1956 Ford Thunderbird
Chassis no. P6FH356145
As tradition has it, Ford vice president Lewis Crusoe and chief stylist George Walker were walking down a street in Paris in 1951 when Crusoe pointed to a sports car at the curb. "Why can't we have something like that?" Crusoe asked Walker. Walker got on the phone to Dearborn and set designer Frank Hershey to work on a two-seat car built around Ford mechanicals. A clay model was completed by May 1953, and Crusoe gave the go-ahead for production in September.
Ostensibly a response to Chevrolet's 1953 Corvette, the new car, christened "Thunderbird," had gestated in parallel with Chevy's plastic sports car. Executed in steel rather than fiberglass, the Thunderbird was intended from the beginning as a "personal car" (later upscaled to "personal luxury car"), not a real sports car. Production began in September 1954, with public introduction a month later.
Riding a 102-inch wheelbase, the Thunderbird was given the largest of Ford's 1955 engines, the 292 cubic inch version of the Y-Block ohv V8, developing 193bhp courtesy of a Holley four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts. More than 16,000 were sold in the first year, besting Corvette's production some twenty-fold.
For 1956, the Thunderbird was given a few subtle changes. The spare tire, which had significantly reduced luggage space, was relocated from the trunk to a "continental" mounting on the rear bumper. Wind wings were added to the trailing edge of the windshield, cowl vents were added to the front fenders, and the hardtop gained porthole windows in the rear quarters. The rear bumper was redesigned to simplify the exhaust outlets, moving them to the outer corners. A 215bhp Thunderbird Special V8 was available.
This Thunderbird rolled off the Dearborn factory line on August 14th, 1956 destined for Detroit. Fitted with the optional P-code 312cid, 215bhp Thunderbird Special V8 mated to a two-speed automatic with overdrive and fitted with the optional convertible soft top, this mid-year T-bird was the recipient of a recent major mechanical reconditioning during which a new radiator was installed, the carburetor was rebuilt, and any key service that was required was summarily undertaken. Outside, the 'bird was cosmetically sorted to give the paint and chrome a bit of extra pop.
Rolling on the optional Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and reported to be a well sorted and very nice running and driving example, this Thunderbird is the one to have. Exactly like the one driven by the gorgeous, young blond that Richard Dreyfus spent the movie American Graffiti chasing, this car is what visions and dreams are made of.
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