A brief history of the early Ford Thunderbird
The whole concept for the Thunderbird was for Ford to roll out a sports car to meet the needs of the times and to
rival the Corvette. After soldiers had come back from WWII, they longed for the BMWs and MGs they had gotten used to in Europe.
Motorbiscuit, they wanted to race, and Ford decided to give them a model that would do just that. Work began on the Ford Thunderbird, but it was done in secret, so the accountants and engineering department wouldn't get paranoid and shut it down.
However, Henry Ford was pretty keen on the idea and ordered a design be made for the automaker to roll out a sporty car, so the Thunderbird became a part of the production line.
Chevy was the first to release a vehicle, in 1953, for this segment, but its offering was sorely lacking in power and had other problems plaguing its launch. Ford noted the mistakes and used them as an advantage when the brand launched its Thunderbird.
In fact, Ford decided to market its Thunderbird as a personal car for those who wanted comfort but still wanted to have some fun driving it. That decision came when the model they produced turned out to be too heavy to race.
The first year the Ford Thunderbird was on the market, it sold 16,000 units, 6,000 more than they had initially decided to produce. In 1956, the vehicle sold another 15,600 models and 21,300 the following year.
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What did the early Ford Thunderbirds offer?
The Ford Thunderbird was actually in production for 42 years and saw a ton of changes throughout that time. The most notable was in 1958 when the famous two-seater model transformed into a four-seater.
In the beginning, the Ford Thunderbird offered a 292 or 312 cubic inch Y-block V8 engine generating 198 hp with a manual or automatic transmission paired with it. The body was made of steel and had a removable hardtop.
On the interior, you could find a telescoping steering wheel and power seats with lots of plush materials to please a wide variety of well-to-do buyers.
The price for a Ford Thunderbird at that time was $4,000 for a fully loaded model and would've included available features, like power steering, power brakes, and an overdrive mode.
The second-generation model (four-seater) known as the Square Bird saw a sales explosion of 200,000 vehicles over a three-year period. Ford continued to produce Thunderbirds after that and made a success of it, except for the eighth-generation model.
In 2005, it finally bowed out as a retro-futuristic model, which many considered a flop.
Would it be a good buy today?
Haggerty, if you want to own a classic ‘50s style Ford Thunderbird (1955-1956), you're looking at spending somewhere in the range of $40,000 to $65,000. But, there's more to it than that. You also have to figure in parts and labor, should you buy one that needs work done on it.
Labor costs would depend on the repairs needed, but you can expect most to be pretty expensive. For example, Haggerty explains that repairing a Ford Thunderbird’s leaking gearbox could cost you around $1,500 just in labor. That's because you have to take out the engine and the transmission to get to it.
Owning a classic Thunderbird could still be worth it, especially if you're a Ford fan. You will need to be sure to have an emergency fund available in case you need to make repairs to it sometime in the future.
Insuring a classic like the Thunderbird
Ford Thunderbirds are often found in a celebrity's car collection
like Marilyn Monroe. But, many Ford enthusiasts want to get their hands on one or already have one. It was a popular vehicle in its day, and Ford fans still flock to the original first-generation models.
Finding the right insurance policy to protect a classic car like this can be difficult, though.
Jerryunderstands that and knows where to look for the best deals from companies. Let us search for you and pick from the top results for your situation.