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Vehicle to be offered for Auction sale January 27-31, 2016 at Russo and Steele’s 16th Annual Scottsdale, Arizona Auction. Please contact us for more information.
Based on a show car debuted in February 1954, Ford’s sleek two-seater Thunderbird was introduced for sale on October 22 that year, crowning a very successful year in which Ford sold nearly 1.5 million cars to mark the second-best model year in company history. Conceived as a handsome and sporting V-8 “personal car” rather than as a harder-core sports car, the Thunderbird provided a highly sophisticated and well-equipped alternative to Chevrolet’s somewhat haphazard fiberglass Corvette, with its weaker six-cylinder engine and rudimentary weather gear including old-fashioned side curtains.
Low-slung, trimly proportioned, and of all-steel body construction, the Thunderbird was powered by a 292 cubic-inch V-8 and equipped with a removable hard top and plenty of standard and optional features and amenities. A total of 16,155 examples were sold for the inaugural 1955 model year, as opposed to just 700 Corvettes. The 1956 Thunderbird was relatively unchanged, although the hard top gained round “porthole” windows, the spare tire was changed to an external “Continental” mounting to gain trunk space, and a new 312 cubic-inch ‘Thunderbird Special’ V-8 was optional. Curiously, sales dipped slightly to 15,631, likely the result of oil-supply instability in the wake of the Suez Crisis.
Redesigned for 1957, the final two-seater Thunderbirds are considered by many collectors and enthusiasts today as the most beautiful of all produced. The front bumper was smoothed out and dropped down in the center, the trunk extended to accommodate the spare wheel repositioned inside the car, and a pair of neat canted tailfins flowed back along the rear fenders to the large rounded taillights. Smaller-diameter 14-inch wheels lowered the car for a sportier stance and several high-performance engines were offered, up to a 285-hp racing special. Sales rose briskly to 21,380 for 1957, but it would in fact be the final model year for the two-seater Thunderbird until its basic concept was reprised for 2003.
Featuring the powerful “D-Code” 312 cubic-inch V-8 engine packing 245 horsepower, this iconic 1957 Thunderbird is an outstanding example from the last year of two-seat 1955-1957 Thunderbird production. Clearly benefiting handsomely from a total frame-off restoration, it is finished in Gunmetal Grey with red upholstery, a red tonneau cover, and a rare “non-porthole” hard top. Very well equipped with power steering, power windows, a telescopic steering column, and an engine dress-up kit, this Thunderbird rides on a set of wire wheels mounting wide whitewall radial tires and stands tall as an extremely desirable example of the historic original Thunderbird series.