Stored 45 Years: 1959 Thunderbird

Back in 1958, the Ford Motor Company disappointed a few folks by introducing a four-seat Thunderbird, replacing the 1955-57 two-seat version. For the 1959 model year, production increased some 78 percent, to 67,456 units, far exceeding any ’55-’57 levels and validating Ford’s decision. There’s a barn find example out of storage after 45 years for sale here on eBay. As the “squarebird” is a black plate car, it shouldn’t surprise you that it is still located in Costa Mesa, California. Bidding seems inexpensive for a running car at $5,300 but there’s a reserve that hasn’t been met yet.

The sellers describe this convertible as largely original, with the paint it left the factory with showing everywhere but the hood and minimal rust and body filler. There are even places where the paint and chrome shine. The car also looks pretty straight. The car was taken out of storage, buffed, fitted with a new battery and started–the gas tank had been drained in 1976 when the car was stored!

This trim component still looks great, and all of them seem to be there. The driver’s side window is cracked, and one of the other windows is difficult to roll up, but even the windshield is nice.

The data plate decodes to reveal that the car was equipped with the 430 cubic inch, 350 horsepower V-8 and a Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission. A 3.1:1 rear end ratio was installed. The Raven Black is color code A, but I couldn’t find any 9X reference for the trim — any clues?

I think I’m seeing red/white here but maybe it was something specially ordered? You’d certainly have some work to do, but after making sure it will stop and go, why not have some fun in the sun? Okay, yes, fit a top too…even if it “never rains in Southern California.” Any of you up for this Thunderbird?


  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    The seller lists the engine as a 352ci w/ 300HP, but the trim plate indicates it’s a 430 ci w/ 350 HP?
    Maybe the seller doesn’t know what they’ve got?
    I like it either way!

    Like 8
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      No, as evidenced later in the comments it was my boo-boo for being unfamiliar with T-Bird VINs. I still like the car, though, and it has (cough) nothing to do with my uncle’s last car being a 1960 convertible in Raven Black with red/white leather…

      Like 4
  2. Will Fox

    Being a CA. car, you re probably not dealing with rusted out footwell floor pans and trunk floor, so that’s a plus. By far, the vast majority of `59 Birds got the 352, so having the 430 Lincoln block is a real bonus. Interior kits are now available to bring this back to showroom new, too. The T-Bird club members, like many other clubs are a wealth of information to help you restore this car. Hopefully, the hydraulics for the rear deck/cvt. top are in working order; that’s the expensive part of the rebuild on these if there are problems. I see it has power windows, and likely a power drivers seat too; PS and PB are a given on these.

    Like 7
  3. TimM

    Nice example of this car!!!

    Like 4
    • Al

      It’s nice to see a ’59 T-bird in good shape.

      About 30 some years ago, a former brother-in-law bought himself a ’59 Bondo-Bird.
      Magnets just didn’t stick to it, you had to glue them on.

      Like 4
  4. art

    Being the original title, I sure hope the black out over the owners name is merely a digital effect and not the use of a magic marker, otherwise they just ruined the original pink slip.

    Like 3
    • Patrick

      first letter in 50’s fords is the engine

      Like 1
    • R Fitz

      Looks like a digital marker on an image for our enjoyment.
      I’m sure the document is unmolested.

    • Rodney - GSM

      I had the same thought when looking at that pink slip. It is like defacing a birth certificate.

    • Miguel

      That is not the original title.

      The car is a ’59 model and the title was issued in ’66.

  5. Had Two

    Wow, had one in black, white top, black and white vinyl seat interior,
    with the 430 Lincoln V-8. This is deja-vu! Thanks for posting!
    The floors should still be fine unless it was left outside and the
    carpets got wet and stayed that way, then it likely needs floor pans now.
    Check under the carpets. This body was a unibody type approach Ford took
    to enable the car to sit very low. It has wide doors and a step down and in
    bucket seat seating area. Very cool. Great highway cruiser cars.

    Like 6
  6. Jeff

    The data plate indicates it is definitely a 352.

    1959 Ford Thunderbird!
    VIN: H9YJ161501

    Engine Code H V8 352 ci OHV – 4V Carb. 300hp
    Production Year 9 1959
    Assembly Plant Y Wixom Assembly Plant, Wixom, Michigan
    Body Style J Thunderbird Convertible
    Production Sequence 161501 161501

    Like 6
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Thanks for the correction, Jeff!

      Like 2
  7. ccrvtt

    ’59 was the best of the Square Birds IMO. The horizontal bar grilles looked the cleanest and also reflected the popularity of the style of the day since you could get them from J. C. Whitney for a variety of cars. I liked the side spears and the wheel covers though they weren’t exclusive to the T-birds in 1959. Just an overall elegant design almost good enough to make you forget the 1957.


    Like 4
  8. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Looks good from pics, but you never know until there’s a very close inspection.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  9. jageater Member

    The first digit of the SN is the engine, which, in this car, is an H or a 352 V8, 4 bbl carb, 300 HP. If it was a 430 Lincoln, that digit would be a J. The J in the 4th digit denotes a convertible. I know, I have what is known as a ‘JJ car, which is one of the 430 Lincoln-engined convertibles. Only 1000 59 T-birds got the 430 engine to homologate the car so Richard Petty could race it in NASCAR. There are no numbers how many of those 1000 were coupes and convertibles.

    Like 5
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Thanks for the correction, JagEater!

      Like 1
  10. Mountainwoodie

    I once had a ’60 T-bird..not a vert….white over red interior with a 352 too. I sort of like the 3 lights in the rear over the ’58 two lights, but what the heck. Of course gas then was .40 a gallon and these puppies are thirsty. I drove it up and down the East Coast a couple of times going to and from college. Great cruiser.

    Like 4
  11. stevee

    77 Sunset Strip redux…..

    Like 1
    • stillrunners Stillrunners Member

      Pretty sure Paul Drake drove one after the early Corvette .

  12. Bob

    My grandfather bought one of these, a powder blue hardtop, for my mother. And then he drove it. At the time, I didn’t really care for it. But now I do.

  13. Had Two

    Looks like it may have had a bumper hitch bolted to it, and the rear bumper, at one time. Not uncommon, as the cars had plenty of torque and pulling power

    Like 1
  14. SumtingWong

    My Pops bought a new 59 T-bird in the summer of 59. Great car from what I remember at 15 years old. We lived in the UP of Michigan and this was a good/ok winter car with snow tires. By 1961 it had started to rust. Was very rusty when he traded it in on a Olds in 65. I was in SEA at that time and Pop sent me black and white photos.

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