Classic Ford Thunderbirds

The first couple of years of Ford Thunderbird production were the years when the really beautiful classic design was made. The 1955 to 1957 Tbirds were sporty little two seaters with pleasing curves and spunky performance delivered by the standard 292-cubic-inch OHV V8 engine producing 193 hp, or 198 hp when coupled to the optional Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission. It was a low profile car with unnecessarily large tires, a cute little hood scoop, and a removable fiberglass hardtop or optional soft convertible top. In 1956 Ford included the "Continental Kit" that allowed the spare tire to be removed from the trunk and hung in a case on the rear fender. By 1957, the car had grown slightly and featured a standard 312-cubic-inch V8 engine with 245 hp, and options to power up to a supercharged and intercooled version making 300 hp.

In 1958, Ford began producing a larger four seat Thunderbird. It was still a two door sports coupe, but much bigger and heavier than the previous model. These years brought the first unibody constructed Tbirds, making a stiffer and stronger car. There were minor changes for the 1959 and 1960 model years, and all three years saw record sales numbers for Ford T-birds. Standard power grew from 300 to an available 350 hp 430 cubic inch (7 liter) engine. Although the '58 to '60 model year Tbirds were not as attractive as their predecessors, they struck a positive note with buyers and Ford experienced record Thunderbird coupe and convertible sales each year.

The 1961 to 1963 Bullet Bird model Thunderbirds narrowed to a point in front almost like an airplane wing. In 1962 Ford introduced the Sports Roadster model Tbird as well as a vinyl roofed Landau trim package.

The 1964 to 1966 Jet Birds look like some aspects of the 1958 cars were dropped onto the Bullet Birds, taking the best from each. It's hard to look at one of these and think "sports car" and the original sports car heritage of the 1955 Tbird was actually then being carried on by the Mustang.

In 1967, Ford began in earnest the campaign to make the Tbird uncool. It was a major challenge, but by the early 80's the objective was fully realized with the Fairmont Thunderbirds. The Thunderbird would not be cool again until 2002, when Ford brought back a modernized version of the classic vintage two seat sports car. That's the car people think of when you say Ford Thunderbird.

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