• Rare Power Steering option • Converted to Alternator in UK
In 1954, the average US household income was $4,550, the average home cost $12,220 and drivers paid $0.24 for a gallon of gasoline.
In February that year, the first-generation of the two-seater Thunderbird made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show. Ford quickly dubbed it a ‘personal car’, therefore suggesting it wasn’t a direct answer to the Chevrolet Corvette – its rival at the time. What it was, in all fairness, was a luxury car tailor-made for the kind of people that were looking for a more refined, 2-seater cruiser than the rabble-rousing ‘Vette.
Priced at $3,406 at its launch and romantically referred to by popular culture at the time as the ‘T-Bird’, the Ford Thunderbird was in production from September 1954, to November 1957. During that time, a total of 53,166 models were built. Of those, 21,380 were built in 1957 which includes an additional three months’ production to December 1957, because its successor – the four-seat 1958 ‘Square Bird’ model – was delayed in development.
Considering that Ford initially felt that there was only a 10,000-units-per-year market for a car that was intended as a call back to the pre-war roadster days, the Thunderbird was an unmitigated success. Each model year followed the same two-seat, ragtop/hardtop convertible formula.
The 1957 Thunderbird was the last two-seater Ford sold until the 1982 EXP... but we don’t like to talk about that.
A survivor from the 21,380 examples manufactured in 1957 is ‘949 XVN’, an exceptionally fine specimen of one of Ford’s most enduring icons. It is now offered up for sale to a new owner.
According to the data plate, it was built at Ford’s Dearborn Plant in Michigan on Tuesday, 25th June 1957. This handsome and stylish convertible shows evidence of much recent expenditure on brakes, suspension and the mechanics, prior to it being shipped across the pond earlier this year by its current keeper, receiving its first UK registration in March.
Aside from the V5C and current SORN declaration, there is, as is usual with US imports, little other paperwork to accompany the car, but there is a copy of the Certificate of Vehicle Title issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia for its last US owner, a Bill of Lading for its shipment to the UK and a copy of the HMRC Nova letter
The vehicle has been cleared by HMRC of all duties and taxes payable by the importer and is fully UK registered
Swathed in daring red throughout the interior, the car presents to its new owner in truly remarkable condition. Red upholstery, model-specific carpets and door cards contrast with the brushed steel inserts stretching across the dashboard, culminating in the iconic half-moon instrument cluster in front of the driver.
The white soft-top is in reasonable condition and tucks neatly behind the bench seat. The metal inserts on the door cards gleam to a high standard as do the bespoke sill plates.
All of the instruments are thought to be original and their condition reflects originality of the car, as does the "Town & Country" radio.
Along with the smart and tidy interior, the car’s exterior is highly presentable. The paintwork gleams to a high standard as does the generous quantity of brightwork. The front and rear lights are clear of the usual age-related fog and all electrics are believed to be in full working order.
A full set of original 14-inch wheel covers are fitted to the white-walled tyres which are reflective of the late-50’s period.
Equipped with the larger “D" Code 312 cubic inch engine and automatic transmission, this T Bird is the ultimate cruiser and while the car was driven only briefly to its photo location, it sounded sweet and delivered that familiar elderly V8 burble.
The vendor did state he had barely used the car due to COVID but during the little time he did get to drive it, it performed well. He also commissioned Automotion of Bashley to convert the electrics from Generator to Alternator, which is a great improvement.
The addition of Power Steering also improves the driving experience when cruising down British country roads.
The ’57 Ford Thunderbird takes its rightful place alongside the most quintessential players of Hollywood's Golden Age such as Warner Bros, MGM, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures.
It was the last of the breed, the swansong of the original sports car by Ford. Americans bought it in high numbers which made it the USA’s favourite sports car before Chevrolet’s Corvette could even dream of owning that title.
‘949 XVN’ is now looking for a new keeper in the UK, someone who can maintain this ‘Bird to the elevated position it now commands – and hopefully not just on Sundays.
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