THIS 1956 FORD THUNDERBIRD IS LOCATED IN: INDIANAPOLIS, IN 46254
Ford Thunderbird (colloquially called the T-Bird) is a nameplate that was used by Ford from model years 1955 to 1997 and 2002 to 2005 over eleven model generations. Introduced as a two-seat convertible, the Thunderbird was produced in a number of body configurations through its production life, including four-seat hardtop coupe, four-seat convertible, five-seat convertible and hardtop, four-door pillared hardtop sedan, six-passenger hardtop coupe, and five passenger pillared coupe, with the final generation produced as a two-seat convertible.
The 1958 addition of a rear seat to the Thunderbird, while initially controversial, marked the creation of market segment eventually known as personal luxury vehicles. An American interpretation of the grand tourer, personal luxury cars were built with a higher emphasis on driving comfort and convenience features over handling and high-speed performance. From 1968 to 1998, Lincoln-Mercury marketed their own versions of the Thunderbird as the Continental Mark III, Mark IV, Mark V, Mercury Cougar, Lincoln Mark VII, and Lincoln Mark VIII.
First generation (1955–1957)
The Ford Thunderbird began life in February 1953 in direct response to Chevrolet’s new sports car, the Corvette, which was publicly unveiled in prototype form just a month before. Under rapid development, the Thunderbird went from idea to prototype in about a year, being unveiled to the public at the Detroit Auto Show on February 20, 1954. It was a two-seat design available with a detachable glass-fibre hard top and a folding fabric top. Production of the Thunderbird began later on in 1954 on September 9 with the car beginning sales as a 1955 model on October 22, 1954. Though sharing some design characteristics with other Fords of the time, such as single, circular headlamps and tail lamps and modest tailfins, the Thunderbird was sleeker and more athletic in shape, and had features like a hood scoop and a 150 mph (240 km/h) speedometer hinting a higher performance nature that other Fords didn’t possess. Mechanically though, the Thunderbird could trace its roots to other mainstream Fords. The Thunderbird’s 102.0 inches (2,591 mm) wheelbase frame was mostly a shortened version of that used in other Fords while the car’s standard 292 cu in (4.8 L) Y-block V8 came from Ford’s Mercury division.
Though inspired by, and positioned directly against, the Corvette, Ford billed the Thunderbird as a personal car, putting a greater emphasis on the car’s comfort and convenience features rather than its inherent sportiness.he Thunderbird sold exceptionally well in its first year. In fact, the Thunderbird outsold the Corvette by more than 23-to-one for 1955 with 16,155 Thunderbirds sold against 700 Corvettes.