No Reserve: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

The First Generation Ford Thunderbird has a strong following and is largely credited with creating the “personal luxury car” segment in the American market. While Chevrolet struggled with initial sales of its two-seat Corvette, Thunderbird sales grew from strength to strength. Today, the T-Bird retains a strong following, which is reflected in the spirited bidding on this 1957 model located in Reno, Nevada. It has already attracted an impressive twenty-four bids that have pushed the price to $25,100 since the owner listed it for sale here on eBay. Perhaps it is the model’s inherent desirability, or it could be its overall condition. The drivetrain configuration will attract others, while the owner’s decision to offer it with No Reserve won’t harm its cause.

The Thunderbird presents nicely in Colonial White, with the seller indicating that it underwent a repaint in this original shade in the past. They believe that this occurred more than three decades ago and that it has accumulated a few minor marks and imperfections. It still presents nicely, with the paint shining beautifully and the panels looking as straight as an arrow. The T-Bird has spent its life in California, so its rust-free status is no surprise. The seller supplies a vast array of photos of the car’s underside, and it looks as clean as you could ever hope to find. As a bonus for some buyers, the seller includes the factory hardtop. That should allow the next owner to enjoy this classic on cooler days. The chrome generally looks good for a survivor, although the bumpers would benefit from a trip to the platers so they really “pop.” The original owner ordered the car with tinted glass, and I can’t spot any problems with that.

Ford offered several engine choices in the ’57 Thunderbird, but the original owner of this classic selected the E-Code version of the mighty 312ci Y-Block V8. Equipped with a Dual-Quad intake system, it produced 270hp that found its way to the rear wheels via a manual transmission with optional and rare overdrive. While it may not have been able to match the more sporty Corvette in a straight line, its ¼-mile ET of 15.7 seconds and a top speed of 124mph were respectable nonetheless. The overdrive is a welcome inclusion because production figures suggest that only around 3% of buyers selected that option in 1957. The owner indicates that this T-Bird is original and has been appropriately maintained. They recently rebuilt the starter and carburetors, making it a turnkey classic that drives well. However, it is a car with a slice of mystery. The owner includes a shot of the original Invoice in the listing. It shows that the original owner ordered the car with power steering, but I don’t see any sign of the pump or other hardware in the engine bay. That’s a small mystery for potential buyers to unravel.

This Thunderbird’s interior leaves me feeling cold. It is serviceable, but its condition doesn’t live up to the rest of this classic. There is nothing radically wrong, but there are a few issues for potential buyers to probably consider. Tackling apparent flaws first, and the driver’s door trim is warped. The problem appears to center on the card, and I’ve seen enthusiasts achieve remarkable results by applying pressure and steam to the back of the card to reduce the warping. It is worth a try, but potential buyers may need to brace themselves and spend some cash on new door trims if they seek perfect presentation. The dash and pad look good, although the seller notes that the radio and clock are inoperative. The carpet looks tidy, but the seat foam is lumpy, and there is a small tear in the cover. That brings me to the part of this interior that doesn’t sit well with me. I have checked several resources, and none show an entirely Black interior trim amongst the options. Code XA delivers Raven Black and Colonial White, which is as close as we come. The seller emphasizes this interior’s originality, but the upholstery deserves an explanation.

I initially compared the success of the First Generation Thunderbird with that of Chevrolet’s Corvette, but I acknowledge that this is not a fair comparison. While both are two-seat convertibles, their creators aimed them at different markets. While Chevrolet desired a sports car in the European tradition, Ford focused on a softer and more luxurious offering. Those philosophical differences weren’t readily apparent early, but they became glaringly evident within a few years. That poses the question of which company got it right. If longevity were the sole criteria, history shows that the final T-Bird rolled off the line in 2005, while the Corvette remains a strong presence in today’s new car market. Once again, this is an over-simplification. The 1957 Corvette and Thunderbird were great cars, but the choice is a “horses for courses” proposition. If you want a hard-edged sports car with exhilarating performance, the Corvette is the obvious winner. If your tastes are more restrained and you wish to pursue your classic motoring experience at a more relaxed pace, maybe you need to give this Thunderbird a closer look.

Comments

  1. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Couple of minor issues, but I like it. Been a long time since I’ve seen an original generation T-Bird with anything other than an automatic tranny.
    I would love to have this in my garage. I already have a T-Bird and a Vette, but this would be a nice addition.

    Like 4
  2. princeofprussia

    Such beautiful cars! I even like the later-era wire wheel covers and white line tires on this one!

    Like 4
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      ….. and no continental kit!

      Like 5
      • ccrvtt

        Continental kits were offered on the ’55-’56 cars because of the limited trunk space. The spare tire made it difficult to stow a golf bag. For 1957 Ford lengthened the trunk and kept the spare inside. I agree with bobhess that the kits were cool when we were 12 but not so much anymore.

        The ’57 T-bird is one of my top 3 of all time favorites along with the 1966 Riviera and 1968 Charger.

        Like 1
      • Jon in Chico

        Continental kit was standard on’56 models only …

        Like 1
  3. Camaro guy

    Reminds me of the white 57 Tbird Suzanne Somers drove in American Graffiti, both were HOT then

    Like 2
    • tiger66

      The car in the movie was a ’56, not a ’57, but yeah on the hotness.

      An E-Bird with no reserve? Sweet.

      Like 6
  4. Terry

    I have had a full time job since I was thirteen and saved my money. I bought and sold older cars I got cheap and got running and did some bodywork also so I had a few bucks to buy something nice. I found a Bird, Black and straight as a arrow with no rust, a beautiful car and man I wanted it bad. I found out he had three Birds, a red one, a white one and the black one and all were very nice cars. He said he wanted to sell two and didn’t care which ones. My dad loved it too but said it was impractical as a daily driver, which was true. I ended up buying a 75 Vette but always kept the bird on my wish list. I was at a buddies and I asked his dad if he knew of the car, he said he did and it was a blower car originally. I knew I should have bought it but at least I was the only kid in my high school with a Vette senior year.

    Like 3
    • Derik Edward Lattig

      Continental kits were an after-market in ’57 I personally like the look. That T-Bird Robert Urich drove as Dan Tanna in the TV show Vega$ looked great!

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