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Two tops, great colors, runs strong, and very affordably priced. Bargain 'Bird!

For sale: 1955 Ford Thunderbird Convertible

Technical specifications

Item location:
Macedonia, Ohio, United States
Number of cylinders:
Interior color:
Vehicle Title:
Contact the seller / ! Report


The Ford Thunderbird was ostensibly a response to the Chevrolet Corvette, but they weren’t actually rivals. Sure, they both had two seats, a top that went down, and a V8 up front, but their missions were drastically different. Ford’s Thunderbird became a grand tourer, the car you would take on a cross-country trip on scenic byways, the convertible you looked forward to driving home from work each evening. With a smooth V8 and plenty of torque, it feels sporting and agile on the road and there’s nobody who doesn’t love the way an early ‘Bird looks. If the Corvette was America’s sports car, then the Thunderbird was America’s personal luxury car.

This 1955 Thunderbird has that clean look of the first ‘Birds that many enthusiasts regard as the most attractive of the bunch. No tailfins, no continental kit, and not even a porthole in the hardtop (which would arrive in 1956), just clean, simple lines that have withstood the test of time. We’ll tell you up front that this is not a show car, although it photographs extremely well. The Raven Black paint was probably applied back when Regan was still president, so it’s not original, but it has enough patina for the car to look wonderfully inviting. It’s got plenty of gloss, and except for some bodywork in the right front fender, it appears to be in pretty good condition overall. A few micro-blisters point to the paint’s age, but sighting down the flanks shows good, straight sheetmetal and if there were rust repairs, they were so well done that they’re still invisible decades later and don’t present any worries today. The chrome and stainless trim likely dates to 1955, so there are some scuffs and some very, very minor pits, but it, too, has a clean look that’s entirely age-appropriate. If there’s any demerit, it’s that there’s some discoloration around the exhaust tips, which is entirely normal.

The black and white interior also appears to be completely original and in great condition. We’re guessing that the carpets have been replaced, since they’re just too nice to be 60 years old, but the seat cover and door panels sure look authentic. The steering wheel is in excellent condition and all the gauges are functional except the clock, which shouldn’t be a surprise (and is likely due to the 12-volt conversion). The odometer shows just over 70,000 miles and we have no trouble believing that’s an authentic reading, although we have no proof. Behind the seat there’s a recent black vinyl convertible top that’s in very good condition with a crystal clear rear window, although you should practice folding and unfolding it a few times before you start driving it in iffy weather. The original AM radio is still in the dash, but it, too, is not operational, again probably due to the 12-volt electrical system. It’s also worth noting that all the interior lights are fully functional, including the courtesy lights under the dash that stay illuminated until the engine is running, a kind of neat feature. In back, the trunk is in good shape, protected with some kind of ancient brushed-on undercoating as well as a set of original mats. And you can clearly see why the 1956 Thunderbird moved the spare outside, simply because there’s a premium on storage space in there.

The engine is a 292 cubic inch “Y-block” V8 (hence the Y-shaped logo on the front fenders). In 1955, it was the only engine available and put out a very usable 198 horsepower. Somewhere along the line, someone repainted this car’s engine in correct Ford red, so it looks bright enough in the engine bay, but it was clearly done a long time ago. On the other hand, it has also been recently and comprehensively serviced, including new hoses, belts, plugs, wires, and other tune-up parts, so it runs very well. The bright chrome air cleaner has a correct cork gasket to take cool air from the hood scoop and you could install a set of reproduction decals on the valve covers to give it a more authentic look. It starts quickly and easily and isn’t fussy at all, emitting a nice V8 burble from the twin exhaust pipes out back. We’ve driven it around town and at highway speeds, and it does indeed drive nicely, a testament to a car that has never been apart but has been properly maintained all its life. There’s no power steering, but effort is moderate, and with correct bias-ply tires, it feels right.

It’s got the standard Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission (which we suspect has been recently rebuilt) and 3.00 gears out back, so it’s peppy but easy on the highway and the ride is definitely skewed towards comfort rather than sport. The undercarriage is completely original, so it’s not shiny and perfect. On the other hand, there are no major issues and yes, it’s grimy and crusty but the floors don’t have patches or holes and the frame is in good structural shape. The exhaust system is fairly old but doesn’t leak and sounds good exhaling through vintage Thrush mufflers, while there appear to be new wheel cylinders and brake lines. Those 6.50-15 Firestone wide whites look great, especially with sparkling wire wheelcovers inside.

This is not a perfect car. On the other hand, it’s still an early Thunderbird that you’ll be happy to drive and show at casual events and the basics are good. It’s far too nice to restore, so instead you can buy it at a discount (have you seen early Thunderbird prices lately?) and simply enjoy it without worries. Call today!

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