Still Personal: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

1957 Ford Thunderbird

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The first generation Thunderbird was something special. Those cars built between 1955 and 1957 will always be my favorite T-Birds because they were the pure vision of Ford’s “personal luxury car. They had sporty good looks and seating for just two. They were classy and powerful and would not look out of place racing along next to a Jaguar XK140. Later cars became more luxury than personal and lost some of that pizzazz along the way. I’d love to have one someday, but current values keep them out of reach for many of us. There is the prospect of a project though. Take this one found here on eBay for example. It’s pretty rough and will most likely cost more to restore than it would to buy a driver, but you could spread out the payments and feel good about saving a lame bird. What do you think – do you prefer your classics in affordable project form or are you will to pay a little more to get something that’s ready-to-drive?

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  1. Derik Lattig

    I have one in similar condition. Been rounding up parts for it. Looking foward to getting it back on the road.

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    • Derik Lattig

      #deriklattig @Newzproducer says still working on mine.

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  2. Glen

    Jesse, if you make some money with the TVR and Spitfire, and some future endeavors, you could get yourself a nice T-bird. Or swap for one. It can be done.

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  3. Gord

    Having owned a number of early birds over the years, I would definitely consider this a parts car only. The cost to put it back on the road would far exceed the cost of a nice driver quality car.

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  4. Pookie Jamie P

    Yes gord u are right…. But the money spent on doing it yourself is far better than buying someone else’s problems…..

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  5. Blindmarc

    Always wanted to build a rod out of one.

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  6. James

    That’s perfect for a restomod. And you don’t see those done like that very often.

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  7. Mitch

    I’m too tall for one. I found that out several years ago when I got behind the wheel of a ’57 with a stick & couldn’t straighten my leg enough to work the clutch.

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  8. Gary I

    Put a 427 in it and do the fifties version of a Cobra. Big engine, little car, all custom chassis and suspension. I see custom Corvettes, but I can’t say I have seen many hot rod Tbirds.

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  9. Bret

    Is thinderbird a pun I never heard of?

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    • Jesse JesseAuthor

      Nope, it was just a typo. Thanks for catching that.

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  10. Al

    Has anyone seen one of these with the rumble seat option. In checking about these when I had a chance to get one I found that it was available not sure which of the 3 years.

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    • George

      “Ford announced 2 conversion options that were available for 57 T-Birds, the Town Car conversion and the Bird’s Nest Rumble Seat built by Bird’s Nest of Burbank, CA. The rumble seat was more expensive, desirable and available at $239.00. It was made obsolete when the new 1958 T-Bird was available. There were around 120 or so ordered. ”

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  11. Rob

    Because the car is so rough, I was thinking something in a rat-rod motif or a vintage Daytona speed week style build. Start with a basic V-8 and 5 speed, disc brakes up front, couple of bucket seats, strip everything out of it, keep a lot of the Thunberbird styling bits and have fun.

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  12. Rando

    Clean it up – shop vac, pressure wash, etc. Get the body all fitting together. Fix any bad rust on frame so it doesn’t break in half. Put a few of the bright pieces back on the body. Find a drivetrain that fits. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Find some seats. Even rat rod aircraft things. Cut down windshield, get rid of the frame. Roll hoop – make it look like some sort of 50’s bonneville car. I can see it in my mind. Maybe roll pans instead of bumpers. Looks pretty sleek without the bumpers, but needs something there to “finish” it off. Kinda like something AMT or MPC would have given you parts for their “Custom/Drag” version. Paint it white. Let the flaming begin.

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  13. RON

    I think that rumble seat option was on the 57 and I am not positive if that was a factory option or if that came as an aftermarket custom option but do remember them existing

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    • Gord

      The rumble seat was called a “Birdnest ” and only worked on the 57. I believe the orignal was made by Ford but never saw production and was picked up and sold by an after market company in California. A friend of mine bought all the original tooling and I talked him into making 12 more in the 1980’s. I had one in my 57 which I later sold.

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      • Kyle Hall

        I realize this post was several years ago butdo you know if there are any plans out there for the Birds Nest? Or any parts available? Thank you

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  14. RON

    It might be time to to offer it up again Gord if the tooling is around. Times change and there are cars like this that some people just want to save as a custom. But I know demand has to exceed availability. Interesting story though, it all came back after your reminder. I didn’t know the whole story.

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  15. Al

    Gord thanks for the info.

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    • Gord

      Ralph Finley, who at the time lived in Saratoga, Ca., had a 1957 with an original Birdnest that was featured in a 2 page spread in the 1973, book Thunderbird by Ray Miller. At that time it was the bible to use when restoring a early bird. He knew the original manufacturer and had purchased the tooling. The 12 made at the time were fiberglass , I’m not sure if any of the originals were steel. I still have copies of the installation instruction and brochures that Ralph gave me.

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  16. RON

    To bad you don’t have the tooling Gord you could take orders and deposits if you got enough preorders You never know about ventures like that. Were I not too old and couldn’t probably raise the capital I have had a dream of finding a few sets of the original over the hump front and rear rubber floor mats in several colors for 50’s-60’s cars. I love accessories, and to my knowledge these are not being done. If I had tooling or molds whatever you need there use to be a rubber mat place in my area that might have gotten to do them. Just don’t know what qty would have to have for an initial order. I am sure it could never be made a life sustaining business, but it would be a fun retirement Hobby. the Birdsnest might e too large undertaking as well.

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  17. Chris A.

    I remember a R & T west coast race report from the 50’s that the sports car image for the T-Bird had some problems. Seems the frame was so flexible that the doors unlatched when accelerating out of a turn. Only a 3 speed manual back then. But still it was a very clean design, especially for the fifties.

    Like 1

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