312ci OHV V8 Engine
245bhp at 4,500rpm
Ford-O-Matic Automatic Transmission
Front Independent Suspension - Live Rear Axle
4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes
*Purchased new by legendary actor and Hollywood Icon Humphrey Bogart
*Fastidiously detailed provenance and few owners from new
*Offered with original registration card, bill of sale and service policy
*Beautifully preserved and authentic condition, still in Slate Grey per Bogie's wish from new
THE FORD THUNDERBIRD
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.
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 MOTORCAR OFFERED
"Although frequently in pain, Bogie refused to admit to it or give in to it, although he made some concessions. Clutching and shifting his four-speed 120 Jaguar now tired him, so he traded it in on a Ford Thunderbird" -The Definitive Biography on Humphrey Bogart by Joe Hyams, April 1967.
This very Thunderbird was indeed the car that legendary American actor and stage actor Humphrey 'Bogie' Bogart acquired brand new. Bogart needs little introduction, his performances in Classical Hollywood cinema film made him an American cultural icon and was indeed voted the greatest male star of classic American cinema by the American Film Institute, many years after his death.
The new Thunderbird had rolled of the Dearborn Thunderbird during the first months of 1956, painted Colonial White, and then shipped out to the West Coast for Bogart's delivery. Interestingly, before taking delivery of the new Ford, Bogie is reported to have had the car painted Slate Grey, the same color as his Jaguar XK120. The interior was kept in the stock black and white vinyl, just as seen in the car today. The impressive documentation on file bolstering Bogie's Thunderbird includes the Ford Dealer's Service Policy Card, typed in Humphrey Bogart's name with his Mapleton Drive, Beverly Hills address, issued by Bill Heath Ford of North Hollywood, dated March 20th, 1956, as well as a 1957 California registration card in Bogart's name. After Bogart's passing, the Thunderbird was retained by his estate, until sold in 1959 by the Bogart estate and his widow - Lauren Bacall - to Linn Unkefer of Beverly Hills, California, an employee at 20th Century Fox (20th Century Studios at the time). The Thunderbird would be retained by the Unkefer family and used by Betty Unkefer - while driven nearly 90,000 miles - until sold in 1980 to the Roy Rioux Collection. The Bogie Thunderbird remained in the Rioux collection on display until 1998, when sold at auction for a record price. Here it was purchased by the Florida-based Jobe Collection and displayed there until acquired by the consignor.
Today, Humphrey Bogart's old Thunderbird remains in largely original and preserved condition, exactly how you would want a celebrity car to be. The 93,566 miles recorded on the odometer at the time of cataloging is indeed believed to be original and confirmed by the previous owner's use. Retaining the Slate Grey exterior color as ordered by Bogart, and the original black and white vinyl interior, the Bogie Thunderbird is fitted with the new-for-1956 Continental kit containing the spare wheel, Town & Country radio and the factory 'porthole' hard top.
Well documented, with few owners since new, Humphrey Bogart's Thunderbird offers an opportunity to acquire classic and elegant V8-powered Americana, with arguably one of Hollywood's biggest names as first owner.