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1 of 6 French Exports? 1957 Ford Thunderbird

The first generation of the 2-seat Ford Thunderbird ended its three-year run in 1957. After that, it would convert to a 4-passenger personal luxury car. But not before a half-dozen of the cars were supposedly shipped to France for final assembly and consumption there. That’s the seller’s claim and the cowl tag offers validation, although the actual number of cars exported is not confirmed. Located in Solana Beach, California in running-project condition, this is an interesting restoration candidate that’s available here on eBay. There is no reserve and $6,678 is the current ante.

Compared to the first three years of the similar but different Chevy Corvette, the Ford Thunderbird of 1955-57 could be considered a hit. But the bean counters thought they could push more cars out the door if they had a backseat, so the T-Bird was reimaged in 1958 as a completely different automobile. The executives were proved correct as sales of the all-new Thunderbird would be multiples higher than the first generation.

Proof of this being a France-bound Ford is the cowl tag that identifies that country in the data. And another tag appears to have been added at the other end. Somewhere along the way, the vehicle picked up a speedometer that measures kilometers rather than miles, so this appears to be an unusual T-Bird. The car was restored at some point and sports a 351 cubic inch “Cleveland” V8 (that’s the seller’s guess) and a 4-speed manual transmission. The VIN decodes it as having had a 312 V8 with a 4-barrel carb when it left Dearborn.

We’re told the auto may be complete except for the grill, so the hunt for new parts may not be an extended one. The Ford is said to have had two previous owners, but we don’t know if that includes anyone in France. This is a convertible that likely didn’t come with the available hardtop that was offered. The seller said this “Thunder-Ford” won some awards in its heyday and has old photos from days gone by. While having been in storage since maybe the 1980s, it does start, run, shift, and stop, so hopefully most of the needed work falls to its cosmetics.

Rust has been largely held at bay and the interior may look okay after cleaning, though the carpeting is MIA. The battery has been relocated to the trunk, perhaps because of a lack of space. The car has air conditioning provided by Ford, along with slotted “mag wheels” complements of Mickey Thompson. If you were going to restore a ’57 T-Bird, why not work with one that differs just a bit from all the rest? The seller has added a video to the listing to help you judge his/her wares.


  1. Stan

    351 c’est Bon 😃 🏁🇫🇷

    Like 7
    • BigDaddyBonz

      Love it!

      Like 4
      • Manuel Broyer

        The Thunderbird was never assembled in France, just imported – with French specs – as said in French on this cowl tag.

        Like 5
  2. Arvid

    In Godard’s 1960 Movie Breathless, Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character steals and drives a bunch of cars in the movie, including a 1956 Oldsmobile and a late 50s Thunderbird. Maybe its the same car! Check out this article: https://poeschloncars.blogspot.com/2020/12/stolen-cars-and-stolen-kisses-in-jean.html

    Like 0
  3. CW

    let the bidding wars begin!

    Like 1
  4. Jack. Quantrill

    Vive, LeRoi!

    Like 1
  5. greg

    Apres moi, le deluge– get that bidding going

    Like 1
  6. Garry Sparkman

    Did the car ship to France with steering on the left or was it converted on returning to USA?

    Like 2
    • Dwcisme

      France, like all of Europe except the British Isles, is left hand steering wheel/drive on the right.

      Like 7
  7. Jerry Bramlett

    This car is advertised on the San Diego Craigslist for $12,900. That seems like a good price to me.

    Like 2
  8. Frank TA
  9. Beardbear

    Tres bon-and for $12,900…such a deal‼️My ex-wife sold my Fiesta Red, soft top only ‘56 (with 38k miles) at a garage sale in august of 1984. I think she got $5000 for it from a farmer who had no problem in bringing the ca$h, much less than I had in it. Maybe that action contributed to the “ex”. Just sayin’.

    Like 4
  10. Don

    The ’55-’57 birds have really diminished in price in the last 5-10 years. In another 10-15 years they’ll be like the Ford Model A, cheap and plentiful.

    Like 0
  11. Morley Member

    After reading so many comments about the other T-birds I thought that a Chevy small block was an option????? and now I see this Bird has a Cleavland engine, but should it not have a Citroen mill ,, ?

    Like 0
  12. David Scully

    O.K., the battery was moved to the trunk, but now the fuel filler is also inside (no filler cap outside, left, as most ’57s)??? Otherwise…looks like a good deal for somebody with some finish ’em up time available.

    Like 0
    • Jerry Bramlett

      I think this car was modified for drag racing. The non-stock (and probably lighter) steering, 4-speed with Hurst shifter, stronger 9-bolt rear, remote oil filter, fat rear wheels, and stripped dash are the evidence.

      I don’t get the later air conditioning compressor on the engine front, but maybe it came with the 351 pulley set-up.

      Like 0
      • David Scully

        Jerry, 1957 was the first 9-bolt rear…

        Like 0
  13. rayburn

    Ended early?

    Like 0

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