Clean Californian: 1966 Ford Thunderbird

Classics like this 1955 Ford Thunderbird seem to pose that age-old question: Do you drive it as it currently stands, or do you treat it to a restoration first? Of course, you could always strike a compromise by undertaking some of the easier and potentially more urgent tasks straight away. The T-Bird could then be driven and enjoyed through the Summer months, with the remaining restoration tasks able to be tackled when the weather turns nasty once again. The classic Ford is located in Oakland, California, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $11,300, and with the reserve now met, the T-Bird is set to head off to a new home.

I really like the fact that many manufacturers from this era had such creative names for their paint colors, and Ford was no exception. The Thunderbird is finished in Snowshoe White, and the paint looks to be fairly presentable. It isn’t perfect, with some pretty sizeable chips and marks to be found when you inspect the photos closely. The owner makes no mention of any rust problems, and apart from what appears as though it could possibly be a spot in the bottom corner of the driver’s door, I can’t see any significant problems anywhere else on the T-Bird. The glass all looks to be in great condition, and while the external trim and chrome all seem to be present, there are a few items like the front bumper that are looking a bit secondhand and will either require restoration or replacement.

The interior of the Thunderbird manages to successfully be something of a highlight but also has some obvious lows at the same time. The red and white upholstery on the seat looks extremely nice, while the carpet appears to be just as impressive. The dash itself looks very good, but there are a few obvious flaws to be addressed around the interior. The door trims are not fitted to the car, and the owner makes no mention of them being present. Similarly, the original radio is missing from the dash, the original clock has been swapped out for an aftermarket temperature gauge, while the lenses on some of the gauges, most notably the speedometer, have become quite crazed and discolored. Having said all of that, replacement clocks are pretty easy to find for around the $155 mark. I have also had no problems locating a full set of gauge glass that should help to return the existing gauges in this vehicle to as-new condition. The price is around $120 for the lot. Ford never perceived the Thunderbird as a sports car, but aimed at providing a more luxurious and “softer” feel than Chevrolet provided with the Corvette. With that in mind, Thunderbird buyers received features such as power windows and a power seat.

The owner provides no engine photos, but we do know that the T=Bird features the good old 292ci Y-Block V8, producing 198hp. This is backed by a manual overdrive transmission, and while Ford didn’t perceive the Thunderbird to be a sports car, the fact that it was capable of whipping through the ¼ mile in 17 seconds was still nothing to be sneezed at. This is especially relevant when you consider that the supposedly more “hard-edged” Corvette covered the same journey in 16.6 seconds. Sports car or not, the T-Bird still acquitted itself quite well. The owner states that the Ford has 81,000 miles on the odometer, but doesn’t mention whether he holds any evidence to verify whether these miles are original. However, he does say that the Thunderbird does run well.

This 1955 Thunderbird is rough in a few spots, but it still appears to be a tidy and solid car that is loaded with potential. If it is as solid below the surface as it would seem to be above, then it could represent a fairly straightforward restoration project. Good examples will start in the market today at around $30,000, but it is easy to find them selling for twice that figure. If this one is as solid as it would appear to be, then it is possible that the next owner might be able to not only complete the majority of the restoration themselves, but it is also possible that they could finish up well ahead financially once the work has been completed. That has to make it a tempting proposition.

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Comments

  1. RedBaran

    I think you have a typo in your title – it’s a ’55, not a ’66… Awesome car – would love to own a 1st gen T-bird one day.

    Like 7
  2. Jeff

    The top with portholes would give it a bit more pizazz, still a nice ride though.

    Like 1
    • Gord

      Portholes weren’t available for the 1955’s.

      Like 3
      • Jett

        I’m sure it would be a snap on replacement, as I believe the tooling was the same.

        Like 1
  3. gerry Member

    There’s a couple pics showing the door panels in place they look good
    The worrying pics are those of the rust in the body mounts / floor

    Like 4
  4. TimM

    Nice looking example!! I love the 55-57 T-birds!! They got a little to big to be considered a sport car after that in my opinion!!

    Like 1
  5. ruxvette

    Obviously a repaint. Take a magnet with you. I’d bet plenty of bondo.

    Like 5
  6. Jamie

    I think in my opinion the writer of this story needs to do some homework. This is a 56. And in the pics on eBay, the door cards ARE in place And there are pics of the engine too. Proofread proofread proofread…. otherwise good story, nice car

    Like 2
  7. JohnfromSC

    I’m not a Tbird expeet but I thought 56’s were only available with the dreadful spare on the bumper? Or, has it been swapped out?

    Like 1
    • Bob Grassi

      You are correct about the continental spare.

      Like 1
  8. ruxvette

    The seller states it is a 1955. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
    Several pictures show a bare passenger door.

    Like 3
  9. Phil Maniatty

    I’m no Thunderbird expert, but isn’t the two-spoke steering wheel a 1955 item?

    What are the features that make some commentators think it’s a ’56?

  10. Arby

    He should post a video of Suzanne Somers driving it around Stockton.

    Like 4
    • PatrickM

      Nope. He should post a video of it being off loaded in my driveway.

      Like 1
      • Dave

        Which one is most likely to happen?

    • CaCarDude

      Actually a drive around Modesto would be more fitting as in American Graffiti, still cool wherever it’s driven by Suzanne.

  11. Ronbo23

    Definitely a 1955, in 1956 they added vents on the front fenders to help cool down the cabin. Portholes can be added, but need to cut holes in a really expensive top to install, measure 85 times, cut once!!!

    Like 2
  12. Art Fink

    This is a 1955. No porthole top, no side foot vents on the outside, no small round reflectors on the taillights, flat steering wheel and double upholstered seating areas, no chrome on the fender skirts. Yes, somethings can be changed out, but the side vents are the giveaway.

    Like 1
  13. Lance

    This car is a 55 for certain. The original color was Torch Red as seen on the inner fenders and firewall. I noticed that the crossed flags are missing from in front of the hood and there should be a thunderbird medallion on both sides of the hard top. A reproduction of the original air cleaner can be purchased but runs around $450.00 This car cries out for a COMPLETE check for rust while raised on a lift. That rust around the body mount is not a deal breaker BUT it will need to be cut out and replaced.

    Like 3
  14. moosie moosie Member

    Beautiful, ’55, ’56, makes no difference to me a’tall. Get Suzanne Somers to be part of the transaction and I’d jump on it. What year T-Bird had the exhaust exiting on the extreme ends of the bumper?

    Like 3
    • Lance

      This car has the exhaust exiting UNDER the bumper. It should come out through the ports in the bumper uprights. Both the 56 and 57 had the exhaust exiting through the outer corners of the bumpers. The 56 came out at a 45 degree angle while the 57 had the exhaust coming straight out from the outer rear of the bumper.

      Like 2
  15. Armstrongpsyd Douglas Armstrong Member

    Hey,
    I know that upholstery shop. That’s the guy I use in Alameda, CA for my BMW 2002, my 86 Toyota 4×4 pickup and my 58 TR3. He’s great and very reasonable. He usually has a bunch of great cars in the shop. It’s always an entertaining visit. I drive 45 minutes across The Bay to use that shop.
    Too bad about the repaint from red. Although I prefer the white, I’d never change colors on a car.

    Like 1
  16. Bob McK Member

    The rust would concern me. If the bottom is rusted that bad, I can guarantee the sides have been repaired. The question is, were they repaired correctly?

    Like 1
  17. Ethan

    If you go to the Ebay listing the door panels are both there in the pictures.

  18. Armstrongpsyd Douglas Armstrong Member

    That looks like Alameda Upholstery in Alameda CA. who reupholstered those door panels and that seat. They do great, affordable work. I’ve had him do original rebuilding of seats and door panels and custom work.

    Like 1
  19. Sunshine

    ’55 for sure. Nice looking reupholstery. Good color combo. Nicely equipped with fiberglass top, PW & PS, yet manual transmission. Didn’t realize the manual was available with an overdrive giving it 4 forward gears. Horsepower for manuals was 193; Fordomatic 3 speed was 198. Lots of torque to match a leisurely first gear ratio of 2.32. Disappointing to see the rust & rot underneath. https://www.automobile-catalog.com/car/1955/1795910/ford_thunderbird_v-8_overdrive.html

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