Original D-Code: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

So often here at Barn Finds, ’57 Thunderbird project cars will appear on our desks, and they are afflicted with severe rust issues. That is not the case with this survivor, because it is as clean as you are ever likely to find. This is a classic that is just begging for restoration, and you could potentially be the person who gets to take it on. It is located in Silverado, California, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding currently sits at $12,400, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

When it was shiny and new, this classic Ford wore the beautiful Code Q Thunderbird Bronze paint. The tag indicates that the top was finished in the same shade, making it a stunning vehicle. It underwent a cosmetic restoration in the 1990s, and it was at that point that it received its color change. The white paint has deteriorated markedly since then, and a repaint is sure to be on the cards. What the next owner won’t be facing is the prospect of replacing piles of rusty steel. The Thunderbird has spent its life in California. This has allowed it to remain rust-free. The owner provides a good selection of photos of every aspect of the Ford. What they reveal is a car that is as clean as you are ever likely to find. In most of the hidden areas, the original factory undercoat remains intact. The panels appear to be straight, while the panel gaps are consistent. There is no convertible top included in the sale, but there is a factory hardtop. This appears to be in good condition and should respond well to being restored. The Thunderbird comes equipped with tinted glass, and I can’t spot any significant problems there. Some of the chrome, especially the bumpers, exhibits some noticeable deterioration. However, there is no physical damage apparent. That means that these components should be able to be restored easily.

It would appear that the 1990s cosmetic restoration included a full interior retrim. This is a shame because the original trim was finished in Copper, which would have complimented the Bronze exterior well. The interior trim is all present, and the majority of it is quite presentable. The dash looks to be in good condition, as does the seat. There is some deterioration to the door trims, along with the kick panels. However, there have been no aftermarket additions made to the interior. Even the original Town & Country radio remains in its rightful place. How the buyer tackles the interior will depend on their ultimate goal for the vehicle. If a faithful restoration is to be undertaken, then a full retrim is going to be required. Complete leather trim kits are easy to find, and these sell for around $2,200. It isn’t cheap, but it includes every screw, clip, and sundry item to install the kit. The result will be an interior that looks factory fresh.

The Thunderbird rolled off the line fitted with a D-Code 312ci V8, and this remains in place today. This is an engine that produces 245hp, which finds its way to the rear wheels via a Ford-O-Matic transmission. I get the impression from the listing that this is a numbers-matching classic, right down to the original carburetor. Ford was not marketing the Thunderbird as a direct competitor to Chevrolet’s Corvette and viewed it more as a personal luxury car. However, that doesn’t mean that it was by any means slow. This is especially true in a 1957 context. This wasn’t the most potent offering in the Thunderbird line, but it was still capable of ripping through the ¼ mile in 16.4 seconds. This classic Ford has been sitting in storage for 20-years, but it does run and drive. The owner states that the 312 starts easily and that there are no signs of any smoke or oil leaks. It will require a full mechanical inspection before it is considered to be roadworthy. The seller has provided a starting point for this process by fitting a new set of the correct tires to the vehicle.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Ford was capable of producing some surprising cars that successfully captured the hearts and minds of the American public. The 1960s brought us the Mustang, which sold in unprecedented numbers. The precursor was the Thunderbird, which was another car that sold beyond the company’s wildest expectations. The 1957 model year saw 21,380 people secure one of these classics for themselves. Today, it is possible to obtain some reasonably clean D-Code ’57 models for around $22,000. Pristine cars will achieve prices significantly higher. I found a Thunderbird Bronze D-Code that recently sold for $35,000, and that was an extremely nice classic. This car has two critical points in its favor. The first of these is that it is original. More importantly, it appears to be completely rust-free. It is a prime candidate for a full restoration, and the result should be well worth the effort.

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  1. Bob C.

    This looks like it can be a real sweetheart if the price doesn’t get too outrageous. Enjoy it as is this year, but don’t hesitate too long to fix her up.

    Like 9
  2. Stan Marks

    IMO, If you’re gonna repaint a beauty, like this, keep it the same color. Or get down to the bare metal & paint the color you prefer.The hood & deck lid wouldn’t look like this, if it had a proper paint job..

    Like 3
  3. Maestro1 Member

    If the reserve is not on another planet, jump on it and spend the money to bring it back to what it was. I am an enthusiast of these cars, and they are wonderful. I have no room for it otherwise I’d get serious…………

    Like 1
  4. Joe Haska

    I love these cars and this one is in the condition, I would want to start. It’s a blank slate and you could do what ever you want , of course depending on ‘the buy it now ” price. I would be inclinded to do my DIY cosmetic restoration. Watching the budget and paying attention to the details. I think you could end up with a great looking car, that didn’t break the bank and is a super driver.

    Like 2

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