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Parked In ’89: No Reserve 1955 Ford Thunderbird

The owner of this 1955 Ford Thunderbird received the vehicle as part of a deal when he purchased a deceased friend’s home. It is a project that stalled decades ago and now needs someone willing to return it to its former glory. It has some rust issues, but it does appear to be structurally sound. The Thunderbird is located in Arlington, Texas, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. You can tell when a car is a hot property by the interest that it generates when it is listed for sale. In this case, 45 bids have already been submitted. This has pushed the price along to $5,001 in this No Reserve auction.

The last owner of the Thunderbird purchased it in roughly the condition that it is in today. When it was new, this is a car that wore Thunderbird Blue paint. This is a striking color and must have made the vehicle stand out in a crowd. It has received a color change at some point, but the quality is pretty rough. The existing white paint is peeling off in numerous places. For this classic to be restored correctly, it will need to be dismantled and media-blasted to expose healthy steel and potential rust issues. There is rust in the Thunderbird’s floors. The driver’s side has been replaced, but the seller suggests that this should probably be redone. The floor pan braces require attention, so if the Ford is to be dismantled anyway, then doing the job properly should be worth the effort. The trunk drop-offs have been replaced, and the supplied photos show that the rest of the underside and frame are in a sound state. Exterior rust is not a problem, with the lower extremities in good order. The convertible frame is in good condition, but the top will need to be replaced. The Thunderbird also comes with a hardtop, and while it will need a repaint, its condition is quite respectable. The bumpers are both missing, but the rest of the trim is intact. Unfortunately, bumpers for the ’55 T-Bird are not cheap. The buyer will need to budget $1,000 for each of these if they are seeking high-quality reproductions. There are cheaper options available, but it is a case of getting what you pay for.

Under the Thunderbird’s hood, we find the 292ci V8, which is backed by a 3-speed automatic transmission. Ford had never envisaged the Thunderbird as a sports car, but as a “personal luxury car.” With 198hp on tap, performance figures were reasonable but not startling. A ¼ mile ET of 17.2 seconds was not bad for a car that tipped the scales at 3,280lbs. As you can guess by its appearance, this 292 doesn’t currently run. It is missing a few vital components, including the distributor, air cleaner, radiator, and shroud. Worse news is the fact that the owner has been unable to turn the motor by hand. If it is stuck, then it might not be a huge problem. There are plenty of people who swear by Mystery Oil as the ultimate product to help free a stuck engine. I have had quite decent success using diesel fuel. It is thinner than most available oils and other products, so it can tend to penetrate well into the tightest spots. The engine will almost certainly need a rebuild if it can be made to turn freely, so I’d probably treat the rest of the drivetrain to the same thing.

With an exterior in Thunderbird Blue, the interior was originally trimmed in Turquoise and White. The current upholstery was fitted at the same time that the color change was performed, and it has held up exceptionally well. There are no problems to report beyond a lack of carpet. This will leave the buyer with a decision to make. This looks too nice to scrap, but if the original paint color is applied, the combination with this trim would look pretty horrid. If a faithful restoration is going to be undertaken, then it might be a case of searching for someone who wants a Red Thunderbird interior that will buy this one. Trim kits aren’t cheap, and the price will depend on whether the buyer is seeking vinyl or leather. Vinyl kits sell for around $1,100 in the correct color combination. The same kit in leather will cost closer to $2,000. The vehicle does come nicely equipped. It features power windows, a power seat, and a telescopic steering column.

Any stalled project has the potential to be a sad sight. However, the story gets even sadder when it is declining health, and ultimately, the death of an owner that is the reason for this. The current owner acknowledges that he will never get to this classic to return it to its former glory. It is refreshing to hear that attitude because I think that we’ve all seen those cars where the owner has finally admitted defeat when the car has deteriorated beyond the point of no return. I hope that someone returns this Thunderbird to active duty, and I hope they do it soon. If you were to take this one on, would you undertake a faithful restoration, or would you apply a color that compliments the existing interior trim?


  1. nlpnt

    It’s almost a shame this is a T-bird and not a Mainline Fordor in a similar survivor condition with those stripes and 5-slot mags. It’s so worthy of getting functional and legal and preserving and enjoying as a survivor, but because it’s an early Thunderbird it WILL be overrestored.

    Like 6
  2. Gord

    The hard top and soft top are probably worth a minimum of $3k each.

    Like 2
  3. Raymond Smith

    I’m old enough to remember when these were just regular old cars and many were “hot rodded”. Being this one is in the condition it is I would be tempted to do a period correct hot rod restoration with a 70’s graphic paint job and all.

    Like 5
  4. mainlymuscle

    Get it running and stopping well ,and drive it as is !
    You will stand apart from the crowd !

    Like 6
  5. Morley Member

    Te engine is disappointing, with all the other period stuff, I expected a Buick , Desoto or Cadillac . These things where hot rodded to death in the 60s. Oh well

    Like 1
    • jerry hw brentnell

      I remember a old issue of hot rod magazine this guy standing on the fenders of a 57 thunderbird with a sledge hammer pounding in the fire wall to make room for a 392 chrysler hemi , they were going to drag race the bird , back then just a used car

      Like 3
  6. Maestro1 Member

    I really like these cars but this one is major surgery to restoration or even to a decent driver. I would pass.

    Like 1
  7. Joe Haska

    Why have two previous owners given up on this project? Dah!

    Like 2
  8. Stacey Hagan

    If it goes at a decent price, I would leave interior and exterior as is and drop a Coyote in it with a manual 6 speed. It would likely perform a bit better and you would still have classic older hotrod look. Too many restored back to or better than factory that are pricing new generation of car people out of the game.

    Like 6
    • Chuck Smith

      I was thinking the same thing but would get the body and tops in good shape, perhaps a 6 speed auto transmission. I used to own a 56 wish I still had it!
      At one time I knew where a good Hi Pro 289 was.

      Like 1
  9. Dave Mathers

    A friend of mine has a bad ass 55 with a BBF that runs 8s. He even named the address to his new factory as 55 Thunderbird Drive!!

    Like 1
  10. Steve Thompson

    New brakes, used bumpers, 428 police engine, C6 trans, drive !!!

    Like 4
    • Pugsy

      And turn the tires around….can’t forget that. Them whitewalls look terrible on the slotted rims.

      This car looks to be in terrific condition, rust wise.

      Like 1
    • Mike

      I was thinking a 5.0 and a 5 speed…..

      Like 0
  11. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    Funny, when the link photo just popped up, at a glance I thought this was a Sunbeam Tiger before I got a more focused look.

    I would never go this far

    But the Idea of the Tiger is intriguing. Add Sunbeam-style bumperettes, go with the Coyote, and a more modern suspension/brakes, etc. Essentially, bring up the performance to a new level. There are plenty of stock ones around to fill the demand. IMO…

    Like 2
    • BrianT Brian Member

      That’s a beautiful car. I liked the 57 more than the two previous years. There is a project 57 around here for $10,000 and I’m itching to go look at it. My wife wants to remodel the kitchen and if I do that quickly she’ll be happy and won’t even notice one more project in the garage.

      Like 1
  12. Morley Member

    Tell your wife you can always eat in the car, but you can not drive a kitchen anywhere

    Like 2
  13. Lou Pacelli

    I would look for an 80s mustang donor car. 5.0 fuel injected 5 speed manual wiring and all. Bucket seats gun metal gray paint.

    Like 0
  14. Robt

    Bench seat is cool. Great project. And as mentioned enough overpriced, over restored examples out there. This one would be great upgraded for safety and reliability but otherwise leaving it as is. Beef up the suspension as needed, rebuild the motor that’s in it with a nice cam and intake. Add a 4,5 or 6 spd … then drive the wheels off it.

    Like 0

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