4.6 Hot Rod Project: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

With the way muscle and collector car values have gone over the last twenty-five years, I find myself getting stuck in this reverberating, circular concept that originality of purity is essential. It probably comes from reviewing way too many internet ads and watching the big auto auctions on TV. My thought process is starting to evolve, or maybe it’s more of a devolve, but what’s wrong with taking an old car of value and just going for it – do the hot rod, modified thing to it as was done, so often, years ago? It’s especially relevant if the so-called car in question is really not in great shape and has a long way to go to ever get back to its hyper-value original status. With that thought in mind, let’s check out this modified 1955 Ford Thunderbird, or baby bird as they are often known. It has a lot going on under its hood and bottom-side. This ‘Bird is located in Yorba Linda, California and is available, here on craigslist for $11,000. Thanks to rex m for this interesting tip!

This listing is a bit light on detail and that’s unfortunate as the T-Bird has undergone quite a few mods. Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of originality left to the exterior, the body has been pretty well stripped of bumpers, trim, door handles, etc. But that said, there is a menagerie of parts too so I guess this is a “build-it-your-way” project for the next owner. The body appears to be sound and aligned, it’s covered in what looks like primer but it could serve as a sound foundation for finishing, or it could just be left as is if the hot-rod vibe is what’s desired. It has a removable hardtop but there is no mention of a folding convertible top – not a big deal really. The Ford sourced wheels are a really nice touch, much more interesting than what one usually finds on a modify it yourself project car.

The big surprise is under the hood where a 4.6 liter, SOHC V8 has taken up residency. I wish that I could tell you more about it but the seller doesn’t offer up any specifics other than to identify it by size. It does appear to be a product of BBR (BlowByRacing) based on the casting identification on the valve covers. He does mention that the engine is attached to an automatic transmission but isn’t giving up anything on that front either.

More goodness is going on underneath with the inclusion of rack and pinion steering and what looks like a Ford truck differential, ostensibly, something with a bit more strength to handle this T-Bird’s newfound power. The rest of the underside, from what can be seen, looks pretty sound.

I’d show you a shot of the interior but there isn’t one other than various parts, led mostly by these seat covers that the seller refers to as black and gray cloth though the image coloring presents them more like a taupe and beige combination. The seller does mention that this Thunderbird has A/C, power windows, and a power seat.

Other than the need to sort through a bunch of parts, many unlabeled, this car hits me as a cool project and I would be inclined to leave the exterior somewhat unfinished, just presentable. So, what do you think, is it a mistake to cobble a classic into a carouser or should the auto world be your oyster and just have at it?

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Comments

  1. Dead_Garry

    Just me or do those valve covers say SOHC and not DOHC?

    Like 5
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      No, it’s not you, you’re right, I read it too quickly – fixed.

      Thx

      JO

      Like 2
  2. Bud Lee

    I just went back in time and said , ” what a jalopy ” and , ” dig that crazy washing machine ” . I think if someone buys and finishes this , it will be cool but , those wheels would have to go .

    Like 2
  3. Gord

    It has a removable hardtop but there is no mention of a folding convertible top – not a big deal really.
    Only if you don’t mind spending $3000 for a aftermarket repo or $5 – 6000 for an original.

    Like 1
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      I guess it depends, if you’re looking for a convertible Thunderbird, maybe so; but if it’s just a hot rod you want, which is my basic premise, then maybe not.

      JO

      Like 2
  4. daniel wright

    The body appears aligned? There is enough panel gap around the driver’s side door to get your finger into…

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Are you sure? He claims that he painted the door jambs black and what I’m seeing is black overspray.

      JO

      Like 3
  5. JCA

    I think the valve covers are likely from “BBK” and not “BBR”. BBK is well known for mustang performance parts for a Ford modular 4.6.

    Most of the 4.6’s were SOHC in 2V and 3V forms. The DOHC 4.6 were more rare and called Intech in Lincolns. The Cobra Mustang had one too. I had one in a Lincoln Mark VIII and it was a nice engine. I always wanted to pull it out and put it in a build. That would have been a nicer choice for this car. Still, I think this project isn’t bad if you get it under $10k.

    Like 3
  6. Redsresto

    Had a 2006 Mustang GT with the 4.6; IIRC the 2005 to 2009 Mustangs could be had with rims like those shown here. I bet a Mustang of that vintage was the source for most of the stop and go parts.

  7. bobhess bobhess Member

    Neat project but the wheels do look like they came off my wife’s Mini Cooper S.

  8. bobH Member

    I’ve been watching 55/56 bird ‘project’ prices for quite awhile. If this pile rings your bell, then it’s probably ok. My taste is for one of the ones I’ve seen at about half the price, and leave it to me to do my thing. I’m looking at ‘more complete’, rust free, and restoration potential. Just my opinion…

  9. matt

    My comment is referencing Jim and Dan’s comments. It looks like the jambs were sprayed with black – as the seller claims, and it looks like the car has a coat of sealer on it.
    If it has the seal coat on it – it may need to be sanded and sealed again, as many sealers call for finish color within a short time period after the sealer is applied.
    matt

    Like 2
  10. Rick

    So I bought this vehicle. It belonged to a high end fabricator who usually does 50s era Corvettes with LS transplants. He also has done an assortment of other vehicles including 4 or 5 T-Birds. This one has been worked on, off and on, for the past 6 years but not finished due to retirement.
    The body is in excellent condition with well fittings panel gaps. What you see is where they masked off to paint the door jams. It appears this T-Bird sat in a garage it’s whole life due to the near perfect body and frame.
    The engine, auto transmission and related running gear is transplanted from a Mustang GT with high end updates and custom made pieces.
    The car is currently stripped down ready for paint. All the parts, plus lots of extras, came with the car. Most are either new, refurbished, refinished, or rechrome. The interior was custom made by Larry’s T-Bird and Mustang.
    Anyone who sees this 55 T-Bird will realize what a great barn find deal they missed out on.

    • Ian C

      Congrats! I personally think it is going to be a slick ride when done. Please keep us updated on progress!!

      Like 1

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