Baby, I’m On Fire: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

By Jeff Bennett

Oh, this is tempting.  Very tempting.  I have always had a soft spot for 1955-1957 Thunderbirds.  My fourth grade teacher, Ms. Pennington, had a Goldenrod Yellow 1955 Thunderbird.  It was her daily driver, and, to a young car nut like me, it was the coolest thing.  I even got to ride in it once.  Her, myself, and two other kids got to go swimming at her home on a lake as a reward for doing well on spelling tests.  She crammed all of us in the car and drove us back to her house.  While that would never happen in today’s litigious society, it really made a lasting impression on me.  So, as you can imagine, I have always wanted one for myself.  This 1955 Thunderbird, found in Bunnell, Florida and being sold on EBay, makes me want to go to the bank to get rejected tomorrow.  While the bidding hasn’t hit the reserve yet, the high bid as of this writing is just $4,951.  If I wasn’t hip deep in a restoration right now, this one would be mine.  Somehow I would find a way…

Just take a look at that interior.  Can you imagine three kids and a fairly skinny teacher crammed in that space?  Now, factor in that I was a fat kid, and one of the other kids was pretty tall for his age.  Of course, there were no seat belts to be found.  Mrs. Pennington’s Thunderbird had a black interior with white seat inserts, and I distinctly remember the porthole top.  I also remember the smooth ride over the brick streets in her neighborhood.  Even then, it was a special car, and she got countless offers to buy it.  I always dreamed of purchasing it, but I lost track of her and the car before I graduated high school.  I couldn’t afford it then (or now), but you all know how we want to keep track of cars like this.

This Thunderbird, as you can see, needs some work.  The owner states that the car has just 41,000 miles, and that it has been stored since 1968.  He also claims that the car has no rust, and that they have re-done the brakes and got the 292 cubic inch V-8 engine running.  It appears that this car was undergoing restoration when something happened.  The question is whether the car was being restored in 1968, or if the restoration attempt was more current.  Supposedly, everything is there and ready to be put back together, and that the car comes with both the hard and soft tops.  From the look of the interior, the car came from the factory with Thunderbird Blue paint.  This color, which I think everyone other than the Ford Marketing Department would call turquoise, was often paired with an interior of the same color except for white inserts in the seats.  However, in the picture below, we see what looks to be a different green in a few areas.  Pinetree Green Metallic was a special order color, but it was a much darker shade of green.  Once again, a better description by the owner would help a lot.

Obviously, this one will need the usual injection of money and effort before it is back on the road.  I wish we knew more about what was accomplished in the restoration before the car got to this point.  Any mechanical work would have a bearing on the price, as would information on the number of factory original parts that are still with the car.  On the plus side, the body looks pretty straight, and, if the car actually has all of the parts, then this one might be an easy restoration.  For what they are, Thunderbirds have never really taken off in value.  Corvettes of the same vintage, especially 1957 models, command high prices.  I guess it comes down to what the Thunderbird became after the 1957 model year, which was not really a Thunderbird at all to me.

To me, a Thunderbird will always be a yellow 1955 gliding down a brick street, crammed full of kids and a great teacher who knew how to make a lasting impression.

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  1. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Definitely tempting to snag one of these up, Jeff. So instead of American Grafitti’s “Girl in the white T-bird” you had the “Girl in the yellow T-bird?” Did Ms. Pennington look anything like Suzanne Somers? Great find!

    • Jeff Bennett Staff

      No, she wasn’t the Suzanne Somers type. She was a fantastic teacher, but it was the T-bird that melted my heart. Why these iconic cars are not more valuable is a mystery to me. They have everything going for them, but far worse cars bring more money for some reason. Go figure.

  2. RS

    Wish I had a teacher like that…

  3. Madmatt

    Maybe Van Halen should have wrote
    “Hot for t birds” instead of “Hot for teacher”
    “I brought my wrenches—–gimme something to work on!! ”
    OH YES I’m hot-! for anything 1900 -1980 ,but I luv a nice bird!

  4. Irish Bill

    Having just finished a 56, I can attest that your much further a head just buying a one in good condition that you do not have to restore. There are advantages to restoring in that you know what’s been done to the car and the standard of the restoration but you need lots of money,even if you do most of the work yourself. But I do love these cars.

  5. KevinW

    Growing up in Riverside Cal., my Mom had a dark blue with black interior ’55 T- Bird. My older brother, sister and I would cram ourselves into with Mom driving. Since it was a 3- speed manual, me being the smallest, it had to straddle the shifter. Mom would let me shift the gears sometimes, so I grew up comfortable with manuals. How many kids can say that now?

  6. Jeffrey;L. Zack

    I love all T-Birds, but the style that I melt for are the Square Birds. I gotta get me one of those some day.(and around a ’64 Riviera, a ’66 ElDorado, a ’63-’64 Lincoln Continental sedan, lets not forget a ’56 Continental……) I have to stop, If I didn’t, I’d have to keep my collection in something the size of the Houston Astrodome. Ahh to dream….

    • Dovi65

      The first gen ate nice, but the “square birds” [’58–’60] and the “big birds” [’67–76] are my top ‘bird faves

  7. Mark

    I may be mistaken, but I thought the porthole wasn’t available on hardtops until 1956?

  8. waynard

    You sure that was a ’55 you were riding around in? I think the’55 didn’t have porthole tops; ’56 did. Not certain about ’57.

  9. Warren

    A few years back, I got my buddy’s 56 running and driving after many years of storage. We made the decision that that was as far as it would go, as there is something nice about having it in its “less than pristine” condition, yet safe and fairly dependable. Sad the market for these is not what it should be.

  10. Dave

    I’m on my second 1955 T-Bird both identical.Iwas actually looking for 1957 when this one came up for sale.My theory about the value is that most people are too big to get behind the wheel and fit and finish is not the greatest,but I love the design.


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