First Year Five Speed? 1955 Ford Thunderbird

When it comes to Baby Birds (’55-’57 Ford Thunderbirds) such as today’s 1955 subject car, it seems that they have either undergone a steller restoration or they’re dealing with old “challenges”. This car is a bit different and that’s what caught my attention. It’s not a slave to originality, it looks to be in fine overall condition and the seller has gone his own way in the appearance department – let’s take a closer look. Residing in Jacksonville, Florida, this first year ‘Bird is available here on eBay for a current bid of  $11,500 with the reserve not yet met.

So, the initial observation is a sharp-looking paint job, a sort of mahogany hue, and wearing matching bumpers. No sign of fender skirts – a great move in my subjective estimation, the folding top is not shown but we’re told that it needs new canvas – the removable top is included but not shown, originality is maintained in the tire/wheel department, and the badging has been removed. The listing claims, “body off frame blasted and painted, new body mounts, new shocks, rust issues repaired with new metal“. I’m on the fence about the color-coded bumpers. It’s a styling cue that works on well-integrated designs but in this case, they seem to be asking, “What happened to the chrome?”

The interior is sharp! The seller states that the tan color is correct for a ’56 T-Bird but the two-tone scheme, with a matching dash, really works well with the exterior color choice. The instrument panel and gauges show as original and the born-with, oversized tiller still handles directional moves. Of note, the driver’s side glass is uninstalled – not sure if it’s included in the sale. Oh, and check out that gear shift!

Get up and go is provided by the original 292 CI V8 engine that has been enlarged with a .030 inch overbore, likely yielding a 297 or 298 CI total displacement. The motor’s original output was 193 gross HP, but no mention is made of additional, potential engine modifications beyond the extra inches. The big surprise here is the Borg-Warner T-5, five-speed manual transmission, an improvement that should provide a very enhanced motoring experience. The seller adds, “runs and drives very good“.

Research indicates that there were about 16K Thunderbirds produced in ’55, not exactly a rare car, so taking a few deviations from stock is a refreshing approach. This car is a bit hard to classify, it’s not stock or original, not really hot-rodded, and hardly a forlorn shadow of its former self. I genuinely like the result, how about you?


  1. RGSmith1 Member

    I miss the chrome bumpers, but they do not seem to detract from the original classic good looks. Sure wouldn’t mind having this in my driveway.

    Like 6
  2. DRV

    Could be a great driver depending on the rust repair quality and price. Hopefully it’s a good deal around 12 or 13 .
    Chrome the bumpers , put on the badges and drive.
    Is it me or is that a faded or light washed red interior?

    Like 3
  3. Joe Haska

    This car just looks wrong to me. As much as I love cars sometimes my first impression can be a bit harsh. This is like the used car salesman in the polyester suit white shoes and greasy hair, I immediately don’t trust or like him and this T-Bird gives me the same vibes.

    Like 10
  4. Mitch

    No fender skirts and new body mounts. (Add-on bodies
    had to welded, its a security question) Ok, someone tried
    here to make it looking “Eurosport”, laugh, as the 2003
    onward recreation from Ford was made. A few matte
    black sidestripes and painted bumpers doesn’t make
    a difference. These object here could be a base for
    a pristine restoration. They 5-speed is a nice adaption
    as long the drum brakes had been converted to discs.

    Like 3
    • seth

      Like the brake note.

      Like 2
  5. Jim in FL

    I like the idea. Not many people hot rod these, but the ones I’ve seen in person look cool. I would go back to chrome on the bumpers and mount black walls on Halibrands. Maybe add a three spoke steering wheel. The paint already has the right vibe. To me the hot rod look takes away a lot of the mass of the 50s and sleeks these up.

    Might be fun without the worry of messing up a restored piece. I hope it goes to someone who will keep it weird. Seller, put the wipers back on.

    Like 5
  6. Kent

    Seems like someone is always trying to improve on perfection. Go back to original color, re-badge, find a correct steering wheel, replace fender skirts. I agree about installing disc brakes to go along with 5 speed. Jay Leno builds em to drive! I like that philosophy!!

    Like 5
    • Roger Stevens

      I’d keep looking if I wanted ‘Bird. Looks like primer on the right rear tire and painted over dents.
      Candidate for a quick turn TV show?

  7. TMK

    Put the chrome bumpers back on the car looks dull

    Like 5
  8. Ron Seggi

    Not sure I like the painted bumpers, but one observation on this ’55 Bird, is that it has a ’56 Bird steering wheel. 1956 was the first year Ford had the sunken steering wheel, a safety feature created by Lee Iacocca.

    Like 7
  9. Doug Brashear

    Painted bumpers…it’s like the seller took it to Earl Scheib without the requisite masking effort before dropoff.

    Like 10
  10. Joe Anastasio

    Why isn’t the driver side door fully closed?

    Like 4
    • Fred

      I had a ratty 57 back in the 70’s same thing,tired latches, had to slam the door. Mine didn’t have skirts either, I knew they would not fit, my quarters had been worked on by many That’s why I’m always wary when I see a skirtless bird.

      Like 2
    • Gordo

      Why didn’t he move it over 10 ft to the right and put it in the sun for picture taking?

      Like 1
  11. Mark

    Looks like a Maaco paint job. The bumper are horrible.

    Like 1
  12. C5 Corvette

    Replace the fender skirts, replace the bumpers with chrome, repair all the noted flaws and any others that pop up, install the premium wheel covers and tires ,then drive and enjoy.

    Like 2
  13. CCFisher

    Whenever I see a car like this with painted bumpers, I question if the builder was trying to make a statement, or just too cheap to re-chrome or replace the originals. It makes me wonder what other shortcuts were taken.

    Like 3
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Obviously, it’s an upgrade. I stated it as an “improvement “.


      Like 2
  14. chrlsful

    yeah, the tranny is 1 thing that’s alright w/me. Want everything U see to B back to stock. A way to trick-up the motor or 1 era correct U can, any same era ford color etc, etc. Tires look big, may B back to 14 or what ever they were & lower if needed for handling, discs needed up frnt? address suspension…

    One thing I like abt these cars (I guess 40s – 60s?) is the Z or L shape w/door open @ hinge side. It can B seen in 3rd pic, thru the steering wheel. How the wrap-round windshield comes into that area, just a bygone feature…

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