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Classic Facts
Introduction: After checking out several different message boards and email lists, I decided that some basic history of the classic Thunderbird of 1955- 1957 was in order.  This'll be added to as time goes along,along with some of my opinions.  Bear with me, I can't just stick to the facts, otherwise, Ford and others may not know what others are thinking & perceiving.
update Nov. 2002 - seems that even Ford Reps don't know what they are talking about when it comes to the Thunderbird so have to add some more to this page..ie #5 (come on, Ford, if your reps are going to talk about the early classics, they should become more familiar with the models.  Ray Miller's book Thunderbird should be required reading).
Myth#5 - The porthole started with the 1957 model
Both styles, porthole and non-porthole were available for 1956 and 1957. The first porthole tops were introduced during the 1956 model producton so early 56 models did not have that option.  You will find many tops that have been converted from non-porthole to porthole because of the added visibility which is why they were added in the first place.  No 1955 hardtops were built with portholes but many have also had them added.  Conclusion - just because it has a porthole does not tell you which year it is.
Myth #1: The 2-seater was dropped because of declining sales.
  • Decision to make the 4-seater Thunderbird was decided in 1955 - not because of declining sales but because there was a larger market for 4- seat cars..  Also, marketing did not have faith that this new model would sell well and decisions had to be made.  After all, look at the sales record of the Corvette during that period (not very high).  Tooling for a new model required a minimum of 2 years before introduction of a new model.. No time to decide there weren't enough sales!
  • 4- seater was on the market in January of 1958...Back then, 15,000 units needed to be sold in order to make a profit so read on:
    Myth #2:  Total Production of the 2-seater was less than 25,000
    1955 production figures: 16,155
    1956 production figures:  15,631
    1957 production figures: 21,380
    Total:  53,166

    1958 production figures  37,892 and it rises from there.

    Comment:   I find it rather odd that Ford stopped the line in 1997 due to "falling sales" and the sales in 1997 were around 75,000 units yet they bring back the Thunderbird line and only plan to make 25,000 units per year Figure that one out! 
    Question to ponder:  As a line, why couldn't Ford have made a 2-seat version along with the 4-seat version??  I've been wondering that since the 50's especially since they just throw the name at any model they decide needs a name.
    Truth #3 1955 Colors:
    Thunderbird Blue Raven Black Torch Red Snowshoe White Goldenrod Yellow
     The first 55's came in only 3 colors. White and yellow were added to the line in March, 1955 .
    Interiors:  Black & White; Red & white; Turquoise & white; Black & yellow (added also in 03/55)
    Comment:  Note that Ford tried to do something similar with the 2002  by planning yellow for the first 6 months and t-bird blue for the 2nd 6 months.  However, when their test market went out in November 2000, I think they discovered that the t-bird blue was going to be very popular and made the decision to offer all 5 colors from the beginning as they sent out  a bulletin to that effect in December 2000 .Their explanation - "we added another paint booth."
    Truth #4 Engine:
    Note that there is only 1 engine available for the start of the new Thunderbird line - the same as for the 1955. The 1955 came with a 292ci V8 - called a Y-block.  Engine options were added for the 1956 year and even more for the 1957 year including a very limited edition supercharger model. Half of the supercharger models for the 1957 Thunderbird are still known to exist - an unusual number for any car that old.
    Comment: I wonder if this just means that more engine options will be added to the following years as they did with the 56 and 57.  Rumor is already circulating that there will be upgrades in the engine for 2003.  Updated comment: It's now near the end of 03 and the 2004 models are out.  No engine choices so far thought the 02 engine was upgraded for the 03/04s and there has been a transmission choice added for the 03 and 04.
     Road Test Comparisons of the Classic '55 & the 2002 - along with another model similar to both 

    As always, when facts are stated, a source should be identified (and these make good reading), so:
    Above info can be found in

     Ray Miller's Thunderbird, An illustrated history of the Ford T-bird©1973 (still in print)
     the Early Bird magazine - a bi-monthly member publication of CTCI since 1966
    Thunderbird, An Odyssey in Automotive Design by William Boyer, ©1986
    Soaring Spirit, Thirty-Five Years of the Ford Thunderbird by John Katz,©1989
    and for new facts on the new Thunderbird:
    Thunderbird 2002 by Michael Lamm ©2000


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