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Thread: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

  1. #1
    Senior Member auburnseeker's Avatar
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    How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    I'm currently looking at a mostly restored 1959 Thunderbird Convertible. I have heard in the past that a coupe can be turned into a convertible relatively cleanly and they are hard to tell from a real convertible. I've had a 57 and a 61 Tbird Convertible. This will be my First squarebird.
    Can anyone tell me what to look for to verify this is a real convertible? Thanks for any help, Randy

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    What you are saying is news to me. I think it would take a substantial amount of work and parts to turn a hardtop into a convertible. The covertible setup is very similar to the 1957-59 Ford retractable hardtop, which had some very complex wiring. I think what you have heard is about cars that have had the top chopped off to make a convertible for cruising, with no convertible top at all, just some sort of tonneau cover. I think Chip Foose did it on his show one time, but with a 65 T-Bird.

    Anyway, the patent plate should show the correct body style for a covertible. The body type should be 76A. If it isn't, then you have a bogus convertible.
    Lew Bachman
    1957 Thunderbird

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    Senior Member auburnseeker's Avatar
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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    Thanks for the input. I just remember I believe it was on ebay a couple of cars that looked every part convertible to me complete with all the correct parts and matching patina on everything members were arguing back and forth as to wether they were a converted coupe or a real convertible. I didn't think it would be real easy to convert one but with everything that is out there today I just wanted to be sure I was getting a genuine convertible. I didn't want to find out after I bought it that it was really a Coupe. I know there are some real good body men out there that can do some pretty amazing stufff.

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    There are situations where coupes have been made into convertibles, but they are mostly high end cars (Ferraris) where the "sypder" model is very rare and hugely expensive and the coupe is more available. The T-Bird convertible is certainly not rare, so there would be much less demand to do it.

    As long as the car you are looking at has the correct patent plate and all the correct parts it is most likely an original car. Of course, be sure when you look at the car that all of the panels match, with correct gaps between panels, and that the doors close properly with the top down and the car on an uneven surface. If they don't it probably won't be a good candidate to buy.
    Lew Bachman
    1957 Thunderbird

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    As the SquareBirds were "unibody" vehicles, I would suspect a production convertible would need some sort of additional floorpan bracing which a coupe would not need.

    All things considered, if a SquareBird convertible was so far gone that all that was salvageable was the top and associated mechanisms, I suspect it would be a very unusual situation.

    Regards,
    NTX5467

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    I had just heard it reported that others that it had been done. I wanted to be sure I wasn't buying one of those. Obviously it's enough money to plunk down. I think it's a real convert. I just don't want to be taken and wanted to know if there was a tell tale that the car could have been a coupe. If it's a conversion it has me fooled. it probably isn't. Just something that popped into my mind from memory after I looked the car all over and left.

  7. #7

    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    I've seen squarebirds converted, and if it is done right, it takes someone with intimate knowledge of the convertible's construction to tell the difference. There is no one clue that will tell, rather it is a series of clues that will provide a clear picture of the conversion.
    There are some that are easy to detect, the 'Parade Convertible' comes to mind where the top is merely removed and little or none of the convertible mouldings are evident. These have no top frame. The more elaborate have an operating top frame and show a high degree of craftsmanship where top brackets and quarter window surrounds are welded to resemble factory production. Sometimes these conversions are a better solution than a rusted patched true convertible.
    Carl

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    That's what I was wondering. I had heard it had been done. This one looks and feels every part an original factory convertible. Factory convertible mechanism, correct decklid with flip panel. convertible header panel above windhield with all correct parts and the top and windows all work real well. It even has the correct latch system for locking down the decklid. If it was a conversion it was done using a good conmvertible to start so being the car isn't that rare or really valuable I doubt it's converted. I just wanted to be sure.

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    Does it have the correct patent plate with body style 76A? That is the starting point for all of this discussion.
    Lew Bachman
    1957 Thunderbird

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    Senior Member mt65riv's Avatar
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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    There are differences... here is an article that should help with those differences.

    http://users.wpi.edu/~goulet/TBird/S...ameDifferences
    Mike

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    I still stand by my original assessment about converting a hardtop to a convertible, it just does not make much sense since these cars are hardly rare. Now, on the other hand, taking a hardtop and a softop car (both in rough shape) and cannibalizing one to make a solid second car makes more sense. To guard against that situation, I would try to find out where Ford stamped the serial numbers on the body and make sure that they match the patent plate. I guess a patent plate could be "forged", but most reputable patent plate services would not make up a convertible patent plate for a car that was orginially a hardtop.

    I will talk to some of my "Big Bird" friends and pass along any more information that I run into.
    Lew Bachman
    1957 Thunderbird

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    I appreciate the help. I'm probably going to finalize the deal this week so I'm just trying to cover my bases before I hand over money.
    Besides the inner braces in the rockers. Are there any other thing to look for??

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    Auburnseeker - You've never answered this question, does the patent plate indicate it is a convertible? How long has the guy that is selling the car owned it? Is the car in an area of the country where rust is prevalent? Does the owner seem to be an honest sort? Could you talk to the previous owner that he bought the car from to better determine its history?

    I did talk to a friend of mine who owns 2 square birds and he is aware of hardtop to softtop conversions. It usually happens when the front of the a convertible is damaged enough to be totaled but the back is intact. Or it also happens when the convertible is really rusty but the hardtop isn't. I still haven't changed my mind about it being a dumb thing to do, but it does happen.
    Lew Bachman
    1957 Thunderbird

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    The car is in the northeast so rust could be a problem in this area. The vint tag was lsot and a new one was purchased with all the correct stampings during the restoration. (that makes me a little uneasy) the guy pointed out things on the car I didn't see. So he doesn't seem to be trying to hide things. he did point out areas that were cut out and repaired during the restoration and he said he used a coupe to cut the repair panels from. Nothing huge but 2 spots in under the rear seat and I think a spot in the trunk. The rapair looks very good and you can't see them. I saw the car all apart in primer in photos but that doesn't tell you anything. The car was totally disassembled for paint. Completely gutted including the dash trim etc.
    As I mentioned just trying to cover my bases.

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    I understand. It is all about doing your due diligence. The good news from an AACA perspective is that even if it was a hardtop conversion it could still be made into an AACA Senior car, since the numbers on the patent plate aren't reviewed.

    I too am concerned about the lost patent plate. I would feel more comfortable with the purchase if you could locate one of the places in the car where the number is stamped to verify that it is the same as the title. Since you have owned a '57, I'm sure you are aware that there are three places on the frame where the VIN is stamped and that number should match the patent plate. I'm sure Ford did the same thing with the squarebirds, I'm just not sure where it was stamped.

    Good luck and let us know what you decide to do.
    Lew Bachman
    1957 Thunderbird

  16. #16

    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    On the 60 TBird, a VIN stamping is on the right inner fender near the edge of the opening above the control arm. On a convertible the 3rd and 4th character should be 73, on a Hardtop, 71 as in 0Y73........
    Of course someone couod have cut this area from a convertible and welded it into a HT. The welding would be detectable to the trained eye however.
    Carl

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    Re: How do you tell if a squarebird is a real convertible?

    Thanks for posting that. I just found it online must be as you were posting it. I made a phone call and the owner assures me that it all matches and that all matches the title which lists is as a convertible. I will verify that all next time I get a peek at the car. Hopefully this week. Thanks again for all the help. That's what I was looking for. Some way to prove beyond a doubt if nothing else for my own piece of mind. Randy

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