Ford made this car more powerful by adding a horsepower V-8 engine, so it could be in the NASCAR racing circuit. These “Battle Birds” were modified stock. Conceived to challenge Chevrolet's Corvette sports car, the iconic Thunderbird debuted in October and was one of the first models produced with Ford's. The names Barrett-Jackson, pege.perinn.xyz, Fantasy Bid, The World's Greatest Collector Car Auctions, and all associated graphics, logos, page headers. VNC SERVER JAVA SOURCE CODE
At the end of , Ford ended the production. Three are in our shop currently being restored, as of June 8, Externally, you will see no difference with these classics. The difference is with the engines, transmissions, and some had heavy duty suspensions. Which is one of the reasons they have became quite collectible and very desirable. You can see some of the restorations that we have completed, and are currently working on, for our customers.
The interior is a two-tone Dresdon and Starmist Blue. The engine is a supercharged hp 8 cylinder. We searched for three years for this particular car, because of its color. The customer then asked us to do a full body off restoration using the Excellence in Authenticity Standards.
The importance of the color was because the customer was a huge North Carolina Tar Heels fan and the color had to match as close as possible to North Carolina Blue. The customer wanted the car to meet the concours correct standards. This supercharged Thunderbird has a rare 3-speed manual transmission, a ci hp engine of which only 12 were produced. It also has a VR supercharger. It received a The customer asked us to restore his car and build it to be a top show car using the C.
The options will include red exterior, red interior, red hard top, and black soft top. The car will have the same supercharged engine with a three-speed transmission. The original 15 performance cars were built specifically to run at the Daytona Speed Trials, to give Chevrolet some very stiff competition and that is exactly what happened. Thus, the Ford Supercharged Thunderbird was born. Although Ford had projected a 10, unit initial run, the company sold 16, Birds in Even with its new V8 engine, Chevrolet could only manage to move Corvettes that year.
It has been argued that without the Corvette there would have been no Thunderbird, and without the Thunderbird there would have been no Corvette. After two years of success the model would require a restyle. What is fascinating is the way the restyle has received so little attention through the years. After all, immediately after the drama of the model attention shifted to Robert McNamara and his green eyeshade-style of automotive management.
There are many fascinating things about the Thunderbird and it was an unqualified success in more ways than one, but there is one thing it was not: Beautiful. OK, maybe it was beautiful by the standards of new cars in , but not the kind of beauty that makes you stop and stare today. The and cycles got all the attention in both the book and in real life, so we have to take what details we can scrounge.
We know that the a larger grille was desired for better engine cooling and the dipped bumper met this criteria while allowing the front end sheetmetal to remain essentially unchanged. We also know that the biggest change was a four inch stretch of the rear with no increase in wheelbase which allowed the spare tire to be put back into the trunk.
Both cars involved a third year rehash of an attractive and popular car. And both have gone down in history as one of the most successful designs of the era. It is easy to look back at the radical line coming from Chrysler Corporation and see how dowdy and old fashioned almost everything else looked in comparison. The Thunderbird, however, avoided this fate. Look at this car. Is there a single line, a single piece or a single feature that calls out for improvement?
The fender skirt might be the most controversial item today, but they can be removed for those offended by them. Personally, I much prefer the skirted versions over the open-wheel look. Up front the new bumper and grille transform the design from ordinary for the period to timeless.
The dipped bumper looked just right in a year that saw several of them. The trademark round taillights over the bumper that drops down on the ends end up in perfect proportion. Really, how amazing is it that a facelift job largely dictated by other projects could come out this well? And not just well but just right. How right? One look at some of the alternative ideas brings home just how many ways stylists could have ruined the final two-seat Thunderbird.
The big scallop behind the front wheel got fairly far along in the design process, and was eliminated only when the new Corvette came out with a similar feature. The production design lost the slightly chunky look of and was far more pure than the unit-bodied Squarebird that succeeded it.
We could say that Ford kept the best parts of the already attractive car and added more goodness everywhere major changes were made. And how perfect was it for me to find this one in this setting. Geist Reservoir is an area northeast of Indianapolis that has been surrounded by expensive homes and has developed a bit of the flavor of lake living. Near the marina is a building that has seen a series of failed restaurants. But there is one that opened there last year which seems to be a success.
And when we met them again recently, I was greeted by this gorgeous Thundering Bird as we left the building. This T-Bird was in its element — a scenic, upscale locale with well-dressed people all around. This car was not parked at a road racing course, and was never intended to be. Nope, this car was made for settings where there are yachts or golf clubs or cocktails. That is the word that sums up the Thunderbird alone among the offerings of almost everything else built by the U.
Auto industry that year. Most old cars look good in pictures, but let me tell you this one was stunning in person. All the better to not mar the mirror-perfect Raven Black finish. As I walked around this one during photographing, I was struck by the total lack of bad or awkward angles. Just as some humans are made for the camera, so is the Thunderbird.
I did not, of course, lift the hood, but I like to imagine there a 4 bbl for providing the kind of scoot-power a car like this deserves. Ford offered some fairly strong powerplants that year, including a supercharged Who really needs a supercharger or dual four-barrel carbs to live the beautiful life? And just as the Chevrolet would be overshadowed by its new replacement, Ford would eventually show what real success looked like when the four-seat Thunderbird would introduce the concept of personal luxury to the American automobile market.
But then popular tastes can be difficult to predict. How fascinating that the company with so few really good designs of the period would come up with the one that stands far above all the rest. But boy did it ever. Whether in shape or proportion, concept or detailing, the Ford Thunderbird may well have been the most perfectly styled car of its era. There have always been stylish cars and cars with design that has withstood the test of time. This one managed to be both. The T-Bird Roadster that came later was better.
And what about the Hudson Hornet? Way better. And lets not forget that Cadillac had a bunch of beuts like the 53 Eldorado, 57 Brougham,59 Biaritz……………. Even as a child I found the Ford to be more attractive, and the Plymouth to be more striking — even though both were hurt by badly thought out headlight treatments. Of course, at our house, you never said that around the dinner table, unless you wanted to be sent to your room, immediately.
Same here. The Chevrolet looked junked-up, as though having blown their wad on the , all the stylists had left was to make an imitation Cadillac. As for the Chevrolet, it was all-new but looked five years old. According to my dad the buyers of new 57s here agreed with you Syke after the intial orders were delivered no reorders came in that had never happened with any other Chevrolet, 58s sold like beer at a footy game, it was new.
If I remember correctly, what turned out to be the Chevy models were supposed to be released in However I believe some engineering issues prevented that from happening and thus, Chevy had to do a bit of an emergency refresh on the models. Look at Ford and Chrysler, both companies released brand new cars with new styling and even Buicks and Caddys had new platforms for But due to whatever issue that arisen, the old, pontiacs and chevys had to soldier on for one more year with the older body.
Yet, you managed to. Ultimately, I agree… this was the best-styled car of the decade. Thanks Eric. I think the reason the early Thunderbird was considered such a success had nothing to do with sales numbers. In the Thunderbird they succeeded purely by accident. Just think — if this car had racked up Corvette-like sales numbers, I doubt we would ever have seen the 4 seat 58 model that started a trend that went on for twenty years.
All of these would have been good approaches to this car, but I could not get past how almost supernaturally beautiful this thing was. I had been seeing these in pictures and at car shows my whole life but seeing one out in a real-life setting drove the point into me for the first time. Knowing more about its history is even better.
And for 21, of these being made, the survival rate is amazing. Last summer I saw a red one near my house turning onto a main thoroughfare. When I lived in Hannibal years ago there was a man who drove a white one daily every summer.
Last fall I was in the front yard mulching leaves. A Chevrolet pickup pulling a trailer ambles up the street and backs into the neighbors driveway diagonal from my house. Knowing the guy in the pickup, I later learn he got it running again. It was a good waxing and a set of whitewalls away from looking like the featured Thunderbird. Inquiring minds need to know.
Yes, an amazing survival rate absolutely. My mother was a young adult when these came out and these cars cast a spell on everyone in her age group. They were always special. I think the Miata is kind of the same way in modern cars. Yes, some were driven into the ground and thrown away, but many many more were lovingly kept in decent shape.
The s was where I hit a brick wall. I think Ford did it again with the 83 Thunderbird and I would even argue that they did so again with the Explorer in the s. But the s, well, I cannot come up with an example of where Ford carried off a design so perfectly that it became iconic.
Not so much because it is an outstanding design. Rather, domestic Ford styling of the 70s was not particularly strong. I agree the Fox body Mustang was a daring move, not dramatic, in terms of styling cues like the swept-back grille. Designers dared to be different and management pushed back as they were still in a sixties styling funk.
This would happen again in developing the new Taurus a few years later. The 57 T-Bird when compared to other cars of the era was understaded, but still pleasing to the eye. Styling that aged well in my opinion. And does it ever look good in black.
Great write-up JP. I can see YOUR reflection perfectly in some of these shots. As to the possible QOTD? No doubt he would agree, albiet with a little bias. I always like the Fox Mustangs. The very few Thunder birds that arrived here near new never reached old bomb status they were prized right from the get go, Other rare valuable cars didnt fare so well sometimes, theres a Sunbeam Tiger that races as a street stock at the local speedway and its a genuine V8 Tiger, goes ok but its very very rough now.
Within 1 mile I passed two Thunderbirds parked in their driveways. Outstanding article and observations JP. You prove again, you are in the top tier of writers at CC. These are designs that many non-car people readily identify as icons of 50s America. Something Ford really never did replicate afterwards in future T-Birds. I do think T-Birds of this era look best in light colours. As light paintwork highlights the cleanliness, and details, of the design. If my eye is right, Ford had used the same stylish home when launching the original in —somewhere in the nicest Detroit suburbs?
In this photo, the curb in front of the house appears unfinished, indicating the house or subdivision was recently built at that time. Wow, I had not realized how many times that same house was used in promo pictures. Do we have a volunteer to cruise the older Detroit suburbs to find this place? The chrome side detail appears to have been airbrushed on. Don A, I believe the story is that side spear echoing the Crown Victoria, right?
Eric and JPC, I would have loved to have divvied up the labor during the Dearborn meet-up two summers ago and tried to find this place—perhaps Grosse Ile or northern suburbs. One more Henry Ford Museum , same location. Sure looks midwest rather than SoCal to me! Eric Bravo to you for taking up the chase with this one. To me the T-birds look like Fairlanes that were left in the dryer too long and shrunk in an awkward way. I prefer the Studebaker Starlight Coupe. This car is beautifully proportioned, and could have remained as such well into the s looking entirely relevant and timely.
Geez they could have even made it bigger and kept the same style, if they had desired. When you mentioned the dropped grille, I had to do a double take. What I had never noticed was the way the front bumper dipped in the middle while the rear bumper dipped at the outer edges. Which is something else I had never noticed before now. I would posit that the 57 Ford was designed by an entirely different team than the T-bird, and they may never have crossed paths. The Fairlanes had a partly different body including different greenhouses, and I think a longer wheelbase than the two lower end lines like that one.
The taller rear bumper with black painted areas also makes the rear end look more horizontal. The Thunderbird was indeed the product of a team separated from the other styling studios. It is funny how within a decade the Thunderbird studio would be a really important place within the company. Another point I left out was that the bumpers, front and back, were far more expensive to fabricate than on the higher volume cars and on the for that matter which might explain why the family resemblance did not run the other direction.
My understanding is that the 57 Fairlane was designed first heavily influenced by the Mystere concept car and that the TBird studio was given the early results and told to keep the family resemblance. Now that I know this I see the taillights on the Fairlane as too small and those identical pieces on the Thunderbird as just right.
Count me in as one who likes the looks of the modern 2 seater. There have been a couple of times over the years when a frequent Craigslist search was Thunderbird, min year One of those times was just a couple of months ago. I was looking for a new toy and came across something else, it was a touch high in the price for the condition so I dithered and it disappeared.
However just yesterday I pulled up alongside one at a light. It was red and wearing some aftermarket wheels on the blingy side. I did for a second think if I should have kept looking and found a T-bird. I thought the lost every bit of styling magic that made the original work. The front looked more New Beetle than classic Thunderbird, and the tail of all 3 originals were defined by the little bit of fin over the taillights which squared things up back there.
I never found the new one the slightest bit appealing. Nice history and to be honest I had no idea that there really even were any changes in the run. It occurred to me when doing this that there has been a marked tendency for all 3 years of the Little Birds to be lumped together whenever they are discussed or written about.
Finding anything specific about only one year particularly the 56 or 57 has been fairly rare. This was really the first time I have examined the 57 solely or at least mostly on its own merits without reference to its elder siblings. When I was a teen the 56 was my favorite, mainly because the 57 seemed to get all the glory and because I liked the Continental spare hanging on the rear. But after getting up close and personal with this car the 57 is my fave hands down. Beautiful car at neighborhood car shows.
The four-pane graphic showing the Chrysler, Pontiac, Studebaker and Chevrolet is reminiscent of the one Paul inserted in his Pontiac Catalina writeup, where the Pontiac, like the Chrysler, made the same-year Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth look like a previous generation. The Corvette rather pioneered that clean low grille, from the get-go.
It killed any last pretensions the TBird might have had in being a sports car. What both the Small Birds and C1 Corvettes suffer from is atrocious seating positions and relationship to their steering wheels. Getting into one now makes one realize how profoundly more ergonomic newer cars are. These are not suitable for tall guys like me. I think you fell into the trap of thinking about the Thunderbird as a sports car, which was something very easy to do when you first saw them.
But it was a terrible sports car from the start. As a sports car, I agree that the extra overhang is bad. But as a 2 passenger Country Club Cruiser that overhang worked and fixed a look that I think was a little stubby on the older version. The Bird could not hold a candle to the Corvette as a sports car.
But the fact that it outsold the Corvette 6 to 1 in shows that Ford found the fat part of the market for a 2 seat roadster. As it is, Ford very definitely did improve all of the dynamic qualities of the Small Bird in these and other categories. The first indication was the Chevrolet Corvette. After pushing the car around the handling course a few times I soon got confident enough to begin taking the corners at mph.
With more practice, I felt sure that I could up the speed. The ride is unlike that which the diehard sports car addict has come to expect from a sports car. The Thunderbird will go with the best of them, even with the Fordomatic automatic transmission.
A time of Acceleration at passing speeds is impressive. We averaged times of 4. The Thunderbird has three basic points in its favor: a rakish, ground-hugging style, performance to match good sports cars, and a design that has built-in comfort for driver and passenger, with no penalty whatsoever to pay for fun. Everyone saw it clearly for what it was: a response to the Corvette as well as the booming sports car market overall. The 36hp Karmann Ghia was generally considered to be one.
I could dig up many examples of two-seaters that were considered sports cars in the 50ss that had no genuine sporting aspirations or qualifications other than being two-seaters and perhaps some modest increase in power or not. The Small Bird most certainly meets that bar and clears it with a pretty good measure.
Or a woman driving a Mercedes SLK, or whatever…. In the context of , of course it was a sports car. It takes more than two seats to make a sports car. The Crosley Hotshot was a sports car, the Nash Metropolitan was not. The Corvette was absolutely a sports car. A sports car has to be a car designed for driver engagement and driving fun.
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