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When the Thunderbird was introduced in 1955 it was intended to compete with the Chevrolet Corvette. When first shown at the Detroit Auto Show in 1954, it drew rave reviews from both the press and the public. It was an instant success, selling more Thunderbirds in its introductory year than the Corvette sold from 1953 through 1957 combined. It was powered by a 292 cid V8 producing 193 hp and was available with both an automatic and manual transmissions. It featured an adjustable steering wheel, roll-up windows, tachometer, clock, 150 mph speedometer and a ball-joint front suspension. It was marketed by Ford as a “personal luxury” car rather than a sports car. They were offered at a base price of $2,944, but with available options could run nearly $3,500. The 1956 model featured the same basic design as 1955 but added a standard continental kit for increased truck space. Porthole windows were added to the optional hardtop and side vents were added to improve ventilation. The style changed markedly in 1957 with the addition of small fins and a completely different front end. More engine and transmission options also became available in 1957, the most popular model of the so-called “little-birds”.
- Sold 16,155 Thunderbirds in 1955, more than Corvettes did from 1953-57 combined
- Sold as “personal luxury” car rather than sports car; 1955-57 Thunderbirds became known as “little birds” due to their 2-seat capacity