Standing aside from the wallowing barges that ruled the roads of the USA in the 1950s, the Ford Thunderbird was created as a two seater, sporty ‘personal car’ with simple, elegant lines. Its fins were modest, its bumpers restrained, and the bright work was minimal. It wasn’t a sporty car in true European sense, more of a brisk, luxury tourer, but the image was right. The car scored over the contemporary Chevrolet Corvette, which it outsold handsomely in having a V8 engine under the bonnet. With 200bhp from a Mercury sourced 4.8 liter V8, the Thunderbird would steam up to 114mph (182km/h) and whisk you up to 60mph (96km/h) in under 10 seconds. Around corners, though, it was a different story, with its soft springs and low geared steering, but compared with the average Detroit barge it was actually reasonably nimble. There were automatic and three speed manual versions, with optional overdrive transmission available. There were also a powered soft top and an optional hardtop, and 1956 Thunderbirds also had the ‘Continental’ spare wheel. Three speed automatic and manual transmission was installed, along with independent suspension in front and live axle rear.
It wasn’t to last, of course. The grille and fins grew gawkier for 1957, and for 1958 Ford introduced a completely new Thunderbird, a bigger flabbier device with ugly squared up styling and a grille like a mouth organ. In the early 1960s the ‘bird regained some of its youthful good looks, if not its sports car pretensions. Today the 1955-57 cars have almost passed into legend, and deservedly, they are highly collectable.