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1956 Thunderbird Barn Find


The story of how this 1956 Ford Thunderbird came to be in this sorry state is an unfortunate one. Apparently it is being sold to settle the estate of the late owner who had no heirs. The car was parked in a leaky barn so there’s plenty of rust. These were special cars though so hopefully someone with the right resources will see this and be able to give this bird a brighter future. Find it here on eBay where bidding is currently at $8,350 with no reserve. The car is located in Manassas, Virginia. Thanks goes to Mont H for sending it in!


Of all the Thunderbirds built over the years, the very first ones are still my favorite. In my opinion, the lines were more pure and the whole concept of “personal luxury car” was better executed. Later models offered a back seat, but at the same time lost some of the character that made the first generation Thunderbird so special. I mean what could be more “personal” than seating for just two? Well, and in this case, a few squirrels…


European sports cars were mounting a massive attack on the US market when Ford decided to build the Thunderbird. Instead of taking them straight on though, they focused more on luxury than full out performance. For whatever reason, car manufacturers here have always assumed that American consumers prefer comfort over cornering ability. Maybe they were right though because they sold quite a few of these two-seat Thunderbirds (over 50k) before the four-seater was released.


Not that these were slouches though. Power was provided by either a 292 or 312 V8 engine. I’m not sure which one this car has mounted under the hood, but obviously all the folks bidding don’t care. They all want the most iconic of all Thunderbirds and are willing to pay the price of entry. Perhaps they have memories of riding in one when they were younger? Or maybe they are just banking on the fact that these have been known to sell for close to $70k in restored condition?


This is one of my all time favorite Fords so I wouldn’t mind having one either. The only problem is that when people are willing to pay close to ten thousand dollars for a rusty project that doesn’t even have a title… well, that’s just a game that is getting hard to play. I’m grateful that there are enthusiasts out there with the means and motivation to do it though. This will be quite the looker when it’s all cleaned up!


  1. George Bishopric Member

    I’m sure it will be rescued. Fairly rare to find a barn car, as they have always been popular, and never had a period where they were not appreciated. In terms of parts, a very easy restoration, everything is available in reproduction, or as OEM. Many parts were used in models well into the seventies.

    You still will need a wallet, but not a home equity line of credit. The green was rare production color, 2% or so, and many have been changed to other shades.

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  2. sunbeamdon

    Al I can say is “ouch”! The tin-worm has done made a meal of this one.

    Best of luck to the buyer!

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  3. tom999p

    There were two of them out in the grass under a canvas tarp near my house for years, very near the road where everyone driving by could see them. They disappeared sometime in the early 1990’s…. Hopefully to a restorer….

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  4. Vince Habel

    Better have deep pockets on this one. These cars look a lot better than they drive. I could have bought one in better condition than this for less money but passed on it. just not that impressed with them.

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  5. George Bishopric Member

    “These cars look a lot better than they drive”

    True, but probably a valid statement from any car from the 50s………..drum brakes, dead steering, and pillowy rides were the standard back then.

    Disc brake conversions are a good idea.

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  6. Rancho Bella

    Thousands of these were made…………and thousands remain. I recently moved from a area where there were three within five blocks. Old folks owned them and they just sat in garages. They are cute but don’t push any buttons for me.

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  7. Art Fink

    Unfortunately, unless this Bird has special and rare options, this car will need an Over-investment to make it saleable. It’s amazing that the Tri-Five TBirds did not appreciate in value as it’s fiberglass brotheran from Chevrolet of the same era. That being said, the style of these cars are classic even today 50+ years later.

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  8. Richard V

    It appears to be an automatic which should include the 312 cid engine.

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  9. john e

    Not having a title is no big deal, its all in the paper work, but before any real work is done on this bird, have a clean title, even if you know its history. Great looking project car.

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  10. Dolphin Member

    Values for these have been nearly stagnant for a long time. Leaving aside the odd stratospheric auction sale at B-J, SCM’s realistic value for an excellent ’56 Bird is from $27 – $44K, and I don’t think you can get there for that money with this car. A big reason is that they made 15,631 ’56s plus more than 37,000 ’55s & ’57s, so there’s no shortage of Birds out there.

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    • Barry

      The cost to bring this bird back just might exceed it’s value.

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  11. The Chucker

    I’m missing the upside at the current bid price as this undoubtedly holds many surprises for the buyer. As such, they’re likely to be upside down in short order. It’ll be easy to spend $10K on restoration costs here and wonder where it all went.

    And then there’s the not so small issue of the title listed in the ebay ad as “salvage”. They don’t call ’em branded titles for nothing as that will follow the car…forever.

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  12. St. Ramone de V8

    Title can be a big deal. That, and the condition of this ‘bird make it a great parts car.

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  13. Mya

    You know, the frame doesn’t look too bad. I wonder how deep the rust damage really is. It would be a shame to see this parted out.

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  14. Doug M. (West Coast)

    Projects like these can tempt you to get in cheap on a cool car, but with all the good advice above, I would slow down… then when I saw “salvage title”!!! pass on that! I have always heard that a salvage title limits your sale price to LOW book at best. I have owned two, and watched others and believe that is true. This one will need all the help it can get based on its condition. Then to limit its value to low book, kinda sad!

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    • tom999p

      “”Book value”? Who cares about book value??? If you’re into old cars to make money, you’re in the wrong hobby.

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      • george Member

        Well said, Tom999p

        Costs money to restore anything…….and I’d bet with a few notable exceptions, most restorations end up underwater in dollars, but afloat in joy.

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  15. George Member

    Obviously, this is not for the faint-hearted, but how many cars that get restored are not underwater? Not sure I see as much rust as others do, but perhaps, they’re right.

    Hagerty lists these at $50K to $70K restored and in #1-#2 condition. If the rust isn’t actually too bad, you can do a lot of restoration and not be upside down.

    But most do this for the fun, not for an “investment.”

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  16. Woodie Man

    If this is the green I think it is, I was offered one in this color by a quasi brother -in-law back in the eighties for $11,000.00. Absolutely perfect original car with the hardtop………even the bolt heads shined. And of course I said no….as I was driving a ’63 Crown Imperial at the time. Oh well………

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  17. Vince Habel

    I would think the Imperial drove a lot better.

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  18. RickyM

    Such a shame that it has been left to get in this condition. Love the colour though.

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