Stored 50 Years: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

The first generation of the Ford Thunderbird was produced from 1955-57 and sold more than 53,000 copies. These were early examples of “personal luxury cars” but Ford executives thought they could sell more by adding a back seat to the 2-seater (they were right, and they did: sales reached almost 200,000 copies for 1958-60). This 1957 version of the original T-Bird has been in storage for 50 years (why?) and will need a complete restoration. But the photos don’t really help in determining how high the uphill climb is going to be. Located somewhere northwest of Baltimore, Maryland, this Ford is available here on craigslist for $1,111 (which is probably a placeholder number).

These cars are often compared to the early Chevrolet Corvettes, but that’s not fair. Chevy was targeting the sports car market, while Ford’s offering focused more on driver comfort than speed or handling. Styling would slowly evolve over the three years, with the 1957s seeing the front bumper reshaped, the grille and tailfins made larger, and the tailfins slightly more prominent. Engine choices were 292 and 312 cubic inch V8s that produced horsepower ratings up to 340 with a supercharger (few of those were installed).

Little is known about the seller’s car. It’s described as a “barn find” convertible that’s been tucked away for five decades. We don’t know what engine is under the hood, but we’re told there is a manual transmission involved (3-speed?). None of the photos show more than a portion of the car, so we can’t determine how much bodywork may be needed. And the same applies to the interior. But the odometer reading is advertised at 112,000 miles, so the car was well-used before being parked. A restoration is likely needed, and the seller says he/she would be glad to send additional photos, but will they be any more helpful than the ones already posted?


  1. shelbyGT500 Member

    Another too good to be true find $1,111.00 ,seiously ? I sent him an email doubling the offer for $2,222.00. I am holding my breath.

    Like 8
  2. Don Page Jr.

    The manual transmission would a 3 speed with overdrive.

    Like 4
    • Steve

      I believe overdrive was another option. You could get the three speed without overdive.

      Like 5
      • Joe Bru

        Steve: you are correct.

    • William R Hall

      In the late sixties my dad had a customer with a 57 T Bird with 3 speed as his daily driver. On top of that it was his work car. He was a county food safety inspector . This was in Portland Or so weather was no problem. When he finally sold it was in nice original shape. I am sure was with lots of nice but not perfect original pieces it didn’t stay that way, since it went to a collector somewhere back east.

      Like 1
  3. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    I lived in that local area until I sold my farm in 2016, and had heard about it’s existence, but was never able to track it down. If someone is seriously interested, I can visit to take a look. [I owned a restoration shop for 30+ years, and was on the advisory board for NADA price guides, I know what to check.]

    Like 9
  4. tiger66

    “Engine choices were 292 and 312 cubic inch V8s that produced horsepower ratings up to 340 with a supercharger (few of those were installed).”

    The supercharged 312 was 300 horsepower, not 340.

    Like 2
  5. RC Graham

    Ford did NOT decide that adding a back seat would increase sales. Ford decided (remember: this was the Robert S. McNamera era), to stop producing one of the most beautiful and versatile 2-pasenger cars ever designed to that point, and begin building the opposite.

    They just jacked up the name plate and drove their hugely overweight barge underneath. The nameplate was all that remained of a legendary car.

    By 1961, they again had a stunning car, but it was too late for the two seater.

    Like 1
  6. Ted

    Although the 1955–57 Thunderbird was a success, Ford executives—particularly Robert McNamara—were concerned that the car’s position as a two-seater limited its sales potential. As a result, the car was redesigned as a four-seater for 1958.[12]

    The new Thunderbird began a sales momentum previously unseen with the car, selling 200,000 units in three years, four times the result of the two-seat model. This success spawned a new market segment, the personal luxury car.[12] It was the first individual model line (as opposed to an entire company) to earn Motor Trend “Car of the Year” honors.[23] In the 1958 model year in which the car was introduced, sales were 37,892 units, outselling the previous model year’s 16,000 units.[12]

    For 1959, the car received a new grille and a newly optional, 350 hp (261 kW) 430 cu in (7.0 L) MEL V8 for 1959, and sales climbed even higher to 67,456 units.

    For 1960, the Thunderbird was given another new grille and other minor styling changes along with a newly optional manually operated sunroof for hardtop models. Dual-unit round taillights from 1958 to 1959 were changed to triple-units after the fashion of the Chevrolet Impala. Sales increased again with 92,843 sold for 1960……Bottom line with Ford WAS the bottom line, the Money was in the 4 seater Thunderbird….And I’m a huge fan of the 1955 – 57 Birds, but I can see why Ford did what it did at the time.

    Like 6
    • RC Graham

      Apples to watermelons. No way to compare them.

      Sales were not ‘limited’ by its design. It was in a market with only one other American competitor, and they were outselling Corvette 10 to one. (I’m a Corvette fanatic.)

      Also, I too share your admiration for the 55-57 ‘Bird. It may even have weathered the later runaway popularity of the Mustang, with the right support.

      But McNamera was no Duntov.

      They didn’t add seats to the Thunderbird. They killed it for no good reason, and then brought out a completely different car that did well in another market.

      This novel offering was so unlike the Thunderbird that it literally had only the name in common.

      Had it come out parallel to the Thunderbird, as say the ‘Flame-ingo’, I cannot imagine that either would have drawn from the other’s market.

      Like 4
      • Joe Bru

        RC: I agree! And if they thought the 2 would compete, they could’ve made the little bird more of a sports car & possibly more spartan to save money. The little bird needed a man like Duntov who was instrumental in saving the corvette!

        Like 2
  7. Don

    The pictures in the craigslist ad are a camera phone picture of pictrures on a computer screen. It’s a scam.

    Like 1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.