Shiny Red Bird: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

David FrankBy David Frank

Ain’t this shiny red T-Bird a beauty? It would certainly get lots of attention around town. The Thunderbird was a quick response to the Corvette, but as a personal luxury car rather than a sports car. It was built with off the shelf parts including a shortened Ford frame and Ford suspension. It did have some unique features, though, including a telescopic steering wheel and a tachometer. This example is listed here on craigslist in Littleton, Colorado. The $21,000 asking seems a little high, but you have to start somewhere. It had a nineteen-year nap and has had lots of mechanical attention to the brakes, ignition, and fuel systems since it was awakened. It runs and drives but will need a bit more attention to make it roadworthy. The hubcaps look original and hopefully will look better with a little attention.

The inside looks complete if a bit tatty. I don’t have any words to describe the carpet. Perhaps it was left over after carpeting the previous owner’s house. Replacing that carpet and upholstery would really make the interior nice. There’s no word on the state of the electrical systems. Many things including the electric seats and windows can be problematic and might need attention.

The hardtop appears to be in pretty good condition. They were standard equipment, but the convertible top was an option. Visibility was poor, but the porthole on later models was an improvement.

It looks mostly and complete and original under the hood. The electrical system is still 6 volt. It certainly isn’t as clean and shiny as the outside under the hood, so this Bird was not pampered. The ad says the “motor was gone through prior to storage”, but it doesn’t look like the engine has received any attention for much longer than 20 years.

It appears that a previous owner had begun to restoration with the bodywork and chrome. The paint and chrome look nice from here but you can’t tell how well the repaint was done and how much filler is under that shiny red paint.  The thing is, the movie American Graffiti was a long time ago and these old T-Birds are not as popular as they once were. There are lots of them for sale in a variety of colors from projects to restored cars. For example, there are about 25 currently listed on eBay. Checking sold listings, one in similar or better condition sell for about $18,000, such as this one that sold recently on eBay. Everyone has their favorite model, but overall the 1955 T-Bird is the least popular because of improvements in later models, like better passenger ventilation, more trunk room and portholes in the hardtop for better visibility. So, if red is your favorite color and 1955 is your favorite year, this T Bird might be worth a look. If you can get a magnet to stick in all the right places and there’s no daylight showing through the floor and not too much rust underneath this old Bird might be a start for the right price. That’s a lot of “ifs”, but that’s what shopping is, right? If the craigslist listing is gone, you can find it on adsaver.

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Comments

  1. KSwheatfarmer Member

    Trash the fuel filter A-S-A-P.




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    • geomechs

      Yes, I certainly agree with you on that. I’ve seen a lot of cars turn into Roman candles because of those plastic filters. I won’t use anything but a solid steel line on the pressure side of the fuel pump…




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  2. Adam T45

    This best describes the carpet.




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  3. Rube Goldberg Member

    I never really cared for these early Tbirds,( although, 1 ride would probably change my mind in a hurry) much more a Squarebird fan. I was going to say $21g’s seems low for this, at least somebody used it and had fun with it. Considering what we’ve seen come through here( $10K dollar Sportabout’s)this would be a steal. Price is about what they bring, I’m surprised. Maybe the bottom is falling out, finally. It is a cool car.




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    • Adam T45

      I know the feeling there Rube. Up until my mid 20s I was no great fan of the E-Type Jag. A friend of mine owned a classic car restoration business. He bought a 3.8L Mk 1 E-type and did a full bare metal restoration. The moment I drove it the bug bit me….hard! Looking and actually using can be two entirely different things.




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  4. jw454

    I seen this car somewhere before. There is no mistaking that seventies style carpet. It’s not a bad looking car. After a carpet change, I’d drive it as is.




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  5. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    I remember when these first came out—-very exciting for Ford fans.

    I wasn’t a Ford fan until the fastback Mustang came out, so I wasn’t too disappointed about the late arrival of the T-Bird compared to the ’53 Corvette.

    I was looking in every copy of Hot Rod and other car mags for race reports of C1s and Birds in competition, but it finally dawned on me that they were, pardon the expression, boulevard sports cars, and not Ferrari competition. Altho hot rod Birds sometimes did well at the drags.

    It was really only after Chevy got into road racing with modified C2 corvettes that things got interesting for US “production” cars.

    But then a funny thing happened: some chicken farmer from Texas decided to go racing with Fords, and the rest is history.




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  6. joeinthousandoaks

    t’s been listed on craigs for several months.




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  7. Classic Steel

    In my past life I had one of these and used to pick up chicks on Route 66 and really got my kicks 😮👀

    Okay seriously a little high for the work to do But a red one and engine complete is s plus.

    I like it very much ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️🤠




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  8. 86_Vette_Convertible

    I like Birds and Vettes, firsts on my list (E types are in there too). A little high on the $$ but then again what isn’t now days? I have both a Vette and a Bird, too bad they aren’t 55’s.




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  9. Big Mike

    Never was a fan of T-Birds, but the Wife always has been, because her Dad bought a 64 the year she was born, and kept it until I bought and restored it for her. It is her Girl Cruising Car as she puts it!!!
    This picture is it at a SEMO Car show last year.




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  10. Sal Monelli

    The market on ’55 T-Birds is VERY soft…you can buy very nice driver quality cars in the $22-25K range… to pay more than $12-15K for a car with many needs, including trashing the 6 volt system and its many electrical gremlins, would be financial folly!




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  11. KSwheatfarmer Member

    Thanks for the support geomechs. I went off on a bender about this a few days ago hoping to make people think about the trouble these things can cause. Do we need to see our gas before it goes into the carb? Hate to keep beating the same drum over and over. Another symptom of OFS,old farts syndrome.




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    • leiniedude

      I run a plastic filter on my Willys wagon, it is locatated low in front of the fuel pump. It gets plenty of air and it is not close to any real heat source. As George says about the Roman candles, I can see it if you are a moron in your mounting location. I would guess any one on this Forum would install one in a safe location. The nice thing about the clear filter is you can see the debris and change the filter before it becomes clogged. I change the one on my wagon at least every year. Old fuel tanks spit rust out of the tank almost as much as when my buddy chews Red Man.




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      • BOP Guy

        I was thinking the same thing. I’d prefer the metal ones, but my two driving/projects had sat for a decade + before I started work to bring them back to life. And although I’ve had the gas tanks cleaned and relined, I like to keep an eye on the cleanliness of the fuel going to the engine. So for now, I use the plastic ones, set up away from the engine where they won’t deal with extreme heat.
        Great looking T-bird, and a fun project for someone, if the price was right. I wonder if it has overdrive?




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  12. Bruce

    I would be interested if it wasn’t an automatic. Back when I had a 1957 Fairlane in the 1960’s, I converted it pretty easily from an auto to a stick. I don’t think it would be an easy task these days.




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  13. Keith

    Hey! anyone remember the 70’s TV show “Vega$” with Robert Urich this kinda reminds me of the red T-Bird he drove around the Vegas strip investigating crimes and parking the car in his living room Lol I liked that TV show Hey Binzer! Lol RIP Robert Urich.




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    • PAPERBKWRITER

      Kieth, 77 Sunset Strip (a private detective show in the late ’50’d) had both stars driving new Birds. I think hey were Efrem Zimbilist Jr. and Roger Smith.




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      • Keith

        Yes I watched that show on MeTV it also starred actor Edd Byrnes Thanks!




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    • Madmatt

      Robert Ulrich ..drove a 57 in the show Vegas…..was very cool..
      Love most tbirds..even up thru 78… although first 4 gens are my favs
      With 67-69 a close finisher..😉..t birds like vettes…, always had class..,
      Performance..,and style…even when they were bloated big boats..😀..,
      To this day,,,,I believe that to be true..😎




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  14. John B

    Heck, I’d refresh a few things and drive it. Exhaust pipes through the big chrome bumpers…now that’s too cool!




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  15. Clinton

    This may have belonged to an old co worker of mine if it was dragged out of Houston. Also another story I have related to these is that I moved a bunch of old equipment from Schmeller Aluminum in Cleveland Ohio. In that lot was 3 pallets of NOS valve covers for these AND the mold for making them.




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  16. Mike

    …and it will get a lot of attention, better be a fantastic driver. Smokey loves red cars, better to pick you out of the herd!




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  17. Jeff Bickel

    Ford should have stayed with the “T Bird “as a 2 seater and continue to compete with the Vett…..maybe even built out of Fiberglass….why not?




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    • Keith

      You’re right Jeff, but Ford chose to just stay with the Mustang as a single Vette competitor. With a really appealing design for a two seater T-Bird Ford may have been ahead of the game with a double sporty competition to the Vette and Camaro




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