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We invite you look at and enjoy the pictures of this first edition Thunderbird - This is where it all began! In 1955 Ford launched the 2 seat Thunderbird as an answer to the Corvette, but Ford went further in creating a sporty luxury car and out sold the competition many time over. Thunderbird was deemed to be a PERSONALIZED LUXURY CAR. The Thunderbird was far more luxurious than European roadsters with it's snap on hardtop, roll up windows and such amenities as air conditioning.
With the return of the soldiers to North America after WW II young soldiers longed for cars like the European sports cars that they had seen and driven while over there.
Foreign sports cars were being imported in limited numbers from England and in resposnse to a growing demand Chev launched the Corvette.
In 1952, several senior Ford exec's were at a car show in Europe and the questions was asked: "Why can't we build something like that?" The answer although not entirely the truth was, "We are already working on it!" Ford was working on the 1955 Ford Fairlane and it isn't hard to see where the Thunderbird came from, some of the parts were even inter-changeable.
Ford unveiled the Thunderbird at the Detroit Auto Show on February 20, 1954. The first production car came off the line on September 9, 1954, and went on sale on October 22, 1954 as a 1955 model, and sold briskly; 3,500 orders were placed in the first ten days of sale. While only 10,000 were planned, 16,155 were sold in 1955.
It included fender skirts and a removable fiberglass top as standard equipment, with a fabric convertible top as a commonly specified option. The engine was Ford's proven 292-cubic-inch OHV 292 Y-block V8, which got 18MPG. The exhaust pipes exited through twin bumper guards bolted to the rear bumper. The car used existing chassis and suspension design and off-the-shelf Ford mechanical components. It was constructed body-on-frame frame using a version of the standard Ford design cut-down to a 102-inch wheelbase identical the Corvette's. It was produced with a Fordomatic automatic or manual overdrive transmissions, and featured four-way powered seats and pushbutton interior door handles. Other unique features were a telescoping steering wheel and a tachometer. A rare domestic two-seater for the era, it was designed to be a brisk luxury tourer and not a sports car,and could hit 110-120 mp
For the 1956 model, more trunk space was added, the spare wheel was mounted outside (which helped free up trunk space), the exhausts were moved to the ends of the bumper, and air vents were added behind the front wheels to improve cabin ventilation. To improve rear-quarter visibility with the removable hardtop in place, "porthole" windows were available as a no-cost option. An optional 312 cu in (5.1 L) Y-block V8 was added as an option. 1956 production was 15,631 units, the lowest of all three 2-seater Thunderbird model years
For 1957 the front bumper was reshaped, the grille and tailfins were made larger, and larger tail-lights were fitted. The spare wheel moved back inside the trunk, which had been redesigned to allow it to be mounted vertically. The side "Thunderbird" script moved from the fins to the front fenders. A new option was "Dial-o-Matic" 4-way power seats that would move rearward when the ignition was turned off to allow easier exit and entry. In addition to the standard 292 and optional 312 engines, higher performance versions of the 312 were offered, including two with McCulloch superchargers rated at 300 and 340 hp (254 kW) respectively. 1957 sales were 21,380, including three extra months of production because the 1958 models were late. The 1957 Thunderbird was the last two-seater Ford sold until the 1982 Ford EXP sport compact car.
The first generation of the Ford Thunderbird is a two-seat convertible produced by Ford for the 1955 to 1957 model year, the first 2-seat Ford since 1938.
It was developed in response to the 1953 Motorama display at the New York Auto Show, which showed the Chevrolet Corvette. The Corvette in turn was developed in response to the popularity of European sports cars among Americans.