs dry since I’m unable to paint both sides at the same time.

IMG 6639

 

I mentioned earlier that the interior would have metallic bronze accents.  This color will be on the tops of the door panels, quarter panels, back seat and dash.  Masked and painted:

IMG 6642
IMG 6643

 

The unmasking:

IMG 6644

 

Doors, quarter panels, and dash assembled:

IMG 6646
IMG 6647

 

Seat cushion frames and seat backs installed in interior floor pan

IMG 6645

 

Finished interior

IMG 6648

 

…and installed in chassis.  Rear seat back will be installed during final assembly.  Steering shaft and pinion are installed in the steering rack.  Engine compartment accessories installed.  Engine assembly will slip in and be screwed in from below.  You can see the engine mounting holes between the shock towers.

IMG 6650

 

Convertible top painted with white vinyl paint.  I tinted the white with a hint of beige so the top will blend better with the car body, rather than having a stark white top.

IMG 6657

Assembled top:

IMG 7120

 

Once the chassis is assembled, it’s just a matter of assembling the windshield, hood, trunk, and doors in the reverse of order of how they were removed.  Reattach the interior quarter panel pieces.  Open the doors.  **Very important:  The doors must be open before attaching the chassis or the dash may be damaged**.Place the front bumper in position and mate the finished chassis to the body using the six screws removed earlier. From the underside, two in front that hold the front bumper in place and two in the rear where the mufflers are.  Reattach the mufflers. Turning the SR over, the upper body is secured with the two small screws behind the rear seatback.    Trunk panel is attached next with the two screws at the rear of the car.  Attach the rear bumper with the screw behind the license plate.  Glue in the rear seat back.

A little refresher on attaching points:

IMG 6751 LI
IMG 6744 LI (2)
IMG 6746 LI

 

I didn’t take pictures of the trim going on the body, but it’s fairly straight forward.  I use the Gorilla Super Glue on a toothpick to apply on the body, and using tweezers or my hands, affix the trim in place.  It’s helpful to use masking tape around the trim areas before applying the glue to prevent it from getting on the adjacent paint.

IMG 7118
IMG 7119

 

The last thing:  Attaching emblem decals

I make my own decals using images I find on the internet.  I save them as jpegs, reduce them to the proper size, and print them on clear waterslide decal paper.  My printer doesn’t have the ability to print white or silver, so “chrome” prints as black or gray, depending on the image.

IMG 7121

And that’s all there is to it!

Finished product below:

 

IMG 6695
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IMG 6697
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IMG 6702
IMG 6707
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IMG 6705
IMG 6706
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IMG 6709
IMG 7131
IMG 7132

100Ford2003, David Green, Allan Ording and 21 people reacted
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GreatMachines
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Fantastic Job! 👍👍Thanks Pete!


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John Merritt
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WOW 🤩 

John Merritt
South Lyon, Michigan - USA


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Tony Perrone
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AWESOME!!            Cool  


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john barry
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Your series on this Bird is an absolute MASTERWORK Pete......this segment in particular could offered as example to many bodyshops across the country

.................thank you for the countless hours it had to take to assemble this 


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Bob Jackman
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Pete your work is fantastic. As the owner of a 1/1 1963 Sports Roadster which I restored over a 4 1/2 year period, I viewed your post with particular interest. Your pictures pointed out something I hadn't noticed on the model and that is the inside mirror. The model shows the mirror hanging down from the windshield header which is wrong. Why is this important? The 61-63 Thunderbirds were the first cars ever to glue the mirrors directly to the windshield. As a side note, the Castilian Gold Met in 1962 became Champaigne in 1963 which is the color of my 1/1. The interior of mine is black along with the top. As I recall you did one of your models in this color combination. Thanks for the special, to me, tutorial.


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John Napoli
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Pete, that is just a masterpiece.  Thank you for sharing your expertise.  Tell me though, how long did the total rebuild take?


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Chav
 Chav
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Great story and awesome tutorial Pete!


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Jack Dodds
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Amazing work!  Your modelling skills and attention to detail are just outstanding.


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Pete Rovero
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Posted by: @bob-jackman

Pete your work is fantastic. As the owner of a 1/1 1963 Sports Roadster which I restored over a 4 1/2 year period, I viewed your post with particular interest. Your pictures pointed out something I hadn't noticed on the model and that is the inside mirror. The model shows the mirror hanging down from the windshield header which is wrong. Why is this important? The 61-63 Thunderbirds were the first cars ever to glue the mirrors directly to the windshield.

Thanks Bob.  You are absolutely right about the mirror.  I believe the '61 Continental shares the honor with the Thunderbird, since both were built on the same line at the Wixom assembly plant.  I had a '65 Continental sedan and its mirror was glued to the windshield as well. Funny, but the mirror never fell off the windshield, unlike the '98 F150 I had that seemed to fall at least once a year! You have a beautiful Bird, also my favorite of the three.  It's too bad that DM didn't complete the trio.


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Pete Rovero
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@john-barry

Thanks JB, I was way up past my bed time trying to get this posted. 


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Pete Rovero
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Posted by: @carsman1958

Pete, that is just a masterpiece.  Thank you for sharing your expertise.  Tell me though, how long did the total rebuild take?

John, Thanks, this one took between 3-4 weeks from start to finish.  


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Pete Rovero
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Thanks gentlemen!  I hope this inspires you to buy a cheap diecast and make it your own!


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Rich Sufficool
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@pete-rovero or I can buy a cheap diecast and let you do it! LOL Very nice work. I like the period color combo.


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100Ford2003
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I love your craftsmanship Pete !  And thanks for the time you took to share your SR build with us.


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