If you click a link on this page and make a purchase we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

1955 Ford Thunderbird

Here is the car that was going to go on to wow movie stars and symbolize the glamour and utopia of the fifties – The 1955 Ford Thunderbird.

The Corvette, while not selling in great numbers, had been drawing attention for a couple of years and Ford needed a rival for the two-seater. However, they wanted something that offered more luxury and they weren’t going to go the fiberglass route – it’s a steel body. The Thunderbird name was taken from a south-west Native American god who brought rain and prosperity.

A major selling point for the Thunderbird was that while it looked like a sports car, it was full-size and shared many parts with Ford’s regular line of cars.

rear view – top down fun

Arguably, the T-bird is the greatest and most collectable product that Ford produced post-war and is very desirable with collectors today.

The bulge on the hood is necessary to clear the air filter.

Due to its popularity, the styling and name that was to be carried over to Ford’s full-size models with marketing material proudly displaying “Thunderbird Styling”.

Inside, the instrument panel is simple yet functional – note the tachometer on the left. The push-button radio was quite an expensive option coming in at an additional $99 when the car was ordered new.

interior of a 1955 Thunderbird
classic thunderbird styling

Thunderbirds also came standard with a telescoping steering wheel to accommodate different drivers and driving positions.

Under the hood the, brand new for ’55, 292 cubic inch V8 was standard. Chrome dress-up kits were $25 extra. There were two compression ratios used on this engine. 8.1:1 producing 193 horsepower and 8.5:1 producing 198 hp. The lower ratio used for manual transmission cars as found in this T-Bird.

1955 Ford 292 V8
292 V8

Original buyers also had the option of having Ford-O-Matic drive automatic transmission costing an additional $178.

Ford had really hit the ball out of the park with the Thunderbird with 16,155 produced in its first year of production. Compare that to the Corvette with just 700 of them being sold in 1955 and it was in its third year of production. Once the T-bird became a 4-seater in 1958 then sales really started to take off and leave the Corvette standing. Even during those first three years as a single seater, over 53,000 Thunderbirds were produced.

It was a hot product for sure, but who would have guessed the model name would continue for over 40 years and build such a loyal fan base?

If you wanted a Thunderbird during the 1955 model year the base price was $2,944 with all of them being convertibles. They came from the factory with a soft top but you could opt for an additional fibreglass hardtop for a further $290.

Fortunately many of these early cars survived due to the fact they became collectable so early in their lives. Even during the sixties these cars retained their values better than other cars.

This ’55 Ford Thunderbird is currently for sale on eBay. (follow the link for even more photos)

1 thought on “1955 Ford Thunderbird”

Leave a Comment

1955 Ford Thunderbird

Although people like to believe apocryphal legends about things, the real reason the 1955 Thunderbird ever made its appearance, in the first place, was to give Ford a two-place competitor to the Chevy Corvette.

It’s not so much that people ever really noticed that the early Corvettes tended to sound like yachts being driven before a high wind as their specialized fiberglass pieces worked and groaned against one another, it’s just that Corvette had that cachet that said “sports car” and Ford wanted to follow suit.

“American Graffiti”

It did in a big way with the 1955 Thunderbird – if you’ve every seen “American Graffiti” you see a white one cruising up and down the streets of Hicksville, wherever as our hero chases her all night – and the 1955 T-Bird was, in most ways, a better vehicle.

For starters, its stamdings were steel, not a material that Detroit didn’t know how to work with – fiberglass — so it had more body rigidity built in and with a detachable steel roof – like the ‘Vette – but with the windows mentioned, you had a real car. Actually, it was built as a “personal” sports car because, according to various sources at the time, the Corvette caught Ford flat-footed and it had to jump through hoops to get one ready for 1954 modeling and 1955 production. Well, the design team at Ford did it and even kept the wheelbase the same as the Corvette at 102.

In reality, if you look closely at the personal sports market, it was probably the T-Bird that made themarket because, event though early Corvettes only accounted for about two-percent of the market, Ford just couldn’t let go and had to have its own version.

1955 Ford

“Personal” Sports Car

The version of the “personal” sports car that Ford produced in the 1955 T-Bird was more luxurious and practical. There was only one powerplant available, the 292-cubic-inch Mercury V-8 that cranked out 193 horsepower.

1955 T-Bird owners could opt for a three-speed Ford-O-Matic shift.

Like the Corvette, the Thunderbird featured a long hood and fenders and short rear deck. If this design sounds familiar it was the same design that helped propel the early “short platform” Mustang to its highly successful sales in 1966. The 1955 T-Bird, though, had classically straight lines that centered on the nicely designed bright front end with its widely spaced dual headlamps that were separated by a bright eggcrate-styled grille.

Nice Styling

Forerunners of the styling of the 1956/7 T-Bird, the fenders carried the lines of the headlamps back through the doors while providing a straight line back through the doors and rear deck. The short rear quarters were completed by two small rounded taillamps and the small design touches that led to the low chrome bumpers. The rear decked was short and the trunk left a lot to be desired if you wanted to haul anything.

The key to the T-Bird was its styling and its use of parts-bin pieces to bring a model to market in about 11 months or so that was a direct challenge to the Corvette