4:10:1 (optional; standard synchromesh)
6.70 x 15 4-ply BSW Tubeless
Wheels: 5 inch
Wheel studs: 5.5 inch
Wheel stud circle: 4.5 inch diameter
Front: 11 inch hydraulic drum
Rear: 11 inch hydraulic drum
Total Swept Area: 175.5 sq. in.
Front Tread: 56 inches
Rear Tread: 56 inches
Original Tire Brand: Firestone
Optional Whitewall Width: 2-11/16"
Length: 185.1 inches
Width: 70.3 inches
Height: 50.2 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.9 inches
Height to Top of Door: 34.2 inches
Height to Top of Hard Top: 52.2 inches
Front Leg Room: 45.1 inches
Front Shoulder Room: 53.3 inches
Front Hip Room: 58.8 inches
Front Headroom: 33.1 inches (Hardtop)
Turning Diameter: 36 ft.
Turns Lock-To-Lock: 3.5
Steering Ratio: 23.0:1
Steering Wheel Diameter: 17 inches
Weight Distribution (%; F/R): 49.4/50.6
Fuel Tank: --
Cooling System: 19 quarts
In its second year, the trend-setting Thunderbird introduced two of its most memorable and endearing styling features: the port windows (portholes) in the hard top, and the rear spare tire carrier (Continental kit).
Both of these items were introduced for practical reasons, the port windows to improve vision out of the car and the rear spare tire carrier to increase luggage space in the trunk.
The rear-mounted spare tire carrier would last just one year, due to the handling issues it created.
12-Volt electrical system
New Thunderbird emblem design on exterior
Deep dish, 3-spoke safety design steering wheel
First year for front fender vents
Zippered rear window on convertible top (except early 1956 production)
Port windows on hard top
Exhaust outlets in rear bumper ends
Round heater knobs
Rear spare tire carrier
Vented gas cap
Ford Lifeguard Design safety features
Wing windows on front door
Ridge under headlamp door
INTRODUCING PORT WINDOWS TO THE WORLD AND A REAR SPARE TIRE CARRIER OUT BACK
Above: 1956 Ford Thunderbird in Raven Black with a Colonial White hard top. Notice the exhaust outlets in the side of the rear bumper, and the profile view of the rear spare tire carrier. The optional full wheel covers, white sidewall tires, two tone paint, and rear fender shields really give the car a dressed up appearance.
After a very successful debut year, Ford anticipated selling 20,000 Thunderbirds in 1956. Over 16,000 '55 T-birds had been sold, far more than the 10,000 marketing expected. This would not be the case in 1956, however, and there were several reasons for that, including a late introduction date due to problems with the rear spare tire carriers in production. 1955 was a very good year for the auto industry, and an excellent year to introduce a new model. There were some initial criticisms of the new T-bird, specifically lack of luggage space in the trunk, a warm passenger compartment, and blind spots with the convertible top or hard top installed. It's likely that these issues cost Ford a few sales. And for 1956, the Thunderbird's main competitor, the Chevrolet Corvette, got its act together and made big improvements, introducing a new V-8 engine and creature comforts such as roll-up windows instead of the plastic side curtains. Some feel that the introduction of the T-bird actually saved the Corvette, because Chevrolet put additional time and money into the car to make it more competitive. Without the added competition, the Corvette might have been discontinued, but Chevy didn't want to admit defeat to Ford at that time, so it made the Corvette a better car than it had been.
1956 represented the introduction of two iconic Thunderbird styling features: the port window and the rear spare tire carrier. Both were the result of complaints from 1955 Thunderbird owners and potential owners, who needed more storage space in the trunk and wanted better rear vision when driving. Both are now historic classic styling touches in motordom.
Advertising for 1956 continued to use the Thunderbird as a tie in to the regular Ford line, noting how all Fords had Thunderbird styling and performance. The little T-bird was without question the star of the Ford line up at the time, an honor it would carry for many years to come. Exterior paint and interior trim colors were expanded for 1956, which allowed more variety in color combinations, and presented customers with the opportunity to better customize the car to suit their needs. The hard top could be ordered in a contrasting color for 1956, and customers could choose whether they wanted the port hole windows or not, Ford didn't charge extra for them if they were specified. Most customers loved the new windows and orders for hard tops with them far exceeded those without the new windows. The T-bird was stylish, sporty, luxurious, colorful, and offered enough options so the purchaser could get pretty much exactly what they wanted.
While the 1955 and 1956 models look very similar, in truth many changes were made during 1955 production and even more changes were made before the '56 models went into production, as well as during production of the '56 cars. Among these changes were new weather seals, in an attempt to stop leaks around the convertible top or hard top, but nothing really seemed to work.
Above: Skeleton view of the 1956 Ford Thunderbird.
The Data Plate for the 1956 Thunderbird (shown below) is located in the engine compartment on the cowl just to the right of and below the hood latch mechanism on the passenger's side of the car. The plate is aluminum and has black printing on it with raised digits. It is riveted in place. Additionally, the serial number is stamped on the right front chassis rail, which can be observed with the hood raised.