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Stored 52 Years! 1955 Ford Thunderbird

The Ford Thunderbird was born in 1955 and is often compared to the Chevy Corvette of the same era. But that’s an inaccurate comparison as the T-Bird was designed as a 2-seat personal luxury car while the ‘Vette was (and still is) a sports car. Before reinventing the auto in 1958 as a bigger 4-seat model, Ford would build more than 53,000 of the little cars, a far cry from Chevy’s production of the Corvette. This 1955 edition appears to be offered as part of an estate sale here on PriceLeffler and there is no indication of a starting bid or reserve that we can find. The Ford is located indoors in Marion, Indiana. Thanks for the heads up on this one, Michael Belcher!

First-generation Thunderbirds reached icon status as early as the 1960s as the original concept would not be repeated by Ford again until 2002. The decision to expand the size of the car in 1958 was an economically sound one based on the additional sales the car generated. And the T-Bird would go through several incarnations over the years, including even being a 4-door sedan. Ford assembled 16,155 T-Birds in the buggy’s first year, which exceeded the expectations of insiders who thought this was a 10,000-unit-a-year automobile.

Not much is known about the car about to the auctioned other than it has 70,000 miles on the odometer and has not been driven since 1970. Needless to say, a lot of work awaits the buyer of this Ford. Two engine choices were available in 1955: the 292 cubic-inch Y-block V8 or one with a larger displacement of 312 CI. No mention is made of which of the two motors is in this car.

We’re not sure of the condition of the T-Bird in terms of any corrosion the car may have developed over the years. The photos provided are numerous, but they are low-resolution so it’s hard to zero in on anything in particular. We’re told this is a convertible with both tops available. If you were looking for one of these beauties to restore, this may be a suitable candidate. But without seeing the car in person before bidding, some surprises are always possible.

Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    In my book the best looking of the original trio of mid ’50s cars. The ’57 is good looking but the major size increase sort of takes away the sporty aspect of the T-Birds. As it turned out it was the start to the bulging Bird syndrome. Bought right this could be a good project.

    Like 1
    • Terrry

      The ’57 did not see a size increase. It was a lightly restyled 55-56. In ’58 they became bigger to acomodate two extra seats.

      Like 5
      • Gord

        The 1957 was lengthened from 175 inches in 1955 to 182 in 1957 to accommodate the spare tire in the trunk. The 312 was not available until 1956.

        Like 7
  2. Terrry

    The T-Bird can make one claim the ‘Vette can’t. T-Birds always came with a V8.

    Like 5
    • CCFisher

      At various times during the 1980s and 1990s, Thunderbirds were available with:

      3.3 L I6
      3.8L V6
      2.3L Turbo I4
      3.8L Supercharged V6

      Like 3
      • jwaltb

        He meant the early ones, not after they got ruined.

        Like 3
  3. tiger66

    Quote: “Two engine choices were available in 1955: the 292 cubic-inch Y-block V8 or one with a larger displacement of 312 CI. No mention is made of which of the two motors is in this car.”

    Nope. No 312 until ’56. The ’55 just had the 292, though there two different HP ratings depending on transmission (automatics had 5 more horsepower than the manual).

    • Will Fox

      That is correct. In fact, the 312 V8 wasn’t immediately avail. at the onset of the `56s season by about a month..

  4. RoughDiamond Member

    I am so glad I can see all the rust better with those super in focus pictures. Was there an earthquake taking place in Indiana on that day?

  5. gary

    55 and 56 were the best looking years, more in proportion without the rear overhang,

    Like 2
  6. Raymond Smith

    I remember back in the late 60’s when these were just used cars. We had a few in town that were hevily modified. Big tires, flares, period graphic heavy paint jobs, blowers or scoops sticking up through the hood. When I see this one I have a strong desire to build a tribute representing that era. Alas, not enough time with a crazy demanding job so this one is safe.

    Like 1
  7. matthew grant

    I have always had a love affair with this car, and the 55 is my favorite of all. sadly, I am too tall to fit in one. and a car-nut friend told me once they drive like trucks, my preference being one for cars that are fun to drive, not those that look good only in the drive. so from afar I admire them and I leave it at that.

    Like 1
  8. Robert Hagedorn

    My dad was a Ford mechanic. He hated working on these early T-Birds. He said the engine was too big for the car. There was no room to do work.

    Like 1
  9. Billyray

    I remember these cars when new. They were more a gentleman’s sports car like the British ones, only American, so better. The idea of a personal luxury car was born with the ’58 T-BIRD.

  10. Tomas

    Only ones without power steering drive like trucks. mine had ps and a good set of radials and was a delight to drive. No power steering no thanks

    Like 1
  11. Ian McLennan

    The comment about how they drive is valid if you’re commenting on the ride quality. I have a 1957 T-Bird and the suspension is very stiff, lots of road feel, you feel every pebble or pavement crack and bump. Mine has power steering and power brakes and the actual handling quality is quite good, considering it’s 65 year-old technology. I also swapped out the 17 inch steering wheel for a 15 inch aftermarket version which improved handling and allowed much better access for my beer belly.
    Five minutes after I’m in the car I’ve forgotten about the stiff ride and I’m just loving everything else about the car.

    Like 1

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