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Restore Or Parts? 1959 Ford Thunderbird

The seller of this 1959 Ford Thunderbird here on Facebook Marketplace says his car comes with no title or keys and specifically lists it as a parts car.  But over the years we’ve seen far worse-looking autos exchange hands and get a new lease on life, and while this one’s gonna take a lot of work to get there, I’d kind of hate to see it get parted out as the car seems to be overall complete.  The owner lives in Park Ridge, Illinois, and has priced the T-Bird at $3,000.  Thanks, NW Iowa, for your tip here!

Things changed significantly for the Thunderbird when the second generation car was introduced in 1958 as the earlier models were two-seaters, but Ford thought this was limiting its audience so they doubled the seating capacity.  We get the history of this particular car back to ’74, the year when the seller says his father parked it in a garage with 90k miles on the ticker.  The car has since been removed from storage and is now sitting outside.

It’s not stated exactly why the car was put in the garage, but it was on the road long enough that the quarter panel and rocker on the passenger side developed some significant rust.  We don’t get a clear shot from the other side and none at all from down below, so maybe corrosion was the main issue or perhaps it was something else.  If the chassis has succumbed to this must deterioration, maybe this one’s better off to use for parts from an economic standpoint, though I’d still like to see the car end up in the hands of someone who can save it.

The seller thinks the motor is a 352, which would have been the middle choice in ’59, but there’s no information provided on whether or not the engine still turns.  Even if it does, with nearly five decades of inactivity I’m sure it’ll need a complete going-through, as will the automatic transmission.

Although the seats are showing wear, the instruments actually look pretty good but it’s a mystery whether or not they’ll still function.  The dash and console don’t appear to be all that bad either, so if this one doesn’t get saved there are several good parts that could easily find their way onto another Thunderbird.  What would you do here, strip this car of all useable parts, or try to save it?


  1. Tbone

    I really never liked these until the last few years and now I wonder how I didn’t always love the look and the interiors. They really seem to be so representative of the era that they were made in

    Like 16
    • Michelle

      I think you didn’t quite like them for the same reason I didn’t, the original 1955-57 were two seater’s.Now I feel the same way about them as you do, they’re beautiful.

      Like 7
    • Terry

      Great looking project,love mostly all T-Birds,older the better. This is a nice looker,must be bad in the rust area.

      Like 3
    • James Wortham

      I owned a 58 tbird while in the Navy .Bought it in Nashville and drove it to San Diego. My aircraft carrier was sent to the yards in Bremerton, Wa.They picked it up with the ships crane and loaded it on the flight deck .3 days to get there with a port call to San Francisco .One of the guys got in to his car and drove it over the side in SF bay .Mine was unloaded at in Bremerton. Drove it back across the states to home in TN .Traded it off for 64 Corvette convertible and drove it to NAS CECIL FIELD ,Jacksonville, Fl. Drove the Corvette back to San Francisco to catch the USS CONSTELLATION CVA64 ..Discharged from the Navy and stayed in the Bay area .Worked for Safeway cutting meat .My girlfriend and I went to San Francisco to ride the cable cars .Some one stole the Corvette and had to get a cab to get her back home 50 miles away .They found the Corvette stripped finally paid the ins.for me to buy another car .This time I bought a 55Tbird .Got layoff from Safeway so I gave up and returned back to Tennessee .Have owned more since then .Only Corvette convertibles for me . 2002 Red Corvette now

      Like 0
  2. Mark

    These have grown on me slot over time, the tailights were gorgeous, it’s to nice to part out imo

    Like 9
  3. Doug Lorenson

    Save it if at all possible I wished I could my age well

    Like 7
  4. Tiger66

    How was the 352 the “middle choice” engine in ’59? There were only two engines offered: the 352, which was standard, or the optional 430.

    Like 8
    • Michelle

      The 312, I believe was the other.

      Like 6
      • Mike Stephens Staff

        Thought a 332 with a 2-barrel was the smallest V8, with slightly lower compression than the 352?

        Like 2
      • ACZ

        This generation of ‘Birds never came with a Y Block, only FE motors.

        Like 5
      • DJP

        352 or 430 were the only available

        Like 2
    • JagManBill

      312 and the 223 6 cyl were special order only. A couple of years ago I looked at a 60 that had the 223 6 cyl and a 3 on the tree. Almost bought it just because it had to be a few of few but I decided against it when it didn’t have a title and was in pretty rough shape (rust – wise).

      Like 3
    • Old Man

      Google it, people!

      Like 1
  5. Dave Romstedt

    I always thought it was a beautiful body design, except for the top. Too “square “, hence square bird. The convertible version was always more appealing to me.

    Like 2
  6. John Phillips

    In 1959 Thunderbirds, you could get a 332cid 2v with 225 hp (code B), a 352cid 4v with 300 hp (code H) or a 430 cid 4v with 350 hp (code J).

    Like 5
  7. Kent Member

    I am a “tri-5” guy but the second generation TBirds were/are great for what they are. A smaller luxury vehicle that retained a bit of the original sporty feel. If the chassis isn’t toast, save it!!!

    Like 4
  8. Donald Babineau

    This year is still fugly to me.

    Like 7
    • Rod Cherokee

      In a few years, these wonderful “parts cars” will no longer appear. Save the few that still do at almost all costs.

      Like 6
  9. Don

    What was so nice about the ’58-60 Thunderbirds is they used a lot of body sculpting instead of throwing chrome and stainless on every square inch like most of the late 50’s cars.

    Also, this was Fords first Unibody car, along with the ’58-60 lincolns which were built together on the same line at Wixom.

    Like 8
  10. Wally

    My 1st car was a 60 T-bird….352. Not much difference between the 2

    Like 4
  11. JagManBill

    My first car was a 60 with sunroof and 430. Sun roof leaked like a sieve till I found Steel Products and they worked out a seal for the roof. 140mph? no problem. Stop on a dime? no problem…so long as it was a LONG line of dimes… Dang I miss that car. Been looking lately at a 59 locally thats been offered all summer. They want $8k for it which isn’t bad considering its restored, just needs the engine install completed (owner died). So based on a restored 59 for $8k vs this? I’d say this is a $1,500 car at max

    Like 6
  12. Mike F

    My first engine overhaul was a 352 in a 1960 tbird that was given to me in 1970 because the engine was toast. It “ran” but scary knock and blew oil out fast. Pulled the heads to discover the remains of one cracked piston, completely destroyed head and a cracked block. A junk yard motor was out of budget for this 16 year old so the hulk got towed to the junk yard. I’ve loved these since then.

    Like 5
  13. Paulr

    Would love to get this car and build it 2 things stopping me. Time and money.

    Like 7
  14. Dan Bogert Sr.

    I think that’s a 430 cu. i. under that hood.

    Like 3
  15. OldNSlo

    Straight axle gasser material right there.

    Like 3
  16. Steve

    It just needs rubbing compound and some elbow grease.

    Like 2
  17. Ivan

    For me if I had the right proper funds totally frame off restoration i mean definitely totally frame off restoration strip everything and i mean everything right down to the frame, strip interior, exterior bag and tag everything that is striped. What ever is worth salvaging and salvageable save it. This is for where and why you have to locate and search for an antique, classic and vintage automobile restoration specialist. An individual or individuals that takes pride and time in their effort, ethic and time in the work that they can, would and supposed to do in what is going to be an authentic full restoration of that antique, classic and vintage automobile even better when it was created, built, made and manufactured by the company, such in case as that 1959 Ford Thunderbird. 2Dr Coupe Hardtop or Convertible with every option that is possible that you can think of when it comes to mind.

    The individual or individuals that took the time to do the restoration on that antique, classic and vintage ride can not only stand back and look at the effort and ethic and work that they put into it but also stand behind their heart, soul, and work of the restoration that was totally complete.

    That’s how and what i’d do if I had the proper funds then add it to my antique, classic and vintage automobile collection on my land and property will be well guarded with the most advanced security system that the proper funds can take care of.

    Like 0
  18. John

    What struck me most about the 58/60 Tbirds was their top end speed. A hundred mph didn’t hurt it at all and still quiet and comfortable. Very different than the chevys

    Like 0
    • JagManBill

      running on straight-grove nylon tires in 1974 on a very long straight stretch of road in east Texas I pegged the speedo on my 60. Car was just floating. Oh the (really stupid) things we did in our youth….

      Like 0

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