The original Thunderbird was a racy two-seater with clean, crisp lines on a 102-inch wheelbase. Overall length was 175 inches, height was a low 52 inches, and the car was 70 inches wide. Standard curb weight was 3,180 pounds.
The base sticker price of $2,695 included the removable hardtop, but not the soft top. Clock, tachometer, power-operated seats and a 292 CID V-8 engine also were standard equipment. However, practically none of the early Thunderbirds left the dealership without either overdrive or an automatic transmission and most of the power options. Prices of the 1955 models ranged from $3,000 to $4,000.
The 1955 Thunderbird was more of a personal car concept than a sports car, the result of a decision Crusoe made during the winter of 1953-54. The more luxurious direction created the personal luxury car segment of the automotive market, and Thunderbird would enjoy almost uninterrupted leadership in this segment for decades.
Thunderbird was an immediate smash hit. Buyers of all ages and all walks of life described the car in terms such as "wonderful," a "masterpiece," "advanced automobile" and a "morale builder that is real fun and sporty to drive." A European admirer asked his American relative to buy the 1955 Thunderbird and ship it to him in Europe.
Motor Trend magazine editor Walt Woron loudly proclaimed that "although the Ford Motor Co. is the first one to deny it, they have a sports car in the Thunderbird, and it's a good one…The more I drove it, the more I liked it," gushed Woron, praising the T-Bird’s dashboard layout, as well as its straight-line performance. What Woron really liked was the way the Thunderbird handled: confidently, with no surprises, just as the engineers intended. "You can take any given curve," wrote Woron, "at 10 to 15 miles per hour more than the ’55 Ford."
The public went for the Thunderbird in a big way, placing more than 3,500 orders in the first 10-day selling period. The planning volume for the entire model year was only 10,000 units. Ford had explored an uncharted market for unique transportation and came up with a winner.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2010 at the Hershey Lodge, Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Source: Ford press and RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Stephen Goodal; Teddy Pieper