Sunday 3 November 2013

1958 Ford Thunderbird Convertible

"The new Thunderbird convertible decisively proves that you can have your cake and eat it, too. For now you can have true Thunderbird performance and Thunderbird fun — and, at the same time, luxurious room and comfort for four lucky people. Your T-bird comes equipped for superior performance with the brilliant new 300-hp Thunderbird Special V-8. Imagine what this beautiful new power plant means in a car so low, so lithe, so compact! When the hide-away top is down, the rear deck is perfectly flush with the rear seats, forming one smooth, uninterrupted line of Thunderbird beauty. See America's most individual car at your Ford Dealer's soon. You've nothing to lose but your heart!"

What a nice place to spend the evening! Cruising along in a Ford Thunderbird, while enjoying a soft tropical breeze, and listening to the characteristic growl of a big V-8 engine under the hood most certainly appeals to all senses. 

In 1953, to everyone's surprise, Chevrolet had launched the Corvette, which soon should become a synonym for THE american sports car. Thunderbird was Ford's answer to the Corvette. The first generation, built from 1955 through 1957, was a two-seater, quintessentially embodying the stereotype of a classic sports car. This, of course, in true american fashion: the car looked dashing and was powerful, but it had to give way to purer sports cars as soon as the road became a little twisty.

The market for such a two-seater sports car was limited, and Ford, being much more dominated by bean counters and market research people than most other car companies, made "adjustments" to the original concept with the second generation which bowed in 1958. Now the car literally grew up, gaining 20 inches (51cm) overall length and 400 pounds (175kg) of weight. Perhaps most disturbing to the "purists", the car was now a full four-seater with all the amenities that other contemporary luxury cars would offer. While the first Thunderbird generation somehow fitted into the sports car scheme, the new generation wouldn't. But it didn't matter, as Ford had incidentally carved out a profitable new niche market: the "Personal Luxury Car" at an attainable price. This new market segment should gain momentum and become a necessity in the lineup of every American car maker throughout the 60s.

The Ford Thunderbird was pretty popular since it became a four-seater, and compared to the introductory year 1955, the production doubled in 1958. Considering that this was a recession year, and any bigger car was not moving from the dealer's, this was a respectable success. In 1959, the Thunderbird should surpass its own success again, with more than 67,000 cars finding new homes in American garages. Strangely enough, customers didn't show much interest in the 1958 Thunderbird Convertible. Out of 37,892 Thunderbird built in 1958, just 2,134 were ragtops, accounting for less than six percent of the total production. Granted that the convertible arrived late in the model year, the two-door hardtop was the much more popular choice.

4 Kommentare:

James said...

I loved the 1958-60 Square birds. My uncle was a famous radio sportscaster in pre-Castro Cuba and he has a white 56 T-Bird. Which of course got left behind when he fled the country in 1960.

Ralphee said...

That's interesting news, James. So far, I've never come across a first generation Thunderbird in Cuba, but this is encouraging to keep my eyes open. Did your uncle live in Havana?

Caristas said...

Great photo, Ralphee. I was able to get a few shots of this Thunderbird as well -- your readers are welcome to check them out at

James said...

Ralphee google Thunderbird on Google images are there some 2 seater birds. I have an old book that shows a stunning 57 taken in front of what then called Retiro M├ędico building. My uncle's name was Nelson Varela. He passed away in 1999.

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