Garage Find: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

You know, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times that I go out to my garage, I never seem to find anything quite as cool as this 1957 Thunderbird. It appears that the Ford hasn’t seen the road since 1982 and that it has been squirreled away in a garage for at least the last 20-years. The time has come for the T-bird to move on to greener pastures. It is located in Milton, Florida, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. With bidding now having reached $5,355, the reserve has been met. So those greener pastures are definitely calling to this classic.

The owner states that the Thunderbird is wearing all of its original Starmist Blue paint. It is well and truly past its best now, and a repaint is going to be on the agenda. Giving the car a good look over, it appears that the only visible rust is possibly a few spots in the deck lid on the very lower edge. We receive no information on the state of the frame or floors, but if you look at the car in the same way that I do, then you will believe that the only way to do it justice would be with a full nut-and-bolt restoration. That would be a good way of ensuring that any potential hidden rust issues in the floors or frame are tackled properly. The majority of the external trim and chrome is present, but once again, there is a significant amount of this that will require a full restoration. It would also appear that as well as the hardtop that is pictured in the photos, the Thunderbird does come with a soft-top.

It isn’t clear when the engine in the Thunderbird last coughed into life, and the owner provides no information on whether he has checked to see if the 312ci Y-Block V8 even turns freely. In addition to that 245hp V8, the Thunderbird comes kitted out with a 3-speed Ford-O-Matic transmission, power steering, and “Swift-Sure” power brakes. The power brake system in the Thunderbird is an interesting option and was also the source of a creative advertising claim when the car was new. Ford actually claimed in its advertising that a light bulb could be placed between a driver’s foot and the brake pedal and that the car could be safely brought to a halt without breaking the bulb. Of course, they didn’t specify how long this would actually take, so there was no letting facts get in the way of a good story. The engine and its surrounds look like they have remained very dry and clean during the decades of inactivity, so it might not take a lot of work to kick the Y-Block back into life. Having said that, those same years of inactivity will undoubtedly mean that there will be plenty of items such as hoses, belts, and other perishable items that will require checking and replacement. One claim that the owner does make is that the T-bird has only covered 70,000 genuine miles. If it has been sitting unused since 1982, then there is no doubt that this claim is definitely feasible.

The owner refers to the interior trim as being original blue and white, but this isn’t correct. A check of the data plate reveals that the combination is actually Medium Blue and Light Blue. I look at the upholstery and my fingers begin to itch because I would really love to see how it would respond to a good clean. I suspect that the seat and door trims might come up looking quite good, and I believe that the kick panels could probably be restored without the need to resort to replacement. The dash pad is probably beyond that and is one item that will require replacement, while I think that the same is probably true of the carpet. The original owner appears to have been fond of his creature comforts back in 1957, because the Thunderbird comes with power windows, a power seat, and the Town and Country radio.

When it comes to potential values with classic cars, the key has always been originality. The 1957 Thunderbird demonstrates this better than many classics. Today it is possible to buy a cleanly-presented ’57 for around $23,000, and it will be a car that you would be rightly proud of. However, when you scratch below the surface, there will almost inevitably be some aspects of the car that won’t be original. For instance, the car may have received a color change or an upgrade to some part of the drive-train. A good original car will run closer to $40,000, but from there, the sky is the limit. I recently saw an incredible example that had been the subject of a meticulous, frame-off restoration. The attention to detail has been extraordinary, and it sold for just shy of $110,000. It would appear that there is that sort of potential locked away in this car, and its cause is no doubt assisted by the decent list of factory options that were ordered on this car when new. I’m not going to pretend that restoring it is going to be a 5-minute job, but if it is as rust-free as it would appear to be, then it could be well worth the effort.

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Comments

  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    I don’t claim to know much about early T-Birds, but this one does seem like a good candidate for a restoration. And perhaps even a restoration where one does not end up being upside down. That comment is based on a quick look at the Amos Minter Restoration web site (I note it is now called Amos and Justin Minter). I have heard of them for decades but to my knowledge I have never seen one of their restored cars. I assume they have been, and continue to be, the gold standard with respect to restorations of two-seat T-Birds.

    The background of the pics sure looks like the “clean out the folks’ house” operation. Been there, done that. Frankly, it’s not much fun, though the revealing of a long-hidden T-Bird would be interesting to the neighborhood.

    Like 5
    • stillrunners Stillrunners Member

      Yep Amos usually brings one of his latest to the Pate Swap meet….he sets up across from me every year.

  2. Erik Tisher

    This is good intel. My mother in law has my late father in law’s ’57 in her garage – similar condition – hasn’t run since 1993 or been moved since 1997. And – it has no hard top and has been repainted. I offered $5K, but others have filled her head with Barrett-Jackson show car values, so she did not accept my offer. It looks like I was in the ballpark with my offer. I will keep trying…and will keep trying to keep peace within the family.

    Like 11
  3. Andrew Franks

    I think auctions can be one of the worst things that ever happened to the Hobby. The prices are ridiculously inflated, and the whole event is based on herd hysteria. I am an enthusiast if these cars, and would add one to the collection if i could find something restorable at the right price. And $110,000. T Birds are absurd. I have a ’56, and it’s a joy. I also have two projects underway so the Bird will have to wait. i want to share that the Mercedes is done, Classchise in Wittier California did a beautiful job, it’s a Diesel, so at idle at a stoplight it sounds like walnuts in a tin can.
    Happy Motoring and Holidays to Barn Finders.

    Like 8
  4. John N Mcfayden.

    The top is from a 55 as the 56 and 57 had a port hole on each side of the top.

    Like 3
    • sam

      not true port holes were an option

    • Daniel

      Actually that is only partially correct. All 55 Thunderbirds with a hardtop were non porthole tops. In 1956, the non porthole top was standard, but the porthole top was a no cost option. In 1957, that was reversed and the porthole top was standard but the non porthole top was a no cost option. The 55 non porthole top had a Ford Crest emblem on the lower corner behind the suede window. The 56 non porthole had no emblem and the 57 non porthole had a small round chrome circle with a raised wing Thunderbird emblem located in approximately the same area as the emblem on the 55 hardtop.

      Like 3
  5. alphil

    Correct me if I’m wrong,but I’m not so sure about it having original paint.Looks like that VIN tag on the firewall has been masked off,and is that overspray I see on the checkered trunk liners,(by each trunk hinge spring)?Still,looks like a straightforward restoration,well optioned car that I’d be happy to have.

    Like 1
  6. IkeyHeyman

    Being an auction, we don’t know what the final price will be. But have you looked at what the ‘55 – ‘57 (non E codes) ’Birds are bringing these days? Be nice to see it on the road but I hope for the buyer’s sake that he or she can do a lot of the work themselves.

    Like 1
  7. Bill Hall

    EONs ago early (70s) a customer at our family service station had a 57 T Bird that people would KILL for now. It was a very nice original 57 with a 3 speed od that he drove all the time. I heard he finally sold it this was several years ago but I still imagine it went for much $$$$ probably to someone who was going to restore it? Take it to an auction and ask and maybe get a huge pile of green.

    Like 1
  8. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Hi guys!
    I was curious about the non portal hardtop on this ’57 Bird and did some research on my own.
    It seems the 1955 Bird came with an optional hardtop, which had no portal window but had a Ford crest emblem on the sails.
    The 1956 and ’57 Bird hardtop could be ordered with OR without a portal window. So, for ’57 it was either an option or a delete option. The first ’56 Birds with hardtops had no portal window or Ford emblem. Then Ford started offering hardtops with port windows. In ’57, if you ordered your Bird with no port window on the hardtop, you got a custom stylized emblem.
    From all this information I got from the Thunderbird Forum, apearently this top on this 1957 Thunderbird is from an early ’56.

    Like 1
  9. robert robinson

    I know were a E code is I can get if anyone is interested.He has had it for 40 years sick and cant finish it.a lot of it is took apart,engine out of it trans is out and he has a lot of the chrome parts out and the seat is out.I think it is going to be to bigger job for me to tackle with my health but I would flip it for a decent profit.He priced the car to me for 13 so I would like to make a couple of grand or so,it is all there except the carb top air cleaner the number matches on the frame with the E code and paper work all match its all there.Car has been rusty he has put both quarters and both front fenders on with the floor pans he has done a lot of work already,it has a some small rust in the upper floor but not much.

    • Bill Hall

      The one I knew in Portlandia was very nice, at the most maybe a paint job. Cars don’t rust here even if driven in wet weather. If recall it went to Minnesota?

  10. Mike

    Take the stuff off the car please and then take the pictures. This is E-Bay, not Craig’s List.

    Like 2
  11. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    Well what do ya know, this one is in the town I live in, up to $7,700 now. Good thing I’m a recovered car hoarder.

    Like 3
  12. ccrvtt

    This car is at the top of my dream car list, even in this condition. Is there anyone among the Barn Finds fraternity who knows how much the Minters (or any other reputable restorer) may charge to make this car great again? Not that I could afford it, but it should be saved.

  13. TimM

    This car looks like it will benefit from a good cleaning!! I’m sure the fuel and brakes need to be addressed but for the most part it looks solid!!!

  14. Mark419 Member

    I would yank the y block and trans and put a 302 with an aod trans, put a rack and pinion steering with disc brakes, get all the body accessories working, probably rewire it then use it as a summer daily driver. The body in the shape it’s in will not cause anxiety if I park it in a store parking lot. I would enjoy the hell out of it.

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