On Jack Stands Since 80’s: 1957 Thunderbird

1957 Ford Thunderbird

I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by a bunch of British convertibles and roadsters at the South Central British Car Gathering this weekend, but it doesn’t mean heads didn’t swivel when a nice-looking old Thunderbird pulled through the parking area. ’55-’57 Thunderbirds have captured America’s imagination like few other cars have. This one is available here on craigslist in Portland, Oregon for $12,500.  Said to have been up on jack stands for over 20 years, after carefully fitting new spark plugs, oil and filter, and a battery the baby bird was started and is now, in the owner’s eyes, ready for restoration.  The interior looks, well, OK and the exterior certainly needs some attention! So, what would you do with this early Thunderbird?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Dave Wright

    They captured Americas imagination so much it took 3 years to sell them off after the last ones were built. They were an absolute dog on the market just like the new versions built more recently. In 58 when they changed the mark to a larger car with a back seat, they sold more than the entire 3 year run of the 2 seaters. They were rough driving, did not handle or brake……..had a pickup engine and poor build quality. The design is attractive but that is as far as it goes.

    • Rancho Bella

      I prefer a square bird starting in ’58. I mentioned this before on here that these are coming down in price all the time as anyone that is interested is dying off. And Dave you are 100% correct about the handling and braking.

      I’ve been offered more than once to buy one of these from folks in my neighborhood, I passed. SoCal is loaded with em’

  2. John

    The value of these early Tbirds is all about the motor. Low end 8 cyl fully restored is only $40K, so it would be difficult to bring it back to nice. However if it is an E code, then fully restored it’s an $80-$90k car

  3. St.Ramone de V8

    I like these things. The fact that interest in them is fading is fine with me. It’s stupid prices that keep us from getting into the cars we want. I’m not a flipper, and if I can get something I like, and plan to enjoy messing with for years for a fair price, then it’s a win. This one looks decent, but as has been mentioned they can be found easily, so I’ll wait for the right one.

  4. Dolphin Member

    No these Birds are not great drivers or performance cars, and I have never owned or wanted one, but they did Ford a lot of good way beyond the numbers sold. When Chevy/GM came out with the first series Corvette, Ford needed a halo car to match it in the marketplace, and that was the 2-seat Bird. The General made less than 4,000 Corvettes in the first 2 years and they sold slowly. One source says “the Thunderbird outsold the Corvette by more than 23-to-one for 1955 with 16,155 Thunderbirds sold against 700 Corvettes.”

    All of those are small numbers, but neither the Vette nor the 2-seat Birds needed to sell well. What they needed to do was get traffic into showrooms and ultimately bums in seats. The bread and butter was never going to be in any 2-seater in the USA. It was going to be affordable entry-level sedans and station wagons from Ford and Chevy. Then, upmarket models from Mercury and Buick/Pontiac/Oldsmobile once people had a few bucks to spend.

    They don’t interest me for various reasons, altho it might be fun to own one for a while. The performance isn’t much, and neither are the creature comforts or the ergonomics. They will probably just continue to drop off of collectors radar screens and drop in value, but who knows? Maybe once all the musclecars go to astronomical values, then the lower tier ’50s cars get less attention in the marketplace because their demographic is ageing, maybe then the 2-seat Birds will stabilize or even appreciate a little because they are among the few sporty ’50s cars left that a lot of folks can afford. Stranger things have happened.

  5. roger

    I would tub it and put 20,s on rear 18,s on front and big block 390 FE engine with C6 .

  6. grant

    The 390 is a boat anchor. Build a nice 460 for it you could run mid 7’s if you set it up right.

  7. Karl

    If I had the money and time to play with, I would buy this car and restore it–myself. It’s a pretty simple car, after all. I would keep the original V8; it’s plenty powerful enough for this chassis. Electronic ignition, retrofit fuel injection, and disc brakes if possible. And then I would drive it the way it was meant to be driven–as a boulevard cruiser on nice days. It was not meant to be race car. Why not enjoy it for what it is?

  8. starsailing

    Just put in new interior, new exhaust, wide whites…drive it year round…57 Bird is the best looking Bird…

    • Richard V

      I agree but I am a bit biased.

  9. Richard V

    I inherited my folk’s ’57 Bird, the same one I used to beg them to drive during my high school years. I felt so cool in that car, especially with the top removed, driving around SoCal. My dad had the mechanicals rebuilt about 12 years ago but stopped at that point since he was losing his eyesight and wanted to drive it a few months while he could. He claims that he had it up to just below 140 mph indicated while he and my mom were on their way from Glendale to Denver in 1963. Yes, my mom was asleep at the time! It is not a quick car but is a fast car. I’m proud to own it today!

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