Modified Muscle Bird: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

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At first glance it’s not unusual to see a classic two-seater Baby Bird sporting aftermarket wire wheels. But dual side exhausts? Wha?? The seller shares that the “relatively pedestrian” Y Block engine is long gone and says with some bravado, “When started, the cat’s out of the bag. Louder than a gasser, its true nature is revealed. It’s a performance machine.” This “Muscle Bird” now has a modified Ford 302 under the hood (more about that later) paired with a Hurst Four Speed Shifter. Currently residing in Le Mesa, California, this unique ’57 Thunderbird is for sale here on craigslist for $24,000. Another tip of the hat to T.J. the super tipster for sending this ‘Bird our way.

There is no history shared about this T-Bird and while you see a number of E-Code and F-Code “performance” ’57 Thunderbirds finished in black or red, this one’s wearing an attractive 50’s-era Coral Sand paint job with a Raven Black removable hardtop and white interior. Certainly not your typical performance car color combination. In their ’57 sales brochure, Ford bragged about its widest spectrum of colors ever offered in a Thunderbird and how you could select from “34 sparkling two-tone body and hard top combinations” or choose a single color. The seller claims the paint is original and is in “barn find type” condition. It looks presentable although there may be some thin spots on the top of the black fiberglass hardtop. I’m not spotting rust or any major dents or scratches and the chrome, trim, and glass look good. Based on the photos, the front hood could have some alignment issues.

Inside, the seller says this is the T-Bird’s original white interior and admits it needs a good cleaning. (I don’t understand sellers who don’t clean their vehicles before photographing them.) The few photos supplied shows a tear in the headliner above the rear glass and a gauge has been added to the right of the glove compartment. It doesn’t appear to have carpeting and the original automatic transmission has been replaced with a Hurst Four Speed Shifter and a performance clutch. There’s no mention of an optional convertible top, so I’m assuming there’s not one folded up and hiding behind the front bench seat.

Per the seller, this Muscle Bird’s growl is supplied by “a fresh and extensively modified aluminum-head Ford 302 bored .030 with all the very best parts: Ford Performance, Manley, Pro-Flo, Crower, Moody, Mallory, Edelbrock, TRW, Comp Cams, Offenhauser, Holley, JBA, Isky, etc.,etc. Most Mustangs cannot approach this car’s performance.” The seller also shares that “the engine is seated FAR rearward of the normal Up High / Nose-Heavy location by an expertly recessed firewall. The whole motor now sits behind the front axle line, greatly improving cornering, yet with almost no intrusion in the cabin.”

I know there are “Bird Purists” (and other vintage automobile purists) out there who would not approved of these drivetrain modifications, but as the seller most colorfully says, “If you dig ‘Birds but need more GO-FAST than the Lawn-Chair Guy show cars have, this one may be your jam.” So what do you think Bird Lovers? Is this Coral Sand Muscle Bird your jam?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Not sure I’d put money into a car that the owner says they took the time and money to move the engine back so it would handle better and then jack the chassis up to negate the whole handling business. Also, how long do you think it will take to spin the spokes out of the wheels when you hammer the gas pedal? Hood fit doesn’t exactly convince me the car hasn’t been wrecked either. Kind of makes you think I’m not impressed with this car doesn’t it?

    Like 18
  2. Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

    I would like to respectfully ask my neighbors not to buy this car. Thank you.

    Like 7
  3. SB5K

    If they did a music video of the song “She’ll have fun till her Daddy takes her TBird Away”, this is the car for it.

    Like 6
  4. A.G.

    Any state with safety inspections may not pass this vehicle. The exhaust should exit behind the passenger compartment. In any case a hot, exposed exhaust tip should not be found directly under passenger door.

    Like 8
  5. Robert Levins

    This thing is worth about as much as a VW kit car. No way would a person spend $24,000.00 for this one and try to do any type of restoration work of any kind. Just burn it up, and drive it until it drops – that’s the level it’s at. The highest this T-bird should soar, price wise, is about $14,000.00 tops. Well anyway, best of luck – you’ll need it. Nice article by the way.

    Like 8
  6. Michael

    Not sure what you gain by dropping a 312 and installing a 302 other than newer

    Like 1
    • Rick

      The loss of all the dead weight can’t hurt.

      Years ago I swapped out the 272 Y-block and Fordomatic from a ’57 Ford Custom 300 4-door and installed a 302 with the C4. The car lost 300 pounds, gained 20 horsepower and 30 foot pounds. It was never a dragster but the difference in handling and performance was quite noticeable.

      Like 8
      • Michael Petersen

        Reality is there were a lot of options to crank up HP in the early birds, factory you had d bird at 245hp Ebirds at 271 hp and the F birdd at 300 HP, which according to McCollach was actualy more like 360 HP., admittdly I am a purist owning a 56 a 57 d and a 57 E bird, my humv=ble opinion throwing a 302 i this is a matter if conveniece and a huge mistake . If you want a true muscle car great but the birds were made and sold and are actually a personal car way too heavy in general with the heavy frame with a factory heavy X frame to be much of a hot rod . has it been done sure, in todays market this is just an abomination in my opinion, oh yeah to say you cant build an comparible 292/312 into a power match with a 302 is just silly and show a lack of background

        Like 2
  7. JCH841

    I can see the potential power is likely higher with the 302, but route the exhaust out the back so the car can be lowered to bring out more handling. As it sits, it’s a good $10,000 car.

    Like 8
  8. Joe Machado


    Like 1
  9. Bunky

    Hack job 👎🏻

    Like 6
  10. Joe Haska

    It makes you wonder how a relatively nice car came upon this fate. We called the wire wheels “Ttu-Junk” when they were new. No info on trans and clutch after this “Professional” engine swap. Seller says I am going to sell it as is, Why would I clean it up? The new owner can do that! If you decide to go look at this car, the only question you will have for yourself would be “Why am I wasting my time?”

    Like 5
  11. Perry wrightMember

    Hey guys, I’m the owner of this Tbird. I see that someone put my car on this site, very cool. Thank you.

    However, I’d like to address a few of the posted comments. First, this is an accident-free car. It has NOT been hit. The hood is just out of adjustment. The paint is original with NO filler. The only re-spraying has been done around the perimeter of the hood opening where the car’s builder had primered over scratches from engine installations. I had that primer covered with the correct color. I took photos beforehand and am happy to provide them.

    The firewall modification is extremely well-crafted. It’s not “hack job” work.

    This was done by the prior owner before he passed away. He built & installed the current 302 as a replacement for the prior Hilborn-Injected / magneto-fired engine. Yes, the car was even wilder before.

    He took extensive notes on the build. Those docs come with the car.

    No, the handling has NOT been “negated” —- The current SBF 302 (with it’s aluminum heads & intake) engine is likely 200 lbs lighter than the original 312 and sits much further to the rear, behind the front axle line. The battery is relocated to the trunk as well.

    Btw, on the trunk: It is also original paint inside & the tire-changing decal is still present on the lid.

    The normal 1950’s American Car understeer / plowing feel has been eliminated. Of course she does not handle like my Lotus Seven or Formula 500, but it is substantially more balanced & nimble than any stock 1955/56/57.

    Thanks! —Perry.

    Like 9
  12. JimmeeDGeek

    All that power and not enough brains to remove the single master cylinder and go with safer dual brakes.

    Like 7
  13. Jay McCarthy

    On paper it sounds great, I guess that’s the difference between theory and reality

    Like 0
  14. Rico

    The 57 is my favorite simply because of the fins. Had Ford designers in 2002 put tail fins on the new 2 seater T-bird, frenched the headlights and done something less ugly with the taillights they wouldn’t have been able to build them fast enough.

    Like 7
  15. Dr Ron

    Too bad that routing plugs wires is rocket science.

    Like 5
    • Petesponies

      I own a D code 57 with a stick trans, no OD. Supposed to have never built any. But it was an early drag car, do maybe custom ordered. I own several 302 cars. Love them, but would never take out the yblock for one. Y blocks are cool and will really run with some mods. I used to race mine every weekend as a teen .

      Like 1
  16. KC JohnMember

    I just don’t understand the negativity. It’s a hot rodded tbird. What’s not to love. There’s enough perfectly restored ones out there. He didn’t cut.up a perfect example. I say hammer the loud pedal until something breaks and build it stronger. This car makes me smile because it makes purists mad.

    Like 4
    • Rico

      When I was a kid, the guy across the street brought home a 57 T-Bird he got at a police auction. It was black with a red and black interior.
      The motor was blown so it was discarded and he put a 392 Hemi in it with a Chrysler transmission.
      It ran great. He’d start it regularly but, as I recall, he only drove it up and down the street once. When we moved out of the neighborhood he still had the T-Bird in his garage along with a 36 Ford that had a 59 fuel injected Corvette engine and a 3 speed manual transmission, but he never put a floor in the 36.
      I’ve often wondered what happened to him, his family, the 36 and the 57.
      That was well over 50 years ago.

      Like 1
  17. V8roller

    Kudos for Perry Wright coming and posting amongst all this negativity.
    It looks OK to me, better without the sidepipes perhaps, but an unusual colour.
    And it’s not as if there’s any shortage of original cars.
    Hope it finds an appreciative home, if it was rhd it might even be mine.

    Like 1
  18. Mario

    Thank you, Perry Wright, for your contribution and clearing up a lot of the mystery surrounding this T-Bird. While I agree with some, a few seem to just for the sake of complaint itself. As you stated, the modifications were made by the previous owner, now deceased.
    As with all things it’s a matter of taste, and there’s plenty for the next owner to work with.
    Myself, I would update the braking system and change the exhaust to go under the car to the rear. Like I said, it’s a matter of taste.
    But great potential project for some lucky Ford enthusiast. I would make an offer myself, but my won’t believe me that it “followed me home”.

    Like 3

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