Fresh Barn Find: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

The first-generation Ford Thunderbirds (aka T-Birds) have often been compared to the early Chevy Corvettes, but that’s not a fair comparison. Sure, they were both 2-seaters, but while the ‘Vette was considered a sports car, the T-Bird was an early personal luxury vehicle. And the 1955-57 Thunderbirds sold better than the 1953-55 Corvettes. This ’57 T-Bird was last driven about 30 years ago and recently rescued from a barn. It looks like a solid candidate for a restoration, although the title was lost years ago. Located in Grants Pass, Oregon, the seller is looking to get $14,950 here on craigslist. Thanks for the tip, Matt H.!

Ford’s Thunderbird would be the company’s first 2-seat automobile since 1938. It was developed after Ford execs saw the Corvette at the 1953 Motorama display at the New York Auto Show. That car was created in response to the growing popularity of European sports cars in the U.S. But Ford opted to make it “a personal car of distinction” as the advertising would say, so creature comforts and a V8 engine would become the order of the day. Before the suits decided that the T-Bird should have a back seat, more than 53,000 Thunderbirds were built between 1955-57, with the ‘57s seeing the most success at 21,000 copies. The production run had been extended due to the late arrival of the new ’58s.

As the story goes, this was a running car when its elderly lady owner decided to quit driving in the 1990s. The car found itself stashed away after that in a barn on a large historic property by the Rogue River. Her heirs decided it was finally time for it to go and the seller hauled it away. Unfortunately, the only photos provided show it on a trailer as it would be cool to see what it looked like all tucked away in storage. The car originated in California and comes complete with California black plates and a removable hardtop.

The car’s paint combination looks to be Colonial White over Starmist Blue and is dirty and faded for its time in the lock-up. There is some surface rust along the bottoms of the rear quarter panels, but nothing problematic is revealed in the other pics. These cars were available only with V8 engines, so either a 292 or one of several 312 cubic inch motors were available. We don’t know which applies to this car, so perhaps an astute T-Bird fan will be able to enlighten us. An automatic transmission shifter appears in the floorboard of the interior which looks in good condition considering the age of the car.

As mentioned earlier, there is no title, but these cars can be worth north of $60,000 when restored (according to Hagerty). One in Fair condition is said to be a $16,000 auto, so it looks as though the seller has priced the car appropriately for today’s laws of supply and demand. As a side note, the 1957 Thunderbird was the last 2-seater car that Ford sold until the Ford EXP sport compact car in 1982.


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  1. Dusty Rider

    I think that’s an earlier hardtop, the one for ’56 and’57 had a porthole.

    Like 6

      Yes, the ’57 models – and the ’56 models – had portholes in the top … but the ’55 with the non-porthole hardtop had a different diameter locking grommet than the ’56-’57 models, but they could be changed out … the ’57 “F” code engine had the 312cu with 4-bbl carb with the Paxton-McCullough supercharger … the “E” code was the 312 with 2/4bbl carbs … I had two ’55 models with standard trans but hope to get a ’57 model sometime in the future – it’s always been my favorite …

      Like 1
    • Gord

      That’s the correct top for a 57 – portholes were optional in both 56 and 57

      Like 7
    • al8apex

      The porthole window was an option

      Like 6
  2. chrlsful

    wrenchin abuncha Italian classics in the 70’s/80’s asa kid in parents garage Dad wanted a lill competition. “I like the ol T-bird 2 seaters.” We’re both mostly ford guys now. Was it that or his vet status? He had just bought Mom the ’80 EXP I’d put the escort rear seat in (it even had the escort bolt holes, etc). “I’ll stick w/these.” I answred. My buddies all had 442, ‘stang, GTO, etc. 2 yrs later I got a ’70 Bronco for wrk I still have today.

    There’s lots to likeinan ol Bird. I like this best w/an 11th gen as 2nd. The big ones (all the yrs between) I hoped for a 4 dor w/suicide like the 4th gen Lincoln…

  3. Howie Mueler

    Looks rusty, missing title.

    Like 2
    • NW Iowa

      If not registered within the past 10 years, a new title can be had for less than $20 if you have a physical address in South Dakota. I am NOT a Ford fan but I love the ’55-’57 T-birds….and none after that….yuck. If me, I’d get it mechanically sound, clean it up and drive it, no restoration as I despise garage queens. Let the pompous rich guys restore to perfection.

      • Telluride T-bird

        I bought it. I’m going to get it running and drive it every day. Make it mechanically sound and do some burn outs! It’s not getting painted either but everything else will get rebuilt and solid over time. It has found it’s forever home.

        Like 1
  4. Frank

    Here’s one for the Fools! Five years later and $70K spent and climbing. The restoration shop owners says, we are rounding the corner almost ready for paint. Engine, transmission, rear end rebuilt, chrome, interior along with seats back from the shop. I can honestly say I hear my friend say this to many owners over the years.

    Like 5
  5. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    I have GOT to start driving around on the country and dirt roads around here.
    Maybe I’ll get a barn find

    Like 2

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