Thunderbirds Are No-Go: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

Located in Poolesville, Philadelphia and for sale here on Craigslist is this 1957 Ford Thunderbird. It has a clean title, but the owner gives the impression that they are parting-out the car. Maybe it’s worth investigating this one a bit more deeply to see whether it could be bought as a viable project car. Our thanks go out to Barn Finds reader Levi Andrus for referring this car to us.

At first glance, this looks pretty sad. There are only 4 photos for us to work with, and a limited amount of information. The seller states that he intends keeping the rear bumper, the hardtop and that there is no soft top with this old T-bird. Also, looking at the first shot there appears to be a lot of Bondo lurking there, and that’s only the stuff that we can see on the driver’s side. There are no photos of the passenger side. The trunk lid looks okay, but the reality is that this shell would need to make a trip to the dipper to ascertain whether there is sufficient actual Thunderbird there to retrieve. Rather inconveniently there are no shots of the underside of the car, so we can’t be sure how sound it is structurally.

The dashboard appears to be complete, but the pad is pretty sad. The seat upholstery appears intact, but judging by the amount of mildew present I suspect that it probably doesn’t smell too great. The wheel is also there, but it looks like it has seen better days. Apart from that, there’s not much else to be said about the interior, because there’s nothing else there. I will say that the floors look a bit on the crispy side, and I believe that I can see Planet Earth on the driver’s side. If I can look for a positive in this, it does appear that all of the glass is intact.

This is a sight that is almost certain to make every Ford fan quiver. According to the seller, he believes that’s a 327 Chevy hiding in there. Well, there goes the chances that this might just be a matching-numbers car. There’s no word on whether it runs or not. Nor is there any indication of what transmission is hooked to the back of that mill. Once again I’ll be the optimist: At least the hood looks to be in decent condition.

Cars like these are a sad sight. I look at them and try to visualize what they must have been like in their heyday, and how they’ve been reduced to this stage. I would love to think that someone could buy this and restore it, but I personally just don’t see that happening. Given the amount of time, effort and money that is involved, it would take a person who is determined to restore a T-bird no matter what who would take it on. My feeling is that it will be stripped of whatever parts can be salvaged, and its next trip will be to a crusher. Do you think that anyone will take this one on?

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  1. canadainmarkseh Member

    Hey isn’t exposed rusty steel PATINA, this should be highly desirable to some people, I’m not one of them. This would be a good car to practice up your fabricating and welding skills before you send it on to the crusher. This is why I don’t like patina this is where it ends when you leave a car body unprotected. Except for a few parts there is nothing here to save. I’d have to be payed to take it away.the up side when this is in the crusher the guys that have nice ones have come a notch closer to a more rare car.

    • mag1954 Member

      This car does not deserve to go to the crusher! I would rather have it in my backyard along the tree line for its final resting place!

      • JagManBill

        mag…do you mean “resting place”, or “rusting place”

      • Fred A.

        Yup – – Flower Box / Planter

  2. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Nice write-up! 10 points for a “Thunderbirds Are Go” reference!

    • Adam Clarke Adam Clarke Staff

      Thanks for that Scotty. I love writing these, and if I can throw in a bit of “old bloke’s humor” along the way, then all the better.

      • Derek

        Have you heard/what’s the word/Thu… um… scrapyard…

      • Tiberius1701

        The Tracys approve!

  3. Jbones

    It’s a parts car that’s it. Not having any top kills the value. Not the original motor should have a 292 or 312. The only real thing of value would be the chrome moldings around the windshield and that corvette teak wood wheel that needs a restoration. This one will meet the fate of the crusher for sure.

    • Bob

      This car is actually in Maryland.

    • Jnrindian

      That is a Corvette steering wheel alright however, it is the standard “plastic” teak wheel and not the real teak option wheel.

  4. brettucks

    Yep, just parts. some nice dash pieces and glass, and sell the motor/tranny or keep for another (non-ford) project.

    Tail lights look useable…

  5. Bob C.

    Who would put a Chevy small block in a 57 T bird? Now THAT is an insult.

    • Scooter

      That’s how you improve a ford.

      • sir mike

        Now that is an insult to all Ford owners….

      • George

        Fords are an insult to all Ford owners… ;-)

      • Tom S

        Yeah…Gives it that “Professional Grade” – “Great GM Feeling”, you know: Bankruptcy.

      • Howard

        The Y block Ford may not have been much of a performance engine. But it didn’t suffer from cam and lifter wear, like all small block chevies did right up to the time that they received roller cams in 1987. The Y block also didn’t leak oil from nearly every gasket and seal like the sbc did in those days. The Y block configuration also made for an extremely rugged bottom end.

    • Fred A.

      Wellllllll l- – – – lets see – – – – maybe a carry over from all the Rods and Custom Fords out there with a variety of Cheby engines – – – have yet to see a Shoebox Cheby with a FoMoCo engine transplant – – – – not saying there isn’t one somewhere in the world – – – (Cuba?)
      Just couldn’t resist taking time out for a shot of humor – – – – hey – – -we have a club member in The Saskatoon Fifty 567 Club (Chevy Pontiac etc. Club) with a 40 Ford Customized Coupe that HAD a Cheby engine in it and replaced it with a Fffff – – – Fffffff – – – FORD engine – – – – yup he is a bit different but we love hin just the same.
      And No the Cheby engind didn’t fail – – – it was a strong runner – – –

  6. Kuzspike

    Living near Philadelphia all my life I never heard of a neighborhood called Poolesville. Checking the map, the car is actually in Maryland, southwest of Baltimore. It’s just listed on the Philadelphia craigslist page.

    • J Paul Member

      It’s called Poolesville because, for the last twenty years, the car resided in the bottom of a pool.

      • Jnrindian

        yes, a cesspool!

  7. exartist

    Clean title? I expected that too to have rotted away into oblivion.

  8. Little Cars

    1965 Ford poverty hubcaps might be worth something, if there are four or five of them. Steering wheel is Corvette style (JC Whitney knockoff?) and maybe that’s where the engine was sourced. “Crispy” barely describes this abhorrence. I wonder if the 1-2-3-4 price is actual or the seller has more surprises in store when you inquire.

  9. Fred W

    Nothing wrong with a car being used for parts if it helps keep better ones on the road. This is a prime example.

    • steve

      Right, can’t all be first round picks

  10. JeffK

    “I believe that I can see Planet Earth on the driver’s side”.
    Has to be the most unique, descriptive way of saying “rotted floorboards” I have seen in one of these write ups. Good job!

  11. Uncle Bob

    The Corvette steering wheel probably made it go faster eh?

    Given the demographic shifts in the market cars like this are, at best, donors. We can lament that as we wish, but reality is a cruel taskmaster.

    • George

      Probably came with the Chevy 327 V8 in the engine bay…

    • Bsherm


  12. Metoo

    Get it running and clear coat that amazing “patina”.

  13. big mike

    Before touching this rust bucket, I would make sure you are up to date on your Tetanus shots!!!!!

  14. jw454

    Good parts have to come from somewhere. Parts may be the best use for this one given the cost to restore a car in this condition.
    “Some must die so others may live”. (Winston Churchill)

  15. Mountainwoodie


  16. bobk

    What lake did they drag this out of???

  17. Lroy

    Rat Rods just got a little newer.

  18. Scooter

    This is the makings of a drag car. Solid axle up front, high leaf springs, you know, a real nose bleed special

    • PatrickM


      • PatrickM

        That’s gasser

  19. DaveMc

    Guy should get clobbered for letting such a nice vehicle go to heck like this.
    No metal value left for the scrapper

  20. George

    He’s being honest about it being a parts car. One with very few parts that seem to be useable…

  21. Del


  22. Jack Quantrill

    What kind of people would let a proud bird like this rot outdoors?

  23. Fred H

    Rode hard and put away wet (((((

  24. Ike Onick

    The only thing clean on this lump is the title.

  25. Lance Nord

    When I was in college (late 70’s/early 80’s), I ran across six 50’s vintage Tbirds sitting in a grove of trees near a farmhouse. They had already sunk far enough that the lower panel rot was severe. A couple seemed capable of saving. I approached the house but was severely rebuked by the owner who said the cars were priceless. I told him he was correct… they were on the road to being worth nothing because they were rotting away. He said, “They’re not for sale. Get off my property!”

    I imagine if I went back today, they would still be there looking far worse than this sad case.

  26. Healeymonster

    Replace the fuel system and brakes and fire it u.p With proper protective clothing and gloves you can drive a Rusto-rod!

  27. Tiberius1701

    That T-Bird was fine until the Vette steering wheel and small block were installed. Honest.

    • George

      I guess it’s a matter of the car rejecting its transplants…

  28. Maestro1 Member

    I’m very sad that this should happen to an historic car. Forget it.

  29. Madmatt

    Someone wanted a Vette,but got a Tbird instead,
    so logically..they put the sbc and Vette wheel on it instead.
    The car then became a TURDBIRD,and is pretty worthless,
    other than suspension,trim?pretty damn sad!

  30. Joe Haska

    Nice 51 Ford hub cap!

  31. half cab

    ” I am keeping rear bumper and hard top there was no soft top”

    You can keep it all unless free to good home. lol

    My ole pappy always wanted one these. Sure hurts to look at that one.😭

    • Alan (Michigan) Member

      ” I am keeping rear bumper and hard top there was no soft top”

      Translation: ” I picked this up for pretty much nothing, just so I could get the rear bumper and hard top. Now I am trying to pay for the tow job and get a little cash.”

  32. pwtiger

    I’ve always wanted to restomod one of these, custom frame and 4 wheel independent suspension wilwood disc brakes, airbags etc… I’m not up to date with the computer engines so I might go with a 347 small block Ford with Webers. I enjoy making rust repair panels so the condition of this old bird does not scare me, just need time and money and determination…

    • Steve

      Completely agree!!!!!!! They all don’t need to be 1,000 point restorations. Do what you can, and have some fun!!!!!!

  33. John Kingston

    It’s a mudder.

    • Tom S

      “Mudder” is only half a word…

      • half cab


  34. Derik Lattig

    Someone mentioned above who would put a big block in a T-Bird, lol look at the ones that were and are on the drag circuit along with the ol’ TV series bird from ‘Vegas’ that had a hemi in it.

    • Craig M Bryda Member

      Back when things were weird we put a 383 Dodge motor into a 56 T-Bird for a customer along with a push button torque flite. The drive shaft was about 1 foot long, that Bird flew !

  35. Wrong Way Member

    Heck, this guy would have to pay me just to get it out of the way!

  36. Lee Waddington

    When description got to the Chevy engine that was the end.

  37. Falstaff TR

    Just buff it and enjoy

  38. Craig M Bryda Member

    Back when things were weird we put a 383 Dodge motor into a 56 T-Bird for a customer along with a push button torque flite. The drive shaft was about 1 foot long, that Bird flew !

  39. Mike R in De

    I was lucky enough to drive a 55 with the 292 , then a 57 with the 312 back to back in ’89 . The 55 had been rotisserie restored, the 57 was a Very nice surviving example. Both were fun to drive and had good power for a Gentleman’s sports car!! Drum brakes, 3 speed and automatic transmission of the day were fine taking a nice ride and looking good with your best girlfriend!! This one was past it’s prime Before the SBC was installed.

  40. Mike

    It’s a POC all the way around…rusty tin, missing parts, sbc….pull the salvageable parts, and put it out of it’s misery…

  41. JagManBill

    “Clean title”…aka sale is a VIN plate special….

  42. Mgr8cr

    It brings to mind Kirk White’s story on Fun read lots of story’s about drag racing thunderbirds in th Philadelphia area in the 1950s.

  43. dweezilaz

    Looks like a manual transmission given the stick shift on the floor.

    Chevy manual as well ?

  44. Gaspumpchas

    Sorry shape. If you look at what you could buy a nice one for, this is a parts car. they only made 55,000 2 seat birds over the 3 years. You can buy a nice example for around 20k. I’m really surprised these never took off. Had a 55 but never restored, sold so I could remodel the bathroom…

  45. John Baltzley

    My only comment is that numbers matching on early Fords, T Birds is a fable. Ford had no such thing back then! When ever I see it on a sale or advertisement, I am sure the seller knows nothing about the car!

    • Jnrindian

      I am sure what they mean to say is all components are original to the car.

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