First Year Project: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

Apart from a small spot of rust in each rocker, this 1955 Ford Thunderbird is a solid car that needs someone willing to return it to its former glory. When released, the Thunderbird was an immediate success, and this is an opportunity to own a solid example from that first year of production. Located in Cottonwood, California, you will find the T-bird listed for sale here on Craigslist. To become the car’s next owner, all you need to do is hand the current owner $13,500, and it’s all yours. I have to really thank Barn Finder Ikey H for referring the Ford through to us.

Finished in Torch Red, the Thunderbird would have been an eye-catching car when new. Actually, the Thunderbird caught both the eye and the imagination of plenty of potential owners when it was released, with 16,155 people choosing to park one in their driveway. That made the car a success well beyond Ford’s expectations and cemented the future for a car that has since become an American automotive icon. This car does have some rust to be addressed, but the owner says that this is confined to a small spot in each rocker. The floors are said to be solid, and if the trunk pan is any indication, then this claim would appear to be true. The paint is showing its age, and a fresh coat would make a world of difference. There is no soft-top with the Thunderbird, but it does come with the White hardtop as pictured.

The Thunderbird’s interior is complete, and while some of the trim looks good, there will be a few items that will require either restoration or replacement. The top of the dash is the most obvious of these areas, with a wide assortment of cracks visible. The T-bird will also require new carpet, but I think that the majority of the remaining soft trim would respond well to a deep clean. One aspect of the interior that will need attention is some of the chrome trim items. There is pitting evident, so some of these pieces will require a trip to the platers. Nice luxury touches inside the Thunderbird include power windows and a power seat.

Ford decided to follow a tried-and-true path when they chose the drive-train for the new Thunderbird. In this case, what they provided was a 292ci V8 engine and a Ford-O-Matic transmission. As performance combinations go, this wasn’t the most potent, but given the fact that Ford was marketing the Thunderbird as a personal car rather than a sports car, it was considered to be adequate for its purpose. The Thunderbird doesn’t currently run, and it isn’t clear when it last did. However, the owner seems to think that it will need little more than a battery and fuel pump to allow it to kick back into life.

As a restoration project, this 1955 Thunderbird has some fairly positive attributes. If the owner’s claims about a lack of rust can be confirmed, the next owner will be starting their restoration from a solid base. It is also a largely complete car that would appear as though it would need little work before it was able to cough back into life once again. It has the potential to make a great Winter project, and can’t you see yourself out for a bit of top-down cruising next Summer? It’s a tempting proposition.


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    If that car doesn’t have any major rust it’s the best deal I’ve seen in quite some time. Nice car!

    Like 4
  2. Raymond Smith

    I remember as a small kid back in the late 60’s seeing one of these converted into a homegrown gasser running around town. Hood off, huge tunnel ram, bumpers gone, fenders cut and nose pointed toward the sky. It left quite an impression on a young car nut.

    Like 6
  3. Gaspumpchas

    Rust confined to rockers. If its the inner rockers its a major job. And everything else in the area like the floor gussets go also. I see mud popping on both sides of the trunk lid. Go over every square inch of this bird to check for rust. Also check to see what you can buy a turnkey driver for. I believe they went to 12 volt in 56. No soft top might be a problem too as hoisting that hard top on and off could be a challenge. Looker over good. Good luck to the new owner.

    Like 6
  4. Del

    Mud everywhere.

    Needs good inspection.

    May be to far gone

    Like 1
  5. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Cottonwood is a small town in the Great Central Valley of Northern California. It’s located just south of Redding and north of Red Bluff along I-5. Rust is not a big issue there. Mild winters, hot dry summers. A major movies was made there back in the early 60’s; “He’ll is for heroes”.
    This car obviously needs some help, but I doubt it is anything serious considering the climate it comes from.
    God bless America

    • Steve R

      The blue plates on the car are from the mid to late-1970’s, who knows where the car was prior to that.

      Steve R

      Like 4
  6. Tbird dreamin'

    If compression tests are ok, all it would take would be +/- $1000-2000 more to go though ignition items, carb kit, rebuild radiator and heater core, water pump and hoses, fuel pump and lines, replace all break lines and brk cylinders, check entire electrical system for reliability, Trans service, thorough cleaning (degreaser and soft brush only) inside and out including engine, only neverdull and 0000 wool, fix the small spots without a complete repaint. New set of Cokers. Daily drive a reliable true classic for under $16000 and some fun weekends.

    Like 1
  7. luke arnott Member

    Why not put a battery on it?
    BTW,it gets HOT in Redding in the summer,as a UK visitor I know.

    • Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

      True 120 f at times. Redding is my home town. Haven’t been there since 85 though.
      God bless America

  8. TimM

    Not a bad price for this!! Needs a lot of love though!!

    Like 1
  9. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    With youse guys not a bad price…..someone go check this one out !

  10. RedLamar

    I like this car and the price. While I like it, I see different shades of blue in various photos and think this TBird has an interesting history that would be fun to research. It would have been nice if a photo of the trim tag would have been included. That said, I’m not at all put off by a color change if that is what happened. I’d make it run properly and fix only what was necessary to make it presentable at cruise night. These are not rare but they are beautiful. GLWTA.

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