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History - T-Bird Mileposts (The Fifties)
The Fifties
Ford Thunderbird 1955-1960 Timeline

with Advertising Taglines, News Events, and Trivia
(Position cursor on photo for description)

1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959 | 1960

The Sixties | The Seventies
Enchantment unlimited...the new Ford THUNDERBIRD


RCA Victor offered a $35,000 recording contract to Elvis Presley; the first McDonald's Restaurant opened; Lee Merriwether from California was Miss America; James Dean died in a single car crash at the age of 26; It cost $0.03 to mail a letter first class; and people were going to the movies to see "Picnic," "Rebel Without A Cause," and "East of Eden."
1955 Ford Thunderbird in Thunderbird Blue

This was the car that started it all. It was an instant classic, and it became an American icon. It defied classification: It was sporty but it wasn't a sports car; It was luxurious, but it wasn't a luxury car; It was both a hardtop and a convertible.

The 1955 Thunderbird was a sensation on America's roadways, and there was absolutely nothing else like it anywhere. Overnight, it made the 6 cylinder Chevrolet Corvette seem underpowered, uncomfortable due to its plastic side curtain windows, and utilitarian with its lack of accessories and color choices.

This car changed forever the way Americans looked at cars, and singlehandedly brought new excitement and glamour to the automotive world. It opened the door to the trend setting and inspiring Thunderbirds that would bear its name in the future.

Standard equipment included:

Y-block V-8 engine
Telescoping steering column
Astra-Dial control panel
Electric clock with sweep second hand
Rear view mirror
Automatic interior courtesy light
Pleated vinyl upholstery
Dual exhaust system
Initial exterior body colors: Raven Black, Torch Red, or Thunderbird Blue
Additional colors added mid-year: Snowshoe White and Goldenrod Yellow
Interior colors: Black, Red, or Thunderbird Blue with pleated White vinyl
Additional interior colors added mid-year: Black with pleated Yellow vinyl
1956 Select Another Year
Even dreamier - even newer
Ford THUNDERBIRD for '56

1955 is generally regarded as the year rock and roll music began, and the song "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and The Comets is credited for starting it; Elvis Presley appears on the charts for the first time with "Heartbreak Hotel;" Grace Metalious's book "Peyton Place" hits the best sellers list; the DNA molecule is photographed for the first time; and the population of the United States was 168,903,031.
1956 Ford Thunderbird shown in Raven Black and Colonial White top with new port window
First year for "port" window in hardtop
First year for standard rear-mounted spare tire (1956 only)
Lifeguard deep dish steering wheel and double grip door latches introduced as standard
First year for 12-volt electrical system
Door-mounted wind wings introduced as standard
Front fender air vents introduced to improve air flow to interior
Thunderbird Special V-8 engine option with 2 x 4-barrel carburetors
1957 Select Another Year
Adventures in motion:
the Ford Family of Fine Cars

"Leave It to Beaver" premieres on CBS television; On October 31, 1957 Toyota exports its first automobiles to the United States; Oklahoma celebrates its 50th anniversary since statehood in part by burying a brand new 1957 Plymouth Belvedere in an underground concrete vault in is to be unearthed as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations in 2007; Cadillac debutes the Eldorado Brougham, priced at $13,074 it was the most expensive production car to date; and the baby boom climaxed in 1957 with 4.2 million American babies born.
1957 Ford Thunderbird in Thunderbird Bronze
New styling: front fenders, doors, rear quarters, bumpers, grille, interior upholstery, etc.
New full wheel cover design
All-white interior introduced (trim code XK)
Speed-sensitive Volumatic radio receiver option introduced
Dial-O-Matic automatic power seat option introduced (1957 only)
Brake lining area increased
Round Thunderbird ornaments introduced on hardtops without port windows
Thunderbird Special Supercharged V-8 engine option introduced (engine code F)
Last year for standard factory tachometer

1958 Select Another Year
America's Most Individual Car

France's Charles de Gaulle was Time Magazine's 1958 Man Of the Year, and NASA began operations on October 1, 1958. Ford Motor Company ushered in the New Year by showing the new four passenger Thunderbird to a prominent group of citizens at the Thunderbird Golf Club in Palm Springs, California. The car was introduced a week later on January 6, 1958 at the Chicago Auto Show.
Thunderbird emblem circa 1958
Four passenger seating capacity that created the personal
  luxury car market segment
Individual front seats with panel console introduced
Thunderbird 352 Interceptor V-8 engine introduced
Cruise-O-Matic transmission option
Single unit body construction
Front and rear coil spring suspension
SelectAire Conditioner option
Quad headlamp system
Safety-Twin Tail Lamps
Two door hardtop configuration
Hardtop most popular model 1958-1965
Sports Spare Tire Carrier option
Convertible introduced as separate body style in
  June, 1958
Overdrive option for 3-Speed Conventional Drive
1958 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop
1959Select Another Year
The Car Everyone Would Love to Own

"Some Like It Hot" starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon was released, and the United States Grand Prix ran at Sebring on December 12, 1959. Team Cooper dominated the race with Bruce McLaren winning the race and Jack Burcham winning the championship.
1959 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop

1959 Ford Thunderbird with optional Sport Spare Wheel Carrier
Thunderbird 430 Special V-8 engine option
Genuine Leather upholstery option
White control knobs, switches, and instrument
  gauge backgrounds
Rear leaf-spring suspension
Sun Ray Full Wheel Cover option
Fully-automatic convertible top operation
  (Introduced during late 1959 production)
1960 Select Another Year
World's Most Wanted Car

Future Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon participated in four live televised debates held on September 26, October 7, 13, and 21, 1960. Top 30 AM radio was playing week ending April 16, 1960's number one hit "Greenfields" by Brothers Four; Connie Stevens was at number two with "Sixteen Reasons;" Percy Faith's "Theme From 'A Summer Place'" was dropping slowly off the charts at number 29; and Elvis Presley hit the charts with "Stuck On You."
1960 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop with Sun Roof interior view

1960 Ford Thunderbird Turquoise Cloth and Vinyl interior trim
Hardtop with Sliding Sun Roof option (1960 only)
Triple tail lamp pods
Day-Nite adjustable rear view mirror
Final year for 3-Speed Conventional Drive and
  optional Overdrive
Oval front fender ornaments with clear inserts
Deck Lid Open warning light option (rare)
White steering wheel center medallion background
Go To: The Sixties "" The Seventies ""
All You Ever Wanted to Know About Classic Personal Luxury Cars

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