Junior Central

Thunderbird juniors 1955-66

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     The Powercar company of Mystic Connecticut started making the Thunderbird JR in 1955 and continued through 1967 but stopped updating the body changes in 1966. According to the interview done with George Ford in 1990 they were electric powered until 1964 when you could also get a gas powered adult version. I have found factory literature and a Photograph of a gas powered 1957 Thunderbird JR. so George may have been a little off when he made that statement 23 years after the company went out of business.
    According to George ford (no relation to Henry) that ran the company they made about 5,000 mini Thunderbirds from 1955-67 starting with serial number one in 1955 and continuing through the end in 1967. The serial numbers were in the 3,000 range by 1957 so most of the production was done in the first 3 years. There were three models available in 1964-66. The bottom of the line was the electric powered kid's version. Next were the electric powered adult versions, and the top of the line adult gas powered version. All of them used the same body but the adult versions had larger axles and Pneumatic tires. Later versions in 1965-67 the cars came in standard colors and any other colors were at an additional charge. In the early years they could be ordered in a number of factory colors at no additional charge.

Not a cheap toy!

Here are some of the costs that I know of.
1957 retail price $465.00 Electric ($565.00 Gas model) dealer cost $325.00
1960 1/4 scale $395.00 retail
1965 kids retail $495.00 dealer cost $364.00
1965 adult retail $537.00 dealer cost $395.00

different sizes available

    while the most known size of Powercar Thunderbird was a 1/3 scale rendition they also made a 1/4 scale in some years. I have seen pictures of a 1956 version that was a pedal car instead of battery powered. I have also found information and images on 1958-60 1/4 scale cars that were made as a less expensive offering by the company. A 1960 Plymouth Fury JR was also made in 1/4 scale but it is the only other example of that scale that I have been able to find anything on thus far. The demensions for the 1960 1/4 scale were as follows I would imagine the 58-59 were the same size 51 1/2" long, 17" tall, 24 3/4" wide, and weight without battery was 80 pounds.

    I would imagine that one of their best customers would have been the Shriners but most of the information I have been finding is they were used in a lot of other promotions. They were given away in drawings at Ford dealerships Coca-Cola, Pepsi and tide and even at Laundromats and dairies. In 1960 Turkish taffy offered the winner of their jingle contest choice of a 1960 Thunderbird or Plymouth Fury JR. They advertised the competition in "Atomic Mouse" cartoons. Lee Iacocca's daughter is pictured in a 1963 Thunderbird JR in a 1964 issue of time magazine. They were also available through the F.A.O. Swartz catalog.

The statement they used on the brochures says it best!
    "Thunderbird Jr. cars have been made continuously since 1954 (with the cooperation of the ford motor company) you will not see a Thunderbird Jr. in every yard...because their cost has kept them out of the volume market...However, if you know where to look, you can find them scattered over the globe in the most interesting places: in secluded country estates, in mansions of heads of state, on the Riviera, in the palaces of dictators, middle eastern and oriental princes. They are bringing pleasure and fun to the families of presidents, movie stars, magnates, potentates... and to a lot of ordinary people too, who have won them in promotional contests or as incentives. In fact, it is thanks to smart sales promotion programs that many other people are enjoying them"
end quote from 1964 sales brochure

    Since I started collecting information on these cars many years ago I have been lucky to talk to a number of Ex-employees of the Powercar company. Anywhere from the son of the secretary that swept up on weekends to the Production manager and his son who worked as a test driver in the early years. I also had the pleasure to talk to George Ford that ran the company back in 1994 before he passed away. More and more information continues to come out of the woodwork about these cars and the Internet has helped to gather additional information.

Go to the main Powercar page

I have started a Resources page that will list known available original parts and reproduction parts for Powercar products.

Go to the Powercar resources page







1955 Thunderbird Juniors

    The first year of the Thunderbird and also the first year for the Thunderbird Jr. In 1954 when George Ford of the powercar company read about the new sports car the Ford Motor Company was coming out with he contacted them to see of he could make a mini version of it to sell. Not only did he get permission he also got assistance from Ford styling so that they could have the Mini Birds out the same time as the full size cars so they could be used in introductory festivities. The Baby bird while built to scale of the real cars makes the juniors a small car also. While they were made for kids adults still tried to stuff themselves into one anyway. The body demensions were 60" long (66" with bumpers), 18 3/4" tall, 30" wide, 34 1/2" wheelbase and weight without battery was 143 pounds.
Go to the 55 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1956 Thunderbird Juniors

    The 1956 Thunderbird JR did not see a lot of changes from the 55 car. the same base body was used with minor trim changes on the full size cars and the Juniors alike. The 1955 Juniors were very valuble to dealerships and were credited with bringing the customs into the showroom so the salesmen could complete the sale. If you read the 56 sales brochures they boast of the incredable job that the mini Thunderbirds did a wonderful job. The most noticable was the 56 mini Tbirds started to sport continental kits but not on all cars. I have yet to determine a good way to tell the difference between the 55 and 56 JR's unless they have a trunk mounted spare or Continental kit.
Go to the 56 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1957 Thunderbird Juniors

    Just like the full size thunderbirds in 1957 the size did not increase but there were noticeable differences in the styling. The Tail-fin no longer went straight up the went out to the side. The styling of the 57 T-bird has been an icon since Suzanne Summers drove one in the movie American graffiti. This was the last year of the baby birds but this body was bigger than the previous two years as the full size cars were also a little longer. The truck area was extended to get the spare tire back in the trunk on the full size cars. The body demensions were 76 1/2" long, 20" tall, 37" wide, 34 1/2" wheelbase and weight without battery was 161 pounds (200 lbs for gas powered). Colors available in 1957 were Flame red, Starmist blue, Willow green, Peacock blue, Golden Yellow, Black and White
I own the original factory mold for the 1957 Thunderbird JR.
Go to the 57 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1958 Thunderbird Juniors

    As with most manufacturers of the time cars saw a three year rotation. with the end of the "baby birds" 1955-57 First of the big birds or "Square Birds" were introduced! just like the full size cars the Juniors saw a noticeable increase in size. The 55-57 Thunderbirds would carry one child with relative ease. and some adults would cram themselves inside or sit on the trunk to drive them. In 1958 the thunderbird Jr would fit two kids or one normal size adult. With the pedals out by the grille it was possible for an adult to easily drive a Junior from the normal position not on the trunk. obviously these cars were intended for long driveways and sidewalks.
I own the original factory mold for the 58-60 Thunderbird JR (1/3rd scale). They also made a 1/4 scale thunderbird 1958-60.
Go to the 58 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1959 Thunderbird Juniors

    In 1959 the same body was used as 1958 but the grille insert changed the taillight panels of the 58 egg-crate pattern was covered by a vacuum formed panel with ribs that matched the grille insert. Side trim was also changed to replicate the full size cars.
I own the original factory mold for the 58-60 Thunderbird JR (1/3rd scale). They also made a 1/4 scale thunderbird 1958-60.
Go to the 59 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1960 Thunderbird Juniors

    The body of the full size and mini Thunderbirds changed very little again, This was the last year of the Square birds. Side trim was changed again and the grille insert was a square screen pattern just like the 57 Tbird. The most noticeable difference is the triple taillights instead of the dual sets used in the previous two years. Again the same body was used but the inserts changed yet again to replicate the full size cars
I own the original factory mold for the 58-60 Thunderbird JR (1/3rd scale). They also made a 1/4 scale thunderbird 1958-60.
Go to the 60 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1961 Thunderbird Juniors

    After three years of the Square bird styling (58-60) the Thunderbird line went through another major restyle. The new bodies are commonly refered to as "Bullet Birds" and the body remained basically the same through 1963. The body was much more wedge shaped than the previous style and so were the Junior bodies. The body diemensions were 70" long, 21 1/2" tall, 33" wide, 34 1/2" wheelbase and weight without battery was 138 pounds. The serial numbers were already in the 5,000 range attesting to the popularity of the little vintage cars.
Go to the 61 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1962 Thunderbird Juniors

    The 62 Thunderbird Juniors just like the full size cars saw a minimal change from the previous year. The trim on the rear quarter panel was the primary difference from the previous years body style. this was the second year of three of the Bullet Bird body style.
Go to the 62 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1963 Thunderbird Juniors

    The last year of the Bullet bird body style and the changes again to the full size and Junior birds was minimal. The side trim was moved to the door instead of the rear quarter panels. The body dimensions were 70" long, 21 1/2" tall, 33" wide, 34 1/2" wheelbase and weight without battery was 138 pounds all the same as the 1961.
Go to the 63 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1964 Thunderbird Juniors

    The last body style change for Juniors was the new "Flair Bird" design of 1964-66. The rear bumper with built in taillamps was re-created in scale for the junior cars. The body dimensions were 70" long, 25 1/2" tall, 34 1/2" wide, 35 13/16" wheelbase and weight without battery was 168 pounds. There was a standard color of Rangoon red with other colrs available by special order. Gas powered models came with a 2 3/4 HP clinton motor. and a planetary reversing transmission. So these little cars had working headlights, horn, taillights, brakelights and reverse, not your average pedal car!
Go to the 64 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1965 Thunderbird Juniors

    Again minimal changes from the previous years production just like the full size cars. the side trim would have been the primary difference. "Flair birds"
see the front of the 65 full line brochure here!

see the rear of the 65 full line brochure here!
Go to the 65 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

1966 Thunderbird Juniors

    The last of the Thunderbird body styles, even though the company produced Thunderbird JRs in 1967 they did not update the body that year. The 1967 company sales brochure. has an updated 67 Mustang body but they 66 T-Bird body remains the same even though the full size car saw some major changes that year. "Flair birds"
see the front of the 66 full line brochure here!

see the rear of the 66 full line brochure here!
Go to the 66 T-bird Jr
Misc images page

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