Thunderbird reminiscent of youthful 1960s

  • 1960 Ford Thunderbird

    1960 Ford Thunderbird Courtesy of Prestige MotorCar Photography

  • As a young man, Dennis Roxworthy of Elgin would admittedly drive a little too fast in his father's 1961 Thunderbird.

    As a young man, Dennis Roxworthy of Elgin would admittedly drive a little too fast in his father's 1961 Thunderbird.

  • The factory-correct Acapulco Blue paint and the long, low row of taillights leaves a lasting impression.

    The factory-correct Acapulco Blue paint and the long, low row of taillights leaves a lasting impression.

  • Roxworthy also acquired some early photos of the Thunderbird he purchased in 2004.

    Roxworthy also acquired some early photos of the Thunderbird he purchased in 2004.

  • The fluid lines seen on the exterior of the Ford were carried through in the design of the interior, Roxworthy said.

    The fluid lines seen on the exterior of the Ford were carried through in the design of the interior, Roxworthy said.

  • The Thunderbird's 352-cubic-inch V-8 has been rebuilt. It is mated to a Cruise-O-Matic three-speed transmission.

    The Thunderbird's 352-cubic-inch V-8 has been rebuilt. It is mated to a Cruise-O-Matic three-speed transmission.

 
 
Posted12/15/2014 6:00 AM

Dennis Roxworthy has his mother to thank for his extreme love of Thunderbirds. His father was a staunch supporter of practical family transportation but she wouldn't allow the purchase of anything unless it was sporty.

"Dad always wanted a station wagon but she hated them," the Elgin resident said. "She wanted to have fun while driving."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Roxworthy's mother passed away in 1960. Shortly thereafter, Roxworthy's father headed to Conlon-Collins Ford in Crystal Lake to get the vehicle he'd always wanted.

"He went in to buy a new 1961 Squire Wagon. Mom would have rolled over in her grave if she knew."

Fortunately, Roxworthy and his brother accompanied dad and steered him toward a vehicle that allowed for a livelier behind-the-wheel experience.

"In the back of the dealer lot were two 1960 Thunderbirds parked side by side," Roxworthy recalls. His brother needed transportation and nabbed one of them. With one already coming home, the scheming boys talked their father into buying the other while opting to leave out one important detail.

"He didn't know it had the police package," Roxworthy said. "Even before we left the lot, my brother and I were figuring out how to get the car away from Dad so we could drive it."

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That power package meant dad's ride had the standard 352-cubic-inch V-8 engine, but it was paired with a bigger camshaft and a lower rear-end differential. "The thing would just scream out of the gate," Roxworthy said.

He speaks from experience. Roxworthy took advantage of some seat time to exercise his right foot.

"I got my first speeding ticket leaving the Dog 'N Suds in Barrington. Another time I wanted to see what it would do if I gave it all it had. I hit triple-digit speeds and I started seeing the fenders shaking, so I backed off."

As the leadfoot aged, he curbed his speed-demon tendencies, and courted his late wife in the family T-Bird.

Roxworthy first came across this 1960 Thunderbird hardtop while attending a car show in St. Charles at the county fairgrounds in 1983. Years later he ran across a classified ad and immediately recognized it as the same vehicle. His purchase soon followed in 2004.

"The car was specially ordered new by a doctor in Naperville for his wife. She never drove it so it sat in the garage," he said.

The second owner purchased it in 1963 and reserved it for summertime drives only. A light 70,000 miles were accumulated over the next several decades. Along the way the 352-cubic-inch V-8 FE block was rebuilt, along with the Cruise-O-Matic three-speed transmission. For added safety, bias-ply tires were installed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In 2003 the body had been taken all the way down to bare metal and given a repaint, retaining the factory Acapulco Blue paint. Inside the beige interior cabin, you'll find leather upholstery, power brakes, power windows, power seats and an optional AM radio.

"It drives fabulously. It's a real good road car. You can hit 100 miles per hour without any effort."

While Roxworthy is a big fan of keeping his T-Bird in motion, the car has him swooning even while it stands still.

"The flowing design is so elegant and carries throughout the entire car," he said. "It's evident through the flared fenders, hood scoop, the way the trunk is sculptured and even the console and dash."

Roxworthy's father, despite being hoodwinked into his T-Bird purchase, eventually came around to adore his high-performance Ford.

"Dad soon loved his Thunderbird. I'm sure he would have loved this one too -- even if it isn't as fast."

• Email comments, suggestions to auto@dailyherald.com.

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