Automotive Mileposts  

1957 Ford Thunderbird
Production Numbers/Specifications

October 3, 1956
M6/P6 40A 2 Door Convertible $2,944
Weight: 2,980 lbs. Built: 21,380
Production: September 17, 1956-December 13,1957 (1957 production held over due to delays in the introduction of the new 1958 models)
Thunderbird V-8
Conventional Transmission:
Displacement: 292 CID
Bore and Stroke: 3.75 x 3.30 in.
Compression Ratio: 9.10:1
Brake Horsepower: 212 @ 4500 rpm
Torque: 297 lbs.-ft. @ 2700 rpm
Carburetor: Holley 2V

Thunderbird Special V-8

Overdrive or Ford-O-Matic Transmission:
Displacement: 312 CID
Bore and Stroke: 3.80 x 3.44 in.
Compression Ratio: 9.7:1
Brake Horsepower: 245 @ 4500 rpm
Torque: 332 lbs.-ft. @ 3200 rpm
Carburetor: Holley 4V

Thunderbird Super V-8

All Transmissions:
Displacement: 312 CID
Bore and Stroke:3.80 x 3.44 in.
Compression Ratio: 9.7:1
Brake Horsepower: 270 @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 336 lbs.-ft. @ 3400 rpm
Carburetor: Holley 4V x 2
Thunderbird Super V-8—Racing Kit Version
All Transmissions:
Displacement: 312 CID
Bore and Stroke:3.80 x 3.44 in.
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Brake Horsepower: 285 @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 343 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 rpm
Carburetor: Holley 4V x 2

Thunderbird Special Supercharged V-8

All Transmissions:
Displacement: 312 CID
Bore and Stroke:3.80 x 3.44 in.
Compression Ratio: 9.7:1
Brake Horsepower: 300 @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 340 lbs.-ft. @ 5300 rpm
Carburetor: Holley 4V with McCulloch Variable Ratio Centrifugal Supercharger

1 - Manual

2 - Overdrive

3 - Automatic

Standard: 3-speed Synchromesh with helical gears
Ratios: 2.32:1 (first); 1.48:1 (second); 1:1 (third); 2.82:1 (reverse)

Optional Overdrive: Planetary overdrive with planetary gears
Ratio: 0.70:1
Cut-In Speed: 27 mph
Cut-Out Speed: 21 mph

Optional Automatic: Ford-O-Matic torque converter with planetary gears
Ratios: 1.48:1 (drive); 2.44:1 (low); 2.0:1 (reverse)



3.56:1 (Conventional)
3:70:1 (Overdrive)
3.10:1 (Ford-O-Matic)

7.50 x 14 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: 176 sq. in.

102 inches
Front Tread: 56 inches
Rear Tread: 56 inches

Original Tire Brand: Firestone and Goodyear
Optional Whitewall Width: 2-1/8"

Length: 181.4 inches
Width: 72.8 inches
Height: 49.6 inches
Trunk: 63.4" long x 58.4" wide
Ground Clearance: 5.9 inches
Height to Top of Door: 34.2 inches
Height to Top of Hardtop: 51.6 inches
Height to Top of Convertible Top: 51.8 inches
Front Leg Room: 44.9 inches
Front Shoulder Room: 53.3 inches
Front Hip Room: 58.8 inches
Front Headroom: 33.1 inches (Hardtop); 33.6 inches (Convertible Top)
Turning Diameter: 36 ft.
Turns Lock-To-Lock: 4.5
Steering Ratio: 23.0:1
Steering Wheel Diameter: 17 inches
Weight Distribution (%; F/R): 50/50
Fuel Tank: 20 gallons
Cooling System: 19 quarts
1957 was the third and final year for the original two passenger Ford Thunderbird. In 1958, the Thunderbird would grow to accommodate four passengers. In 1967, it would introduce the first four door personal luxury car. In 1968, a standard front bench seat allowed for six passengers for the first time ever.

A retro-styled two passenger Thunderbird would debut in 2002, and would be built in limited numbers through 2005.

We hear there are plans to bring the Thunderbird back at some point in the future, so the T-bird's story hasn't ended yet.

1957 changes:

  • Wheel/tire size changed from 15" to 14"
  • Restyled front and rear bumpers, doors, and rear fenders
  • New tail lamps
  • New instrument panel
  • New seat and door panel upholstery designs
  • First year for supercharged engine
  • Dial-O-Matic Power Seat option
  • Town and Country Radio option
  • All-White (trim code XK) interior trim
  • Round, reflective yellow "Lifeguard Design" decal added to driver's door rear edge to warn oncoming cars
  • Heavier-duty door hinges


11/SD - Boston
12/BF - Buffalo
13/BX - New York
14/PI - Pittsburgh
15/-- - Newark
21/NK - Atlanta
22/CE - Charlotte
23/DI - Philadelphia
24/KJ - Jacksonville
25/RP - Richmond
26/DC - Washington, DC
31/CI - Cincinnati
32/CL - Cleveland
33/DD - Detroit
34/NP - Indianapolis
35/FX - Lansing
36/LX - Louisville
36/LU - Louisville
41/CX - Chicago
42/RG - Fargo
43/KE - Rockford
44/SP - Twin Cities
45/DQ - Davenport
51/DN - Denver
52/DS - Des Moines
53/KS - Kansas City
54/NB - Omaha
55/SL - Saint Louis
61/DP - Dallas
62/SU - Houston
63/GB - Memphis
64/NR - New Orleans
65/KL - Oklahoma City
71/LP - Los Angeles
72/SK - San Jose
73/SC - Salt Lake City
74/SE - Seattle
82/EX - FMC Export (NJ)
84/HO - FMC Transportation/Equipment Department (Home Office Reserve)



Image: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

Above: 1957 Ford Thunderbird in Inca Gold. New front bumper, doors, and heavily restyled rear fenders and deck lid gave the little Bird a new look.

The Ford Thunderbird had done everything Ford intended for it to do. It captured the hearts of America, brought people into Ford showrooms so they could see it first hand, and hopefully buy another Ford automobile if the Thunderbird wasn't right for them, and it was the car to own and be seen in. Sales the first two years were quite good, especially considering the very limited market for this type of a car in the first place. Sales for 1955 surpassed predictions, and even though sales dropped off for 1956 slightly, that was due to a late introduction of the '56 cars as much as anything. 1957 would be the third and final year for the original two passenger Thunderbird, and some feel the third year was the best one yet.

Since the introduction of the Thunderbird, there had been complaints about the passenger compartment being too warm, poor visibility with either of the tops installed, limited passenger capacity, and inadequate space in the luggage compartment. Obviously, when one buys a two passenger sporty personal car, one should expect limited passenger capacity. This meant most Thunderbirds would be second cars in a two car family, and with America's families growing at this time, the need for more capacity was growing as well.

Ford recognized this and was ready to respond with a new, larger Thunderbird for 1958. One that would allow four passengers to travel in Thunderbird style and luxury, one that would offer adequate luggage compartment space for road trips or an outing to the golf course. The new car would be of unibody design, and would be built in a new assembly plant in Wixom, Michigan along with the Lincolns and Continentals.

As with anything completely new, there were delays, and the new 1958 Thunderbird would not be ready to make its debut along with the rest of the 1958 Ford line, so production of the 1957 Thunderbird was held over, to keep new Thunderbirds available during this time. That meant initial Ford literature for the 1958 models also included the 1957 Thunderbirds. '57 T-birds made during this time received new 1958 colors, and appeared in dealer showrooms alongside the new 1958 Ford models.

Because of the longer than normal production run, and because the 1957 Thunderbird received an attractive styling update that addressed some of the issues with the former models, sales grew to 21,380 cars. The final 1957 Thunderbird reached the end of the assembly line on December 13, 1957.

1958 would not be a good year for the automotive industry, as the country was in a recession at the time. Sales of new cars plummeted, and the most notable failure was the highly-touted introduction of the new Edsel, a make designed to compete in the middle price range. The Edsel would last just over two years, and was discontinued shortly after the 1960 models hit the showrooms. One of the few 1958 success stories, however, was the new larger '58 T-bird, one of just two models to show a sales increase for the year. 37,892 Thunderbirds were built in 1958, an increase of 16,512 cars, or 177 percent of 1957 production. Even more amazing, was the fact that the 1958 Thunderbirds didn't go to market until after the start of the new year, a very late start for a car, and only the Hardtop model was initially available. The Convertible didn't go into production until very late in the production run, making the 1958 Thunderbird Convertibles very rare.

In 1957, Ford had two of the most distinctive and desired automobiles on the road. One of them was the Thunderbird, the other was the Continental Mark II, which was in its second and final year. Cadillac introduced its hyper-expensive Eldorado Brougham in 1957, the most expensive production car to date. As with the Mark II, the Eldorado Brougham sold in limited numbers and was meant to make a statement of superiority more than anything else.

Advertising continued to include the Thunderbird in corporate Ford ads, showing cars from each division. The Thunderbird was also the focus of ads for car wax, Vista by Simoniz, for one. At this point, everyone knew what a Thunderbird was, and it was being widely used on television and in popular motion pictures of the time. It was popular with celebrities and notable personalities across the country. Driving a T-bird said a lot about its owner.

Image: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

Above: Stylish 1957 Ford Thunderbird shown in Dusk Rose.



The 1957 Thunderbird utilized two different Data Plate styles, depending on scheduled date of manufacture (both are shown below).

Thunderbirds built from the start of production through mid-April 1957 used the same style as the earlier cars, and Thunderbirds built from mid-April to the end of production used a new, smaller Data Plate that was introduced for the 1958 Ford line.

Both are 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.

(Start of production through mid-April, 1957)

Image: 1957 Thunderbird Data Plate - early production

(April 15-19, 1957 through end of production run)

Image: 1957 Ford Thunderbird Data Plate - late production