312 Dual Quad: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

Restoration projects can stall for various reasons, and the time they sit will depend on the owner’s circumstances. The restoration of this 1957 Thunderbird was halted early as the owner spent so much time helping others with their projects. After forty-six years, he has decided that it needs to go to someone willing and able to complete what he started. It is a car that deserves more than a fleeting glance because it features one of the most desirable engines Ford offered in that model year. If you’re feeling tempted, you will find this T-Bird located in Mechanicsville, Pennsylvania, and listed for sale here on eBay. The bidding currently sits at $6,700, but it is yet to hit the reserve. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Larry D for referring this promising project to us.

Some classic cars can be extroverts with wild paint, but this Thunderbird would’ve been an elegant sight in its heyday. It rolled off Ford’s production line wearing Colonial White paint with a matching hardtop. That was a long time ago, and the buyer will face some long hours if they intend to recapture this classic’s lost youth. It does appear that the car is essentially complete, and the owner has secured some new parts that he includes in the sale. The panels are pretty straight, with no significant dings or dents. The hardtop looks like it should be an easy restoration prospect, but while the soft-top frame is okay, the top itself has badly deteriorated. This is all an entree that leads us onto the subject of rust. There is some that will require the buyer’s attention, but this is a long way from the worst T-Bird of this vintage that I’ve seen. The lower front fenders and lower rear quarter panels will need work, but I agree with the owner’s assessment that patches could be the best and most cost-effective solution. There are also some holes in the floors, although it is hard to determine how bad these are. Even if the buyer faces the prospect of replacing the floors and trunk pan, the steel is readily available and very affordable. Many of the NOS pieces that the seller secured are trim items, so that should help with that aspect of the restoration. The dust makes it hard to be sure, but it looks like the glass could be okay.

This Thunderbird’s interior would have been as elegant as its interior in its glory days trimmed in Code XA Raven Black and White. Those days are a dim memory, and the interior requires nothing less than a complete restoration. A few pieces are missing, but the owner holds items like the original Town & Country radio. This may not be the largest interior that we’ll find in a classic car, but that doesn’t mean that a retrim is going to be a bargain-basement proposition. The cost will depend on the buyer’s choice of upholstery material. Opting for leather in the correct color combination will hit their wallet to the tune of $2,200, while they can subtract around $500 if they select vinyl. Other pieces will be required, like a horn ring and hard trim items, so this section of the car could consume a few dollars.

The 1957 model year brought a few mechanical upgrades for the Thunderbird that would’ve set mouths watering at the time. One of the most desirable was the E-Code 312ci V8. Ford equipped this engine with a Dual-Quad carburetor setup that allowed the motor to produce 270hp. Our feature car comes with its numbers-matching E-Code, which is one of the few restored items. The owner pulled the engine when he purchased the vehicle and treated it to a rebuild. It remains fresh, having never been started. Adding to its desirability, he has retained all of the original peripherals like the intake, carburetors, and the factory air cleaner. The rest of the drivetrain includes the venerable Ford-O-Matic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. Ford made it very clear that they did not consider the T-Bird a hard-edged sports car, but the 16.1-second ¼-mile ET suggests that it was not a shabby performer. When you think that the best that an owner could wring from an auto-equipped Corvette in the same year was 16.4 seconds, the Thunderbird more than held its own. Once the next owner returns this car to a roadworthy state, it will offer performance that will allow them to hold their head high.

The 1957 Model year marked the end of an era for the Thunderbird. Starting in 1958, the car would transition from a two-seater to a vehicle with room for four. It almost feels like the company introduced options like the E-Code V8 to transform the T-Bird into a more potent competitor to the Corvette before they headed down a different path. Our feature car needs some work, but it appears that the buyer will be working with a vehicle with solid bones. That begs the question of whether it is a financially viable restoration. The process will consume significantly more than pocket change if the work is completed to a high standard. It is worth remembering that out of a production total of 21,380 Thunderbirds for that model year, buyers ordered only 1,499 with the E-Code. That makes this car very desirable and dramatically increases its potential value. If the buyer has an eye for detail and performs the restoration to the highest standard, a value of $90,000 could be the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Perfection could push that into six-figure territory, which is not unprecedented. With those thoughts in mind, would you be tempted to join the bidding party on this T-Bird?

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Comments

  1. Harvey Member

    I have bought a lot of cars over my life but I never bought one held together with rope:-)

    Like 9
    • PeterfromOz

      That is the optional exo-skeleton body strengthening system. Down here in Australia we use duct tape for a better finish.

      Like 3
    • Mark S Smith

      And a come-along.

  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    That’s one rough looking car.

    Like 4
  3. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    “After forty-six years, he has decided that it needs to go to someone willing and able to complete what he started.” I’d just like to know what he started!

    Like 11
    • John S Dressler

      According to the author, he rebuilt the 312 and from the looks of the intake, he’s rebuilt one of the two carburetors. Thank God for guys who will drop what they are doing to give another guy a helping hand. His reward will come when he leaves this earth and gets to drive an immaculate T-Bird in the sky.

      Like 1
  4. 86_Vette_Convertible

    If this is a true EBird then it’s definitely worth saving, they are few and far between. It won’t be cheap but it’s very desirable.

    Like 1
  5. WayneS

    My Dad bought one of these white with red/white interior with the 312 dual four engine with a three speed and overdrive transmission. The same year only later in the year, he bought a Country Squire Wagon white with red/white interior to match and with the 312 dual four engine with three speed and overdrive transmission. He loved them both. Mom hated the wagon but loved the ‘Bird. Sis got the ‘Bird and I got the wagon. Still have it.

    Like 5
  6. Wayne T

    Proof that rust never sleeps!

    Like 1
  7. chrlsful

    shame “never started”. Depending on when done the ambient temps (rise’n fall) will have condensation & frez/thaw happen to all that heavy metal museaum under the hood. Even wid oil in ’em I’ve seen some real messes. How many cycles of that has this been thru…?

    A start up, break in & 1st 500 mi will tell~
    ;^ )
    A Big Thnx to Azza for the write-up.
    I’d talk w/dad abt this car’n that. He’d mention his likes for one of these (he wuz born in ’24 or 5) ’55/7 seen as a thirty y/o fella. Not sure his opinion on the Y2K model. Mine? I like the 5th ( me: 15 – 17 y/o) due to the only suicide dor model, larger sz and – of course, my age when in production.
    I usually like smaller cars but the style on ’67/9 is great. I can imagine loungin out on the interstate w/1. Quick 3.5 day trip to Ensenada to C a friend do the “Classics” class @ Baja in a bronk like mine nxt month?
    8^0

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