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SLIDER: 1957 Ford Thunderbird

Seen at a classic car gathering in Rättvik in Sweden, this 1957 Ford Thunderbird has all the ingredients that take us back to the confident and brash America of the 1950s: fins, colour scheme and hardtop – with porthole, naturally.

The Ford Thunderbird was launched in 1955 as a two-seat convertible – before the addition of a rear seat in 1958 that marked the creation of a market segment eventually known as the personal luxury vehicle.  Unlike the Chevrolet Corvette launched in 1953, the Thunderbird was not marketed as a sports car

Henry Ford II instigated the creation in 1953 of a one-off concept car called the Vega, a small two-seat roadster.  This prototype eventually mutated into the Thunderbird, more American in style, more luxurious, and less sport-oriented than the Vega.

The Thunderbird went from idea to prototype in about a year, being unveiled to the public at the Detroit Auto Show on February 20, 1954.  It was available with a detachable glass-fibre hard top and a folding fabric top,  It sold exceptionally well in its first year: in fact it outsold the Corvette by more than 23-to-one for 1955 with 16,155 Thunderbirds sold against 700 Corvettes.  Few changes were made for 1956, but in 1957 the Thunderbird was revised with a reshaped front bumper, a larger grille and tailfins, and larger tail lamps. The 312 cu in V8 became the Thunderbird’s standard engine, and now produced 245 horsepower (183 kW).  Sales of the Thunderbird rose to a record-breaking 21,380 units for 1957, but Ford felt the car could do even better, and set about a substantial redesign of the car for 1958.


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