American ClassicsFord

Gliding with the 1957 Ford Thunderbird

Take a stroll back in time to the freshly paved sidewalks of a typical late 1950s American neighborhood. What do you see? Chances are you will catch a glimpse of at least one 1957 Ford Thunderbird shining under the sun. 

Often misunderstood but never duplicated, the first generation Ford Thunderbird is an American icon. Many people see the two seater from a sports car lens, but Ford’s marketing campaign insists it is a “personal car of distinction”.

To others, the question remains: what exactly is the Ford Thunderbird?

It is Ford’s first two-seat model since 1938 and it does feature a V8 engine. The first generation Thunderbird is available exclusively as a convertible and it features the classic front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout. Available with a 2-speed Fordomatic automatic or a 3-speed manual, the Thunderbird proves to be popular among consumers.

The Thunderbird is also very stylish, in fact, it features timeless appeal. Similar to the ‘57 Chevy, first generation Thunderbirds are rock stars everywhere they go. This is why many media outlets dubbed the Thunderbird as a sports car, but Ford’s Mustang already checks that box.

Everything about the first generation Thunderbird seems so sporty that the general media overlooked the experience at first glance. In reality, Ford’s Thunderbird is in some ways America’s first luxury sports car. Luxurious comfort, V8 power and style define the first-gen Thunderbird experience.

Ford hit a home run with the Ford Thunderbird, out-selling first-generation Corvettes by a mile. The Thunderbird established itself as an ideal car for the U.S. market in the late 50s. In 1957, the final year of first-gen production, Ford manufactured 21,380 Thunderbirds. 

Identifying the 1957 Thunderbird

On 1957 models, Ford moved the Thunderbird emblem from the rear fins to the front fenders. Since 1958 models were not ready yet, Ford extended ‘57 production for three more months than usual. One of the reasons the 1957 Thunderbird is so special is because it is Ford’s last two-seat production car until 1982.

While taking a closer look at the 1957 Ford Thunderbird, you will notice a different front bumper than previous models. You will also notice the spare tire is inside the trunk now. Other noticeable updates include making the grille, tailfins and taillights larger.

The unmistakable dual round ‘57 Thunderbird headlights grab the eyes while carrying your attention to the fenders. Continue glancing, allowing the classy lines to take over, flowing the length of the car to the fins. This is vintage American automotive styling.

Around the rear of the car, the signature dual round taillights always look great, day or night. The dual exhaust tips poking out of chrome housing above the rear bumper is a designer’s touch. Ford painted a true masterpiece on this canvas.

Under the hood, Ford offered several V8 engine options for the ‘57 T-Bird. Whether buyers preferred the standard V8 or one of the higher performance options, driving a Thunderbird is comfortable and sophisticated. Some of them just happen to be a lot faster than the others.

1957 Ford Thunderbird Factory Engine Options

  • Standard 292 Cubic Inch V8 – 212 Horsepower
  • Optional Thunderbird 312 Cubic Inch Special V8 – 245 HP
  • Optional Thunderbird 312 Super V8 – 270 HP
  • Optional Extra High-Performance Thunderbird 312 Super V8 – 285 HP

Enjoying the elegant wingspan of the 1957 Thunderbird on a beautiful day is easy, the fiberglass hard top is easily removable. If the ‘57 Thunderbird also features the optional manually-operated factory soft-top, you will have the best of both worlds. Spread your wings while the wind blows through your feathers, this is the T-Bird life. 

Other luxurious features of the ‘57 Thunderbird include power windows, power steering and power brakes. Even the driver’s seat features a 4-way power adjustment dial. The radio automatically adjusts volume according to how fast you’re going, very convenient for a convertible in 1957.

The suspension of the ‘57 Thunderbird provides a balanced, smooth ride. This is not the kind of car you throw around corners, it is a cruiser with ample power. It also draws a lot of admiration anywhere it perches.

Nesting Your 1957 T-Bird 

Finding a 1957 Ford Thunderbird for sale is not difficult, you will not need your binoculars for this search. Depending on condition, expect to see values ranging from $20,000 to over $100,000. Obviously the most pristine, unique, or all-original examples fetch the most. 

You can also find project ‘57 Thunderbirds for under $20,000 if you stay vigilant. Some people do not mind a little elbow grease while others prefer the option of customizing their own hot rod. If you want one, you will find one because Ford sold over 20,000 Thunderbirds in 1957. 

Driving or riding in a first-gen Thunderbird is a nostalgic way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Parts are still easy to find and regular maintenance is affordable on a 1957 Ford Thunderbird. This is the kind of classic car you can drive without guilt.

Of course, many first generation Thunderbirds prefer hibernating during winter and they enjoy naps on rainy days. Other than that, the Thunderbird is always ready to soar. It is up to you to let it fly.

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