2022 Shannons Spring Timed Online Auction

1955 Ford Thunderbird Convertible (LHD)



Passed In


Engine 292 cubic-inch V8
Gearbox automatic
Body Work 2-door hardtop Convertible
Colour Red/black
Trim Vinyl
Wheels steel
Brakes drums


This lot is no longer available

Thunderbird’ (American Indian for ‘bringer of rain’) is surely one of the most evocative car names ever created. Ford stylist Alden Giberson was holidaying near the Mexican border and was taken by images of the mythical thunderbird used to decorate motels and hotdog stands. Fortunately, the Ford that bore this name for the better part of six decades (making it one of Ford’s most enduring sub-brands) mostly justified this aura, making the Thunderbird one of the most famous cars in the history of the US automotive industry. The brilliance with which the 1955 original was conceived typifies the Ford Motor Company in one of its most creative eras. In part this was a response to Chevrolet’s fibreglass-bodied Corvette for the 1953 model year. Where, in many respects, the Corvette was a kind of American re-interpretation of the Jaguar XK120, the Thunderbird embodied a completely new concept, blending a relatively compact – by US standards – body with a powerful V8 engine and dedicated to the purpose of transporting just two people. Most European sports cars entailed some compromises in comfort and even protection from the weather – think MG TC, the car credited with initiating postwar America’s love affair with the sports car and even the Corvette was somewhat spartan. By contrast, the Thunderbird offered a compelling synthesis of European sports and US comfort (which also embraced ride plushness and space both for occupants and their luggage); Ford’s brilliant marketing people dubbed this newcomer a ‘Personal Car’.  The base price of US$2695 undercut the Corvette but within months the previously optional hardtop became standard and the tag jumped to $2944, just $10 north of the Corvette. But the Thunderbird represented far superior value. Its 292-cubic-inch Y-Block V8 (as used in Mercurys of the day) delivered 193 brake horsepower when teamed with the standard three-speed manual transmission and 198 with the optional three-speed Ford-O-Matic. It also offered an array of features found on domestic sedans of the period, although some of these were options. Popular extras were a radio, whitewall tyres, overdrive for the manual gearbox and power assistance for the steering and brakes. Remarkably for a 1955 American car, the Thunderbird came standard with a tachometer (which did not endure as standard equipment beyond the first generation) and a floor gearchange.  Just like a Jaguar XK120 or 140, it featured a telescopic steering column. Typically, as-delivered ’55 Birds were priced above $3500. With a top speed of slightly more than 100 miles per hour (the ton having been mandated as a goal by Ford boss Lewis Crusoe) and a zero to 60 miles per hour (97km/h) time of 11 seconds, the original Thunderbird was a fast car for the time.