Dusty But Solid: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

The 1957 Ford Thunderbird was a significant vehicle for the manufacturer because it marked the final 2-seater built by Ford until the emergence of the EXP a ¼ of a century later. This particular 1957 model has been parked for the last 30-years, and while it will take some work to get it back up and running, it does appear to be a solid and complete car that should make a rewarding project. It is located in Casper, Wyoming, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding on the T-Bird has now reached $15,100 on the back of some pretty spirited action, but the reserve hasn’t been met. There are also 159 people watching the listing at present, indicating that there are quite a few people who can see the potential that is locked away in this classic.

Looking through the photos that the owner supplies of the Thunderbird, the first thing that strikes me is just how clean and solid it appears to be. There are no signs of any rust issues, while the panels generally look to be quite straight. The owner indicates that there is a small dent by one of the wheels, but this is pretty hard to see in the supplied photos. He has had a depth test conducted on the Flame Red paint, and this didn’t indicate the presence of any filler or rust. It also didn’t indicate any sign of repaint work, although there is some evidence to suggest that this may have happened at some point in the past. The paint has a number of chips and marks, and even though it is now oxidized as well, it would be interesting to see how it would respond to a wet sand and buff. If the next owner wants to protect the car’s potential status as an original survivor, this course of action could conceivably produce some positive results. The glass is said to all be good, and while the chrome and trim are now pretty dirty, I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of this also responded well to some polish. The hardtop looks good, and while there is a White soft-top present, the vinyl has deteriorated beyond salvation.

The T-Bird is one of those vehicles where the owner states that it “ran when parked.” That usually indicates that this is no longer the case, and it is accurate for this car. What we find under the skin is a 312ci Y-Block V8, backed by a 3-speed manual transmission. The owner believes that the Ford is mechanically all original, with the exception of a modern Holley carburetor. The only thing that I find a bit disconcerting is the fact that the owner states that the crank turns slightly by hand. If it can’t be turned at least one full revolution, then that might indicate that there are some problems deep within the bowels of that V8. That is something that I would probably be investigating further to ascertain whether a rebuild might potentially be on the cards. Regardless of this, there will also be plenty of other tasks to take on in a bid to get the T-Bird back to a roadworthy state once again. However, if the engine actually is in good health, then it might not take a lot of work to have it roaring back into life once again.

As I look at the Thunderbird’s interior my fingers are itching, because I would love to dive in there with a vacuum and some quality cleaning products. I think that this might yield some pleasant surprises because the condition of the interior and trim look to be surprisingly good. The carpet is wrinkled in a few places, but I think that this could be stretched back into place without any drama. The seat and door trims appear to be good, but the headliner may require replacement. The dash pad is also showing some age, with the owner indicating that this has become a bit distorted. Still, with replacements available for under $500, this is potentially an easy problem to address. With that work done, I believe that the interior would be quite serviceable, and if the next owner is going to follow the path of reviving the Thunderbird rather than restoring it, the interior condition would be well within the character of that approach.

Decisions, decisions. To restore, or to revive? Those are the choices that the next owner of this ’57 Thunderbird will possibly face. I can see merit in both approaches, and I think the final decision would depend on what a personal inspection revealed about this car. To be honest, I don’t know which path I would be inclined to follow. What about you?

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Comments

  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    According to the VIN this was made in Dearborn with a 312 ci 245hp 9.7-1 comp engine, 3 spd with OD, Flame Red with red and white interior; the padded dash/sun visors were an option. From out here it looks like an original Tbird (if the running gear numbers can be validated) and even though this 312 engine package is the first step up from the 292 ci motor it’s still a nice package and worth bringing back to original IMHO.
    My thanks to geomechs for getting me straight on 2 seater Tbird stuff! A friend of mine and BF reader made an intelligent buy on a ‘55 over the weekend because of the info we got from reading the past posts-the seller started at $23000 but came down to $17K after seeing my friend had done his homework (and didn’t care if it had any- or every- thing “factory original”)..drove it home.

    Like 14
    • Lance

      Sadly this T-bird has no overdrive. If it did the lever would be under the dash right under the tuning dial for the radio.

      Like 1
  2. KSwheatfarmer

    Frame rails show red overspray, I’d still try to save the respray, you can always start over from bare metal if the wet sand-buff doesn’t work out.Super cool T-bird,I love the hub caps-steel wheel look. Never seen an I D plate that old so pristine,just had an easy life i guess.

    Like 4
  3. Bob_in_TN Member

    I like this T-Bird. Has a manual transmission, and the hubcaps and blackwalls give it a stripper car look. Cool specialty “Pioneer” license plates. Assuming it has been in this building for the 30 years, probably can’t get much better storage conditions (indoors, concrete floor, generally dry climate).

    Like 8
  4. F Again

    Y-Blocks are yummy. Nothing else sounds like ’em, thanks to their interesting firing order. Probably for the best the original Holley teapot is 86’d, I admire OEM but not if it is ultra-problematic.
    Also, hope this car retains blackwalls and dogdishes for that tuff-gnarl look- in this application it’s nearly unique.

    Like 6
    • AMCFAN

      F Again. YES the 312 sounds amazing. I and a local Ford guru several years ago had to revive my uncles original 1956 Mercury. The damn Teapot gave us fits. Ended up replacing it with a conventional 4bbl. Good to go. It had a rumble like no other. It too is a three speed manual with overdrive.

      Love the bird with it’s hubcaps.

      Like 5
  5. Gord

    1957’s never had the teapot except the dual quad e model. This was the first year for the modern style holley and I believe it was a 465 cfm.

    Like 5
    • F Again

      Ah! Noted. Thanks for the correction, I appreciate it.

      Like 2
  6. ccrvtt

    Certainly not the ’57 T-bird of my dreams, but there’s a compelling honesty about this car with its poverty caps and blackwalls and the 3-speed + overdrive. There can’t have been many made with this drivetrain. It’s a stark contrast to Amos Minter’s flawless creations and as such has a certain integrity to it.

    Given the choice I’d probably take a Minter car. He has, in his way, preserved an artistic ideal with an integrity by itself.

    But even the homely sister can have her own appeal.

    Like 2
  7. WR Hall

    This is a car that should be cleaned up , get running and LEAVE IT ALONE. I see to many overrestored cars out there. If you have a basket and lots of time &$$ go for it but take apart a nice original or even an restoration. So many of these overrestored pieces are MUCH better than the day they rolled off the assembly line. Which shows what a PILE OF $$ does . In lots of ways this ruins things for people who want to enjoy not make a pile of $$$$.

    Like 2
    • Jon Rappuhn

      I agree with you on the over restored. This beauty should be bagged (maybe even hydraulics), some gold 20″ wheels with those inch high tires, purple metallic paint, 8,000+ watt stereo with huge bass speakers in trunk, maybe even a small custom trailer to hold the sub-woofers, and a small block Chevy with the TH350 behind it. Or, like you said, cleaned up, tuned up, made roadworthy and enjoy, which would be my preference!!

      Like 1
  8. Bellingham Fred

    I clicked on the eBay link. The ID plate seems to be the only thing that got cleaned off under the hood. Maybe it was to make it more readable in the pics. The tires are radials with lots of tread . You can see from one of the pics that they are white walls with the black sides mounted out. The blue coating is still on the white wall. If those tires are 30 years old they should be replaced before that car hits the streets regardless of the amount of tread left. I personally know 2 streetrodders who totaled their cars from old radial tires with lots of tread left but the tire failed.
    BTW did someone from the keep it original camp get into my spell checker?
    When I typed in the word streetrodders it indicated a miss spelling. When I right clicked on it the only suggested correction was destroyer. I added the word to the dictionary. As i was typing this paragraph I left the s off the end of it and it was underlined again, this time the only suggestion was streetwalker.

    Like 4
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Correct on the tires – RIP Paul our Fast and Furious Friend…..nice Bird….hope it just gets RestonRoad !

    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      Bellingham Fred…do you think people are behind spellchecker? Human beings haven’t been involved in spellchecker since before the 1990s.

  9. Just passin through

    Good candidate for an LS transplant, with a Tremec TKO600.

  10. Robert Hickman

    I would estimate another $20,000 to $25,000 for an average restoration without any rust repairs plus the purchase price plus your time and labor and it should bring about $30,000 ‘at Auction, so.it is just about a break even effort. Not too much profit left in this one. Good Luck.

  11. Wr HALL

    This is a car for someone to fix up for yourself and enjoy. Making a pile is not the only thing about owning an old car.

    Like 1
  12. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    Sold for $20,100 with 36 bids!

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