Shown at right: 1959 Ford Thunderbird Convertible in Colonial White with Turquoise Leather Interior
63A - Hardtop
76A - Convertible
October 17, 1958
October 3, 1958
August 22, 1959
Ford's decision to make the Thunderbird a family-sized car for 1958 was a good one. There were the die hard two seater fans that would never accept anything larger than their beloved two seaters, but overall the majority approved of the decision. This approval was demonstrated with significant sales increases in 1958 and 1959. Car manufacturers had a tough time selling cars in a depressed economy in 1958. The Thunderbird and the Rambler were the only two American cars to show a production increase over 1957. Thunderbird production would again jump in 1959, and would soar to unbelievable heights for 1960. Yes, the Thunderbird was the car everyone would love to own, and there was simply nothing else like it on the road at the time.
In 1959, the Thunderbird was referred to as a compact. There were no Falcons yet, so the term compact did apply. The T-Bird was much smaller than any of the other luxury cars on the road, and offered features that were quite surprising for the day. The luxurious interior, with its individually adjustable front seats, panel console, and beautifully color keyed appointments, was a departure from the chrome laden interiors found in many other cars. And the Thunderbird was one of the lowest cars on the road, with distinctive good looks that would age very well, especially when compared to most other 1959 models.
Ford didn't rest on its success from 1958, either. Improvements in the rear suspension made the 1959 models easier to drive than their earlier counterparts. New exterior paint colors were offered; the availability of genuine leather upholstery for the first time; a new design for the front grille and rear taillight grilles; new ornamentation on the body sides; and the limited availability of the 430 V-8, which boasted 350 horsepower, indicate Ford wanted the success of 1958 to carry over into 1959.
The advertising for the year targeted women, informing them that the Thunderbird was "America's most becoming car," and beautiful models graced virtually every advertisement. The T-Bird was just the thing to take to the club, or to run around town shopping with friends. This apparently worked, the T-Bird was prominent at most social functions of the day, and chances were good you'd see more than one in the parking lot of the trendy restaurants. The Thunderbird was looked upon as something just a bit more daring than the Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Imperials of the era, and it was also a wise investment, as resale on the cars at trade in was quite good.
The Thunderbird would enjoy the spotlight for a few more years. Competitors were surprisingly slow to the market with real competition, and Buick would be the first to really challenge the Thunderbird, but that would not happen until 1963. Other cars of the day were too different to really be comparable; the Chrysler 300 was based on a full-sized car, and the others were targeted at a different market. The T-Bird could also be considered an economy car as well, since it cost less than other luxury cars.
A Thunderbird in 1959 was a pretty good thing: less expensive to buy new, higher resale, good performance, plush accommodations, distinctive styling, and the knowledge that it was the car everyone would love to own. Now, how could you top that?