Classic Cars A to Z

Ford Thunderbird (1959)

Article by Mark Trotta

Exterior changes to the second-year 'Squarebird' included a new grille and tail-lamps.

1959 Ford Thunderbird history

Small rear grilles behind the taillights were designed to emulate the front grille.

2nd Generation Thunderbird


Base motor continued as the 300 horsepower, 352ci 'Thunderbird V-8'. Consumers could choose between a three-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

New for 1959 was an optional 350 horsepower, 430ci 'Thunderbird Special V-8'. Just 1,168 Thunderbirds were so equipped.

Chassis and Suspension

Up front, the Thunderbird rode on independent A-arms, ball joints, and coil springs. On first-year Squarebirds, coil springs were used in the rear, which caused considerable wheel hop under hard acceleration. For 1959, they were replaced with parallel leaf springs.




Popular options included air conditioning, power brakes, power steering, and power windows. Consumers could also opt for leather interior, four-way power driver's seat, and a push-button radio and antenna.

1959 Ford Thunderbird history

The 1959 Thunderbird was a huge sales success, with 67k sold (57,195 hardtops and 10,261 convertibles).

1959 Ford Thunderbird ad

Factory ad proclaims Thunderbird '59 as "The car everyone would love to own!"


Thunderbird in NASCAR

Several Ford race teams switched from Galaxies to Thunderbirds in 1959, now with rear leaf springs and a 430ci engine.

Holman and Moody, one of Ford's most successful race teams, built a fleet of racing T-Birds. Modifications included heavier springs and shocks to help the 3,900 pound car handle better.

During the 1959 NASCAR season, Ford Thunderbirds accounted for five poles and six race wins.

Ford Thunderbird in NASCAR

Photo courtesy Lee Holman and Banjo Matthews

The above photo shows a "zipper top" T-Bird, so-called because the hardtop could be removed for the convertible-series races, which were popular at the time. 1959 would be the last year for convertibles in NASCAR.


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