Ford Thunderbird | Spotted

What can challenge a Ford Mustang for classic cache? How about a stunning Mk2 Thunderbird…

By John Howell / Sunday, 25 September 2022 / Loading comments

I won’t lie, I was looking for an early Mustang as the Sunday spotted. Mainly because the new one’s been announced, so it seemed apt, and because: why not? The original will always be the best. But as I was searching through the classifieds, this appeared out of the ether. And having been in Canada last week and spied a Ford Thunderbird prowling around the streets of Vancouver, I felt compelled. I mean, come on, how amazing is this? Not just because it’s a Thunderbird, but also because of its condition.

Admittedly, this isn’t quite the same as the one I saw in Vancouver. That was an original Mk1 model with its less pronounced fins and the awkward spare tyre mounted Continental-style behind the boot. This is a Mk2, which arrived in ’57. It has sharper fins and a longer boot, which could accommodate the spare tyre within but still provide enough luggage space. It also has the restyled rear bumper, with ports for the exhausts at the edges (always something to admire about this era of yanks). It’s still curvy and sporting those iconic, roundel rear lights, mind, and the hooded, single headlamps up front. After this era, the Thunderbird started to gain sharper lines, which weren’t necessarily unappealing if we’re talking about the arrow-like ’61 Mk3, but, as with Mustangs, the Thunderbird did slide inexorably into obesity during the ‘70s. Even worse was the humdrum awfulness of the ‘80s.

You could argue that gaining a few pounds didn’t hurt the Thunderbird as much as the Corvette or Mustang, though. After all, the Thunderbird was never a sports car as such. Unlike the Corvette, which had appeared a couple of years earlier in ’53, and the Mustang, which arrived later in ’64, Ford marketed the Thunderbird as an ‘upscale personal luxury car’. A two-seat convertible to go off gallivanting around the Hollywood hills with that special someone.

It was purely a second car, then, with no real practical purpose other than exploiting America’s post-war boom and love of excess. It was a beautiful piece of design, both outside and in, with a turned aluminium dash reminiscent of vintage Bentley’s, but here paired with mod cons like a push-button radio. That said, for the Mk2 the instruments were grouped together in a sportier single pod, with a round speedo instead of the Mk1’s larger, half-moon dial. Yet the bench front seat shouts cruiser rather than racer. 

Mind you, upfront the power was healthy. It was supplied by a 312cu in V8, which is 5.1-litres if you think in metric, serving up a lazy but considerable 245hp through a three-speed Ford-O-Matic auto. Or, in this case, a rare three-speed manual. Apparently, that’s all original, too, with the advert describing it as having matching numbers and even the original four-barrel Holley carburettor. The car also comes with its original spare tyre and jack, and a fantastic set of knock-off wires with white walls to finish them off perfectly.

In fact, it sounds like an example of a very sweet, unrestored car, having arrived on our shores from the best place for classics to dwell: dry, sunny, California. Maybe it really did spend its time in the Hollywood Hills, then? It’s clearly not had much use, showing just 26,000 miles, and thanks to the clement weather over there it’s described as being rust-free and never having felt a welding torch. The paint is also lustrous and the chrome shiny, with an interior to match. It’s clearly not a show car, though, having just seen off the 1,000-mile challenge of the Mille Miglia, so no seized calipers or a sticking throttle to spoil your fun, then. It’s just a shame that winter’s not far away, but if you’re quick there should be a few 2022 sunny days left before it needs mothballing for the winter. And then just pull up a chair and sit staring at it, because it’s one of those rare examples of a car that’s beautiful from every angle. Well, I think so, anyway.

Specification | Ford Thunderbird

Engine: 5,112cc, V8, naturally aspirated
Transmission: Three-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 245
Torque (lb ft): 324lb ft
CO2: Too many
MPG: Too few
Recorded mileage: 26,000
Year registered: 1957
Price new: $3,000 (give or take)
Yours for: £99,995

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