Custom T-Bird (1968)

  The Ford Thunderbird or "T-Bird" is as cool as the name sounds!  For over 50 years, T-Birds have been cruising the streets, starting in the mid 1950s with the classic '55 and '57 models, and more recently as the newest "retro" version, re-introduced in 2003.


Mattel decided to include the 1967 Custom T-Bird as one of the original 16 Hot Wheels castings, although it was considered a bit of an "ugly step child" to other Ford cars at the time.  In fact, the 1967 T-Bird was neither a muscle car nor a luxury car and never really found a niche with buyers, especially after the incredible styles of the '50s.  Nevertheless, Mattel did justice to the casting; in some ways, the Hot Wheels version of the car looks even better than the original full-size version, with its elongated California Custom look.

A green US Custom T-Bird.

The Custom T-Bird was made in both Hong Kong and the United States, and shared many attributes with the other fifteen cars produced that year, such as a hood that opens, a metal chassis, and a plastic interior.

A gold HK Custom T-Bird (L) and a red US Custom T-Bird (R).

The Hong Kong (HK) version had black-painted roofs, blue-tinted plastic windshields, a stamped detailed base showing a gas tank and exhaust with side pipes, four square holes (typical of all HK-made castings) showing the suspension wire for the wheels, and no dashboard. This casting came with various color interiors and a black steering wheel sticking through the interior.  The Hong Kong version also had wider taillights on the back panel and an unpainted larger front grille. The earliest Hong Kong cars had deep-dish wheels all around and 5-spoke chrome mag redline bearing wheels. The earliest known casting colors came in either gold or aqua with a black roof and dark interior.

A creamy pink HK Custom T-Bird.

Front and rear views of a copper HK Custom T-Bird.

The United States (US) version came in both black-painted and non-black roof variations, had clear plastic windshields, white or dark interiors with matching color steering wheel, a flat, less detailed stamped base with side pipes, and silver painted regular 5-spoke redline bearing wheels. Also note that the cowl on the US version has a larger gap between it and the hood than the Hong Kong version, and the front grille is painted black.

Above and below: a very rare olive US Custom T-Bird.

Some black roof variations are hard to find, such as the red US casting with a black roof.

A red US Custom T-Bird with black roof.

The US T-Bird can be found without the black roof in red, purple, green, antifreeze, and gold.  The gold is a rare store display (SD) model and is well known for its beautiful “honey gold” color and white interior.

"No Black Roof" Custom T-Birds in red (L) and antifreeze (R).

Gold US Custom T-Birds such as this one were only found in Mattel store displays.

Another variation of the US casting is the "door line" (DL) and "trunk line" (TL) variation.  If you look closely at some T-Birds, you can see the raised outline of doors on the side of the car, and the trunk also has more defined lines than most castings.  No one knows for sure, but all evidence points to the fact that these cars likely were manufactured using a body that represents a transition from the original T-Bird casting to the 1970 "Spoilers" series TNT-Bird.  Probably late in 1969, these modified US bodies were assembled with the standard Custom T-Bird chassis and interior parts, and packaged along with regular production T-Birds. The door line variation of the Custom T-Bird differs from the Custom Firebird DL variation in that the T-Bird door line occurs closer to 1 in 500 cars, compared to the Firebird variation, which is approximately 1 in 100.  The DL T-Bird is thus fairly rare and has only been seen in gold, aqua, and the very rare antifreeze (only a few are known).

A rare "door line" Custom T-Bird in antifreeze.

Color chart

blue common
gold uncommon
purple uncommon
antifreeze hard to find
antifreeze w/o black roof hard to find
aqua w/o black roof hard to find
blue w/o black roof hard to find
green hard to find
green w/o black roof hard to find
purple w/o black roof hard to find
red w/o black roof hard to find
gold w/o black roof (dark interior) rare
ice blue
aqua w/doorlines rare
gold w/doorlines rare
creamy pink
very rare (does it exist?)
very rare
antifreeze w/doorlines
very rare
gold w/o black roof (white interior)
very rare; store display
common; some have deep dish wheels
common; some have deep dish wheels
ice blue
creamy pink
green hard to find
purple rare

A gold "door line" Custom T-Bird.

An orange US Custom T-Bird.
Photo courtesy of Bob Case,

An extremely rare gold-over-chrome Custom T-Bird!  Only a few of these cars exist.

An "unspun" prototype Custom T-Bird.

An unassembled and unpainted prototype.

An unpainted prototype Custom T-Bird with door lines!

Left and right: antifreeze US Custom T-Birds with and without black roofs.
Photo courtesy of Bob Case,

An ice blue US Custom T-Bird.

A red US Custom T-Bird in a Strip Action set box!

A rare variation: a gold US Custom T-Bird with dark interior and no black roof.

A red HK Custom T-Bird.

Here's an oddity: a prototype gas engine-powered Custom T-Bird!

Photo & info credits: Curtis Paul & Bruce Pascal

Additional photo credits: the Redlines Online community


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