Garaged 50 Years: 1956 Ford Thunderbird

This two-owner, two-seater Thunderbird has an interesting story, but we wish we knew more. The original owner was a Ford executive who sold it to the second owner in 1965. For some reason, it was put in a garage in 1971 where it has supposedly been ever since. The Bird has 1971 Michigan plates on the back and one assumes that based on the rust that can be seen in the photos, that it’s spent its entire life in Michigan. Except for two missing hubcaps, it’s complete, original, and hasn’t been monkeyed with, plus the seller says the engine runs. You can find this unrestored Baby Bird here on eBay in Clinton Township, Michigan with an asking price of $15,000. As of this writing, it had 70 Bird Watchers following it.

The seller doesn’t say if a restoration had been started at some time, but the Bird has had the continental kit, some trim pieces, and the driver’s door panel removed. I’m guessing it’s wearing the original Colonial White factory paint where rust is also visible around the rear wheel housings and fenders. The seller states that “the floors feel solid as does the trunk floor for her age. The frame is solid and the driver side hood hinge needs adjusting.

The red and white interior appears original and stock (except for the aftermarket dash-mounted traffic light viewer) and needs a good cleaning. The padded dash and seat look pretty well preserved for its age. The Bird shows 64,492 on the odometer and comes with both the porthole window hardtop and the optional convertible top, plus a tonneau cover. Other options include power windows and an automatic transmission. Seat belts were also an option as part of Ford’s Lifeguard Design safety push in 1956. I wonder if these are original?

The engine bay looks respectable and the seller claims that the 312 cubic-inch V8 “still carries a lot of the original hose clamps. I put a battery in it and the motor cranks like a champ, so should run with some points and TLC.”  The seller also shares that “the car was fitted with the dual quad setup for the Ford executive in 1956 and there is another intake and carb. Ford tested different things on the car for the 1957 model.” That’s pretty interesting. Perhaps the dual-quad setup was tested for the E Code option offered in 1957 and both are included as the photo below shows. Nothing is mentioned about the brakes or other repairs that would be needed to make this Bird roadworthy after being garaged for 50 years.

Two-seater Thunderbirds were desirable cars years before Suzanne Somers teased Richard Dreyfuss in her white ’56 in American Graffiti in 1973. (The first T-Bird club was started in 1962; only five years after the last ’57 rolled off the assembly line.). This two-owner 1956 Thunderbird is a project for sure, but hopefully, it can be returned to its former glory. After 50 years of being in a garage, I’m sure it’s ready for a change of scenery.



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  1. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    No under side shots so it might be risky and ask is on the high side for a northern car that’s not a runner. Interesting 2×4 set up – was just on Amos Minter site today – check out his prices.

    Like 2
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Looks a lot better with the spare tire on the ground….

    Like 4
  3. Stanley

    Interesting car that could be a great candidate for restoration. It is very rare to see the factory seat belt setup in the early birds. Even rarer yet is to see ones that look somewhat serviceable and not frayed and under the seat. Fix this car drive and enjoy it.

    Like 2
    • jwaltb

      I can’t imagine seat belts are that unusual. My parents bought a ‘56 wagon new with belts, padded dash, deep dish steering wheel, an early Ford safety package.

  4. Gord

    The dual quad setup was available in 1956 as a dealer installed option. The correct air cleaner is similar but narrower then the 57 style dual quad one used on the E birds.

    Like 2
  5. al8apex

    FYI, the “aftermarket dash-mounted traffic light viewer” was a factory Ford accessory. My dad worked at Continental/ then Ford and had one (that I still have) that he had in his 56 wagon. I found the factory box for it too … I need to move it to another caregiver though

    Like 1
    • Ron Denny Ron Denny Staff

      Thank you for educating me on the “traffic light prism” being a factory Ford accessory. It’s cool that you have one and the box as well. What kind of ’56 wagon did your dad have? My dad had a two-tone green Parklane. A beautiful wagon. Where can one find out what kind of accessories were available from the factory? I’d like to know more…

  6. pl

    Wouldn’t be funny to see suzanne somers standing next to that tired bird

    Like 3
  7. DanTanna

    Good luck getting that, Bird prices are down. The Millennials want Muscle Cars or Escalades with 22′ rims and neon lights underneath. It’s a $10K car at best.

  8. benjy58

    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRusty definitely needs a looksee underneath.

  9. CCFisher

    It’s possible that this car was used for testing by Ford, but it would have been *before* the executive took ownership. There’s no way Ford would use a privately-owned car for engineering tests, but it was possible to “tag” a car while it was in use by the engineering department and essentially have dibs on the car once testing was complete. There was also an executive garage where the higher-ups had their cars serviced and modified, so that may be where the 2×4 setup came from.

    • Ron Denny Ron Denny Staff

      Thanks for this info; I learned something new about “executive” cars from back in the day.

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