Barn Find Project: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

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One of Ford’s offerings that gracefully stood the test of time was the Thunderbird, starting as a two-seater in 1955 and then quickly adapting itself to changing market segments throughout its eleven generations.  The T-Bird grew a rear passenger area just three years later and became known as an early personal luxury car, a status it held for many years, until finally returning to its roots in 2002 as a two-occupant vehicle again for the final run.  This 1957 example here on Craigslist in Gilbert, Arizona, seems like a fairly solid example, so if you’ve been in the market for a sporty project, this one might be worth a look.  The price is $21,000, though O.B.O. is also mentioned, so the owner may be ready to hear your thoughts on a cost.

Barn Finds reader T.J. is due another thank you for the excellent tip here!  Very little information is provided about the car’s background, other than the seller telling us it’s a barn-find with only two previous owners.  He does say that the Thunderbird is about 99% complete, and I’m not spotting very much missing either, so this one appears as though it’s at a good starting point for taking it to the next level.  Exterior rust is at a minimum, with the right quarter being the only panel specified as having some corrosion present near the bottom.

In the photos with the hardtop removed, it’s interesting to see the contrast in the red finish that was protected by the covering, as opposed to the trunk that’s been exposed to the elements.  The seller never specifies whether or not it’s ever gotten an entire respray, but fortunately, it doesn’t appear that a major amount of bodywork or labor-intensive repairs will be required outside before this one’s ready for some shiny new red paint.

A bench seat can be found inside, with a rare electric assist, but it’s going to need some new upholstery.  There’s also a telescopic steering column, always a fun feature to show off at auto gatherings, with a couple of holes in the floorboard perhaps the most serious interior issue for the next owner to contend with.  The original engine is said to be present, which is currently apart but we are assured all of the parts are there.  Overall, this one seems like decent restoration material, although I’d probably at least try to negotiate a bit with the seller, as it is a non-running and driving project.  What’s a reasonable price to pay for this 1957 Ford Thunderbird?

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Is that 10% of complete the engine that appears to be out of the car or did someone start out to make a dune buggy out of this car? Pretty tall standing front end.

    Like 16
    • Big Len

      Was thinking the same.
      Looks like a porpoise coming out of the water.

      Like 6
      • BrianT BrianTMember

        Of the engine is out already, I’d put a small block Chevy in it. Just kidding but I had to say it.
        I like the 57 the best out of the three years. I would hot rod it because that’s what I do. I’d put whatever engine I want in there, could be a Ford engine even. However, I’d upgrade the suspension and brakes so I could trust it to drive long distances, like to Cruising the Coast. There are lots of people who might attempt to drive original 50s cars long distances and might succeed. But needing a, for example, a rocker arm for a 312 when you’re in small town middle America could be a challenge.

        Like 0
  2. Melton Mooney

    I had an E-code ’57 way back when, and I liked it pretty well. It wasn’t very good with the top down though. The windshield is pretty upright and at highway speeds the resulting turbulence blew everything not screwed down out of the car, including your cap, sunglasses, 8-track tapes, skinny girlfriends, etc.

    Like 22
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      Apparently an owner agrees with you on the wind. Notice the wind deflectors on either side of the windshield.

      Like 2
      • Lance

        All 56/57 Thunderbirds have those wind deflectors. They were added because of the turbulence that was discovered in the 55’s.

        Like 2
  3. rustylink

    $20K is a lot of ask for a Bird that has the motor out and will need new pans etc. There’s at least 10K in work there. Running T-birds are selling for $25-33K. A restored E Code sold on BAT for $34K a couple weeks ago.

    Like 20
    • Tim T

      You can’t restore the car for that price

      Like 5
  4. rbig18

    I suspect this car has been patched up a few times. Something not right about passenger side rear fender close to trunk area. Wheel well appears to have bondo/rust popping out. Still depending on cost to aquire it is worth restoring.

    Like 3
  5. Marky Mark

    Too expensive for the work needed. Nice driver quality examples (or better) can be found in the $30’s if you look around. At the asking price, needing bodywork, metal work, paint, interior, and driveline unknown you’d be above cars that are ready to go easily. No thanks.

    Like 12
  6. Beauwayne5000

    Their asking Dream prices, it’s a 7k project car max, needs a ton of parts & labor & might as well chuck that old Y block in the scrap heap.
    After 20k in parts & labor it’ll sell for no more than 25k.
    It’s upside-down

    Like 14
  7. Tony O

    Had a customer that had one of your over 6 ft tall better get a shoe horn to pry your butt out or crawl buddy 😂

    Like 2
  8. Justin

    At that price you would be upside down as soon as you purchased it. Can you imagine the cost to restore correctly. Buy a nice one that’s done and save yourself 15-20+k.

    Like 5
  9. jack

    Agree. Not worth anywhere near that asking price. Nice examples available all day for less than you’d have in it after all the work needed.

    Like 0
  10. Glenn ReynoldsMember

    There was a restored one for sale here in CT for 28K

    Like 4
  11. Dave Peterson

    Underwater is generally viewed as a poor basis when starting a new project. Is he maneuvering to negotiate? Usually when consensus says worth is 25% of asking, there is no reason to make an offer as you’re so far apart. I still remember my first drive in a friends car when I was a little squirt, and have always loved them just never pulled the trigger to get behind the wheel. $30k for a nice driver seems a decent price. The “market” has succeeded in brainwashing me.

    Like 2
  12. Mike

    Way over priced! These have been heading down not up! $15-$17 max!!

    Like 2
  13. FOG

    Realizing some are not keen on these tri-five T-birds. I beg to differ on those E and F Birds. Different upscale appoints making them great for some nice days cruizing and a good reference to the Mustang designers drawing boards.

    Like 1

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