‘Magic Skyway’ 1964 Thunderbird on display at AACA Museum

Hershey, PA (October 20, 2016) __ A special 1964 Ford Thunderbird convertible used in the 1964-’65 World’s Fair “Magic Skyway” attraction will be on display at The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA)  Museum in Hershey, Pa., through April 15, 2017.

The 1964 Ford Thunderbird used in the Magic Skyway exhibit at the 1964-'65 World's Fair. (Mark Usciak photo)

The 1964 Ford Thunderbird used in the Magic Skyway exhibit at the 1964-’65 World’s Fair. (Mark Usciak photo)

Once upon a time, “imagineers” at Disney came up with an idea to create a ride where visitors would seemingly travel through time, all while inside a vehicle. Thus, the Magic Skyway was born. As on most Disney rides, a corporate sponsor provided funding and for this ride, Ford put their hat in the ring, requesting only that the ride vehicle be in an actual new Ford car. They created a track chain guided by wheels spaced every three feet, then welded a metal plate onto the undercarriage of the car. This ride system would later be adapted for use in Disneyland’s PeopleMover ride.

In 1964, The Ford Rotunda at the World’s Fair in New York was several city blocks in length and contained a few featured attractions, one of which was the Magic Skyway. Seated in a variety of actual Ford Motor Co. convertibles, visitors could sit in the car of their choice  — perhaps a Ford Galaxie, Falcon, Mustang, Thunderbird, or a Mercury Comet or Lincoln Continental — and ride on a track along the rotunda’s exterior taking in the overall view of the Fair followed by other diorama scenes built in the main exhibit hall. A number of the exhibits featured in the Ford Rotunda were designed by WED Enterprises, Inc. (Walt Disney) architectural services and engineering company, including the Magic Skyway.

The cars selected were delivered to a local Ford dealer where their engine, transmission and drive shaft were removed and several large-diameter holes were drilled into their undercarriage for attachment points to the Magic Skyway ride mechanism. After the World’s Fair ended, the cars were returned to the dealer, their engines and drive trains reinstalled and they were sold as “used” cars. However, the metal plate welded to the chassis of the convertibles to keep them on the Magic Skyway track often remained on the cars. This 1964 Thunderbird currently on view at the AACA Museum is one of the actual cars used on the Magic Skyway.

Dr. Allison and Mark Jackson of Birmingham, Alabama, are the current owners of the 1964 Ford Thunderbird that they saved from an undeserving fate in 2013.

“I found her in a museum in West Virginia” states current owner Mark Jackson. “The owner didn’t want her because he was collecting Corvettes and was going to put her outside since she was just ‘an old Ford.’

“I was in the Czech Republic on a business trip and the owner was on a business trip in Singapore” continues Jackson. “The owner said, ‘Make me an offer. I want it gone.'”

“So,” continues Jackson, “I made the offer and he said, ‘Yes.’ I wired the money and she was picked up.

This Ford, which gave thousands of visitors rides during the World’s Fair, has since undergone an extensive driver-quality restoration. The car’s production date was Aug. 8, 1963, making it an early car, as also noted by it VIN: 4Y85Z100073. The Thunderbird has a Desert Tan exterior and Palomino interior along with an original 390 engine, with 300 hp. The original sticker price of the car was $4,426.73.

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