Lot 632: Ford Thunderbird Landau
When the first Ford Thunderbird rolled out of Dearborn in 1955 it wasn’t a sports car and it wasn’t a luxury car. Yet 16,155 examples of the attractive and powerful T-Bird found happy buyers. A few miles away, the suits at Chevrolet were mortified that their Corvette 'sports car' couldn’t move 5,000, yet the sporty Ford just waltzed into town and took off—thanks at least partly to its V-8 engine and steel body. The following year, T-Bird moved more than 15,000 units and in 1959 21,380 Birds flew out of show room floors.
But Ford wanted more out of its attractive money spinner. For 1958, the wheelbase was stretched and the T-Bird became a bigger car that seated four in luxury. The fans of the little two-seater Birds were horrified, but Ford dealers were delighted with the result. Almost 38,000 Birds found buyers, of which 2,134 were convertibles. The success of that first bigger Bird was such that Ford stuck with the formula.
By 1966 that bigger Bird had swelled by close to 1,500 pounds and came in four different flavors. Those four and two-door flavors—Hardtop, Town Sedan and Landau were enough to swell sales of this personal luxury car to almost 70,000 units.
Trim aside, all T-Birds rode on a 113-inch wheelbase chassis with independent front suspension and solid rear axle. Stopping was handled by power assisted front disc brakes and rear drums. Engines displaced either 390cid or 428cid and ranged in output from 275bhp to 345bhp. Whatever the engine or its output, that power was routed aft through an automatic transmission.
The Thunderbird Landau Coupe on offer is fitted with the 390 engine and is finished in a metallic blue unique to the model. Both the interior and the vinyl top are white. In addition to power steering and power brakes, the seat is also power-operated and the steering wheel tilts away. Restored some years ago, this very attractive big bird rolls on Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. It is powerful, good looking and extremely usable.
Collectors' Motor Cars|
Bonhams & Butterfields, Larz Anderson Auto Museum, Brookline
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