Classic Cars A to Z

Ford Thunderbird History (1955)

Article by Mark Trotta

Development of the Ford Thunderbird began in February of 1953, just one month after Chevrolet debuted their Corvette 'dream car' at the GM Motorama in New York. Ford would use parts off existing models for the new car, as did Chevy. Ford would also copy the long-nose/short-tail and 102-inch wheelbase of the Jaguar XK120, as did Chevy. But similarities ended there - Ford's answer to the Corvette was not a bare-bones sports car, but rather a stylish and practical personal luxury car.

1955 Ford Thunderbird

Production of the 2-seat T-bird started in October of 1954. The body was made of steel and featured roll-up windows, unlike the Corvette's fiberglass body and side curtains.



Offered as convertible only, the 1955 Thunderbird had a base price of $2,695, which was $239 less than the Corvette's $2,934 sticker.

1955 Ford Thunderbird interior

Standard equipment included a telescoping steering column, dual exhaust, and a 292ci V8. A removable fiberglass hardtop was a popular option.

1955 Ford Thunderbird

This would be the last year for positive-ground, 6-volt electrical systems on Ford cars. Beginning in 1956, Ford cars would switch to negative-ground, 12-volt electrical systems.

Ford had hoped to sell 10,000 T-birds the first year, but instead found itself unable to keep up with demand. Production ran into September, eventually selling over 16,000 examples for the 1955 model year.

Meanwhile, over at GM, a mere 674 Vettes were sold in 1955, with previous year's sales at 3,640. The Chevy Corvette would likely have been discontinued, but the success of the Thunderbird prompted GM to continue production.

In 2005, the United States Post Office issued several classic car stamps, including the 1955 Ford Thunderbird.

1955 Ford Thunderbird stamp


Articles of Interest:

Ford Thunderbird (1956)
Ford Thunderbird (1957)
Ford Thunderbird (1958)
Ford Thunderbird (1959)
Early Corvette 1953-1957
Cars of the Fifties