In its first generation, the Ford Thunderbird was a quick response to a published study of the Chevrolet Corvette. Its development began in 1953, and thanks to the accelerated development, it was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show the following year. Production itself began in 1955 at the new Wixom plant, where the Thunderbird was built alongside the Mercury and Lincoln cars, so it was part of a higher society. Although the origin of the Thunderbird was the Corvette study, the two cars were very far apart in the end. While the Corvette was inspired by the success of European sports cars, the Thunderbird bet more on the comfort of the driver and the passengers.
The specialty of American cars is the uniqueness of model years. While European production is constantly improving its vehicles and the facelift is the turning point, in America, the model year is respected. And you can often buy a car of a given year six months in advance, sometimes more than a year in advance. Thunderbird was no exception. Its conversion took place in February 1954, production began in September 1954 and the manufactured vehicles were released for sale at the end of October this year as a model year 1955. It was equipped with a removable hardtop and a classic retractable roof was available on a request.
The basis of the Thunderbird 1955 model year was a 292ci (4.8L) V8 OHV engine with 215 hp. It had a ladder frame and the technical systems were taken from product lines across the Ford model range - nothing new under the surface. This also applied to gearboxes - a two-speed automatic or a three-speed manual (with the option of overdrive) were the only choices. In the interior, the first-generation Thunderbird captivated its customers with a telescopic steering wheel with gauges and four-way electrically adjustable seats. In total, over 16,000 vehicles of the 1955 model year were sold, which surpassed the Ford's original plan to produce 10,000 units more than enough.
Thanks to the relatively extensive criticism on the spaciousness of the interior and luggage compartment, the spare wheel for the 1956 model year was moved to the rear of the car in the exterior cover in the style of today's off-roads. Although this brought more usable space in the boot, the solution had an adverse effect on driving characteristics and, for the 1957 model year, it was modified again. For a better view from the car to the rear, or to the sides, the option of the round side windows in the C-pillar of vehicles with a hardtop has been added, free of charge. The internal ventilation was also modified (due to complaints about the heat escaping from the engine compartment into the interior) and, as an option, more powerful 312ci (5.1L) engine with 228 hp. This model year lagged slightly behind production of 1955 model year, and the Thunderbird was therefore slightly redesigned again.
From today's point of view, the most elegant variant of the first-generation Ford cruiser arrived in 1957. The front bumper, turn signals, rear fenders and rear lights were modified. The spare wheel traveled to the trunk again, and new four-way electrically adjustable seats were available with the "Dial-o-Matic" function (reversing seat, when the ignition is off), making it easier to get on and off. The wheels were reduced from 15" to 14", the instrument panel and many other details were new. The 312ci engine was making more power - boosted by a supercharger, it could make up to 300 hp. The 1957 model year was the final year of the first generation Thunderbird and was also the most commercially successful with more than 21,000 units sold. It should be added, that the success was supported by the overlap of production into the 1958 "model year", as the development of the successor took a little more time.
Although the first generation Thunderbird was very well received, Ford wanted to improve its car - there were still very frequent voices that the car did not provide enough space for the passengers or luggage. For this reason, after three years, the second-generation Thunderbird was introduced, which was significantly larger and also more commercially successful. The first generation of the Thunderbird was also, for a long time, the last Ford two-seater, at least for the American market.
A total of eleven generations of the Thunderbird model were created, while the last one, produced in the years 2002-2005, directly referred to the first generation in terms of design. In total sales, the last model was better than the original, but it was the last in a series. From today's perspective, the first generation Thunderbird is a wonderful and charismatic legacy of the "carefree" time of its inception - charismatic engines, with a booming sound and a powerful expression, feels like a nirvana in today's neurotic times and, combined with the typical design of the 50's, is an irresistible choice for American cruiser lovers.
Our car has been completely restored in the Rallied & Raced facility. It prides itself with a beautiful Starmist Blue color, White Perforated Vinyl hardtop and a beige interior. It is fully functional and is equipped with veteran number plates.