A lot of folks seem to think the T-Bird was Fords version of the Corvette. It might be better to say that the Thunderbird was inspired by the Corvette, but Ford took it in a slightly different direction. The Corvette was ostensibly a sports car with an American accent, while the T-Bird was probably one of the earliest "personal luxury" cars fast, comfortable, stylish, and sporty, but more cruiser than bruiser. When it debuted in 1955, the Thunderbird was an instant hit; in fact, the T-Bird outsold the Corvette by a staggering 23-to-1 margin that year, suggesting that they had tapped into something folks were looking for in 1955.

This 1955 T-Bird is a great reminder of why these cars were and still are so popular. Dressed in its original color of code ‘T’ Thunderbird Blue, this 30,871-mile California car has been freshened but never given a frame-off restoration, and remains in excellent running and driving condition today. The paint was redone by pros in the not-too-distant past, and it is straight and clean today, even after having been driven quite a bit. This is actually one of those rare cars that look better in person than it does in photos. For example, areas such as the fender skirts where it looks like the gaps are uneven are actually very well done and it's the weather stripping that gives it that appearance when viewed from the side. The paint has an excellent shine, augmented by a thorough detailing by our own pros, and there are no major flaws or damage which suggests a lifetime of careful ownership. You've probably also noticed that this car has an early non-porthole fiberglass hardtop, which was unique to the 1955 'Birds the porthole was added after Ford received complaints of restricted vision, but finding a non-porthole hardtop today is no easy task. Overall the car is put together well, and it looks great in person.

Chrome and other trim is a combination of restored and original pieces. The bumpers, for instance, are very well restored, right down to the complex rear bumper guards that also house the tailpipes. The windshield frame appears to be original, and if that's the case, I'm confident that this was a very clean car before the restoration, one that probably lived its life in a dry climate. Stainless has all been polished, but is now sporting a nice patina, and the cool insignias on the front fenders that emphasize these cars "Y-block" V8 are original and excellent. The jet-age taillight lenses are very nice, as are the bullet-shaped parking light lenses under the headlamps. Glass is probably original, and the side glass still has its original chrome trim intact with the correct fabric channel lining.

Mechanically, this car carries a P-code 292 cubic inch V8 topped by a Holley 4-barrel carburetor, churning out a respectable 198 horsepower when tied to the optional Ford-O-Matic 3-speed automatic transmission. The engine in this car purrs to life easily, it's torque-happy V8 pushing the relatively lightweight T-Bird with authority. The engine bay in this car was clean and original, and it has just been refreshed at the RKM Performance Center restoration shop with fresh paint on the intake and exhaust manifolds, a new battery, and a thorough clean-up to make an engine you'll be happy to show off. The chrome air cleaner is fed fresh air from the hood scoop, the finned cast aluminum Thunderbird valve covers are beautiful, and everything works as it should. If you look closely, you'll also see some thoughtful upgrades, ranging from the 7-blade flex fan that does wonders for the cooling ability of the original radiator (the original fan was 3 blades which didn't move nearly as much air), to an alternator replacing the original generator down low on the passenger's side of the block. Clearly this one was built to drive, cruising with the top down, the sun shining, and the happy burble of the dual exhaust out back.

Speaking of sunshine, this car has probably seen a lot of it, judging from the condition of the undercarriage. No, it's not dressed for show, but it does show you what a 55-year-old car looks like when it has been given a lifetime of careful maintenance. The floors are solid with no signs of rust or rot, the frame is straight without any indication that there has ever been any damage, and all the parts underneath are functional and well-maintained. If you want glossy, perfect floors, we have T-Birds we can show you, but you'll pay a lot more for them. If, however, you're looking for a great running and driving early 'Bird with no worries about road rash and that has not been sitting for decades developing leaks, then have another look here. The shocks are recent, with coil-over helpers out back, and the brakes have been serviced recently. The exhaust system features a set of aggressive glasspack-style mufflers that give this innocent-looking roadster a great predatory growl. Tires are great-handling wide whitewall radials on the original color-matched Thunderbird steel wheels with full wheel covers.

When it showed up, this car was clearly still wearing its original code XC turquoise interior, and it was time for an upgrade. While it was at the RK Motors restoration shop getting an engine detailing, it also received fresh and correct seat covers in original-style leather and vinyl. The door panels and carpets are excellent, so we left them as-is, and they have a lovely patina today. The dash has been well maintained and was probably painted with the rest of the car a few years ago, and the steering wheel is absolutely gorgeous. I'm also really fond of the hooded speedometer, which features a plexiglass window on top that illuminates the gauges from behind. You'll also notice that this car carries a tachometer and clock in pods to either side of the primary binnacle, along with smaller gauges underneath for fuel level and coolant temperature. The driver's door hosts the controls for the 4-way power seat, and more of the engine-turned aluminum trim that stretches from end to end. There's a modern AM/FM/cassette stereo in the original opening, and nothing was cut or modified, so an original radio could easily be installed if you're looking for absolutely authenticity but as I said, this car is built to drive, and what could be better than you favorite music, your favorite significant other, your favorite road, and this car with the top down?

Speaking of the top, this car also has a white vinyl folding convertible top, which stows neatly behind the seats. It has been replaced at some point in the past and still fits well and looks great. The trunk features a recent mat and a correct bias-ply whitewall on a matching steel wheel.

This California 'Bird is an exceptionally clean car that has been lovingly maintained and carefully upgraded over the years, but has never been off the road. There are six-figure Thunderbirds at auctions with ridiculous over-the-top restorations, and there are basket cases that will need six figures to be whole again. Somewhere in the middle are cars like this one beautiful, solid, reliable, and just plain cool cars that you can drive and enjoy regularly. There are no stories with this car, no question marks, just an honest roadster that is ready for another 50 years of easy living. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I like this car. Given the number of guys who talk about their "drivable dreams," I think the phone will start ringing on this one very shortly. Call now!

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1955 Ford Thunderbird

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