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Long-Term Owner: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

Ford is credited with creating the Personal Luxury Car segment when it released the First Generation Thunderbird. However, some would argue that the Muntz Jet was actually the first such vehicle. The T-Bird bested the Muntz on two fronts, which could be enough for it to rightfully wear the crown. The first was that it sold in respectable numbers, while its production life lasted far longer than the more flamboyant Jet. This 1955 Thunderbird has been part of the same family for forty-seven years and presents beautifully. The time has come for it to find a new home, with the seller listing it here on eBay in Chico, California. Bidding currently sits below the reserve at $12,656.

Releasing the Thunderbird was a calculated risk, although Ford was no stranger to rolling the dice. Many people mistakenly believe that the company developed its new model as an answer to Chevrolet’s Corvette, but Ford had a different target demographic in mind. The T-Bird was more luxurious than the hard-edged Corvette, which is reflected in the Ford’s higher curb weight. The seller purchased the car from the previous owner’s estate, who had been its custodian since 1976. They believe it was restored before then and emphasize that it is a driver-grade classic. The Code T Thunderbird Blue paint retains a healthy shine with a few visible cracks and defects. A good paint shop should have no trouble addressing those faults, which would be wise before moisture finds its way into the steel beneath. The panels are exceptionally straight, and a life spent in a dry climate has left the T-Bird rust-free. The car features a color-matched hardtop, but the original owner didn’t order it with a soft-top. Reproduction kits are available for those wishing to improve the vehicle’s versatility, but with these commanding four-figure sums, purchasing one requires deep commitment. The trim and glass are in good order, and the car rolls on its correct steel wheels and hubcaps.

The seller describes this Thunderbird’s paint and trim combination as the most attractive available in 1955. I agree with that statement, but it is worth noting that such opinions are subjective. The car is upholstered in Code XC Turquoise and White, perfectly complementing the exterior. Its condition is above average for a driver-grade classic, with no wear or stains on the seats or carpet. The dash is immaculate, retaining the factory pushbutton radio. The aftermarket wheel is a later addition to improve leg clearance, although the original is in the trunk. It isn’t loaded with factory options, but the new owner will undoubtedly welcome the power seat.

Ordering a 1955 Thunderbird brought the new owner a 292ci Y-Block V8. An optional 312ci unit was offered from 1956, but Ford followed the conservative route during the first production year. This V8 should produce 198hp and 285 ft/lbs of torque, which feeds to the rear wheels via a three-speed automatic transmission. Comparisons with the Corvette are almost unavoidable, although the companies had different buyers in mind. This is reflected in the weights and performance figures of both cars. This T-Bird tips the scales at 3,280 lbs, taking 17.2 seconds to cover the ¼-mile on its way to 109mph. A V8/auto Corvette weighs 2,840 lbs, with a ¼-mile ET of 16.6 seconds and a top speed of 120mph. There is no doubt which was the more hard-edged performance model. The difference was further emphasized when examining the available options. Corvette buyers couldn’t select from items like power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seats, or fender skirts. These were all available to T-Bird buyers, emphasizing the car’s luxury leanings. The seller reveals that this Ford had been hibernating since around 1994, but they have performed considerable work returning it to a roadworthy state. Stuck valves cause some pushrods to bend, but the heads were pulled, and the issue was addressed. It features a new fuel tank and sender unit, a new master cylinder, and the remaining brake components were refurbished. They rounded out the work by performing a fluid change, a tune-up, and rebuilds for the carburetor and generator. The Thunderbird runs and drives well, ready to provide a new owner with wind-in-the-hair summer fun.

This 1955 Ford Thunderbird isn’t perfect, but that could be one of its greatest strengths. The new owner could drive it untouched, knowing that a chip caused by an errant stone won’t mar perfection. It presents well for a driver-grade car, and addressing any shortcomings shouldn’t be difficult or expensive. The bidding has been more subdued than I would typically expect, but that may change as the auction heads into the final minutes. Have you ever owned a ’55 T-Bird? Did you enjoy the experience enough to plan a repeat performance? I wish you luck if you do.


  1. Avatar photo Terrry

    I always liked the first generation T-Birds, and this color exterior/interior combination does it for me! Short of having an opera window, this one is perfect!

    Like 8
  2. Avatar photo Euromoto Member

    That steering wheel needs to go. Really brings down the otherwise nice interior.

    Like 8
  3. Avatar photo Steve R

    The seller has a second listing for this car running concurrently with a set price of $22,000.

    Steve R

    Like 4
  4. Avatar photo Niky

    Yes I owned one Traded it for a 1961 Ford station wagon. Short story was I got married and the The Tbird was a wedding present. Our first “child” was a Great Dane. After several Corvettes, Mustangs etc. I still regret losing the Tbird.

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo Jack Quantrill

    I think “ Mad Man” Muntz, was primarily a seller of TV sets.

    Like 0
  6. Avatar photo Robert Hagedorn Member

    Lack of a soft-top would be a deal killer for me.

    Like 5
  7. Avatar photo Mark

    This would make a nice pro street car.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Neil R Norris

      I had a 55 up until 2 years ago when I sold it. White, with a turquoise interior and both tops. Car ran great and rode beautifully even as an old girl. Was reasonably peppy and sounded amazing. The first Gen birds are iconic.

      Like 1
  8. Avatar photo T-Birdman

    My uncle and aunt owned a ‘56 in Raven Black with Kelsey Hayes wires. Handsome vehicle. Word has it one of their sons owns the car.
    I own a ‘65 in Rangoon red with a white vinyl top. Terrific car.
    The one here is (and has always been) a looker.

    Like 1
  9. Avatar photo BigDaddyBonz

    6 volt system? Was 54 or 55 the last year for 6 volts? Anyway, nice car, wouldn’t take up too much room in garage and could put a smile on your face just cruising down the road. Best wishes to new owner. Fix it up the way you want (just make sure you keep it all Ford) and enjoy!

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Sal Monella

      1955 T/Bird came with 6 volt system ..

      Like 0

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