The original 1955 Thunderbird was not only handsome, but made quite an impression on Europeans. Although its influence can be seen to various degrees in some other cars, the Auto Union 1000 SP was a blatant crib. We’d be remiss in ending Thunderbird Week without acknowledging it. Imitations is the sincerest form of flattery, and this was the most sincere form of that.
The 1000 SP was first shown in 1957, as a coupe only, and went into producton in 1958. It was of course based on the Auto Union 1000, a higher-end version of the DKW 3=6 (full story here). Which of course means that under the skin, it was very un-Thunderbird-like: front wheel drive, a three-cylinder two-stroke engine with 981 cc and 55 hp, which gave it a top speed of some 140 km/h (85 mph). Just to carry it’s difference a bit further, its four-speed transmission was shifted on the column. The “Contrary Thunderbird”
Actually, its nick name in Germany was “Schmalspur Thunderbird” (“narrow track Thunderbird”). The 1000SP was built by the coachbuilder Bauer in Stuttgart, and some 5004 coupes were built through 1964. The Roadster came along in 1961, and 1640 of them were built.
This shot was posted some time back at the Cohort, by r0b0tr10t. It shows that the rear end strayed a bit from the original, but still very much influenced by it.
Obviously, the coupe’s roof was a major departure; Europeans were too claustrophobic for the T-Birds very private hard top.