Vintage Ads: 1955 – 1957 Thunderbird – The “Light-of-Hand” Performer

Thunderbird 1955 Ad-04

(Update: we’re going to dedicate each day of the week to one decade of the T-Bird’s existence. So let’s finish out the gen1 with a couple of vintage ads. The 1958 T-Bird will be covered tomorrow morning in a 1960 T-Bird CC.)

Ford’s advertisements for its new 1955 Thunderbird made it all-too obvious that it was not out to chase Jaguars and Austin Healeys, although allusions to Europeans are made in this ad. It was the first so-called “personal car”, and designed to be a reasonably powerful two-seat car, stable at speed, but not one that would ever impress anyone with sporty handling. The ad copy about its steering is explicit:

Ford engineers don’t go along with the idea that a high-performance car such as the Thunderbird should have overly fast steering for the American highway. It steers with the ease you are accustomed to you can have it power-assisted if you wish.

In other words, slow and soggy, just like a ’54 Ford sedan.

Thunderbird 1955 Ad -01

I’ve always loved this one, as it conveys the Thunderbird’s intended demographic so well. And of course there’s just enough of of wifey’s ’55 Ford wagon showing in the garage to drive home another point or two.

Thunderbird 1956 advertisement neg CN18641-048

In 1956, the spare was moved to the rear bumper, a somewhat controversial move. There was a semi-valid excuse: to create more space in the smallish trunk for actual luggage. Given the T-Birds beefy sedan-derived frame and low body, it really was quite flat. And given that the Thunderbird really wasn’t trying to be a sports car, but a two-passenger personal car, aping the Continental Spare that also was seen in a more muted form on the all-new 1956 Continental MkII, it ‘s understandable in some regards. But the added weight on the rear and yet softer springs created a instability in certain handling circumstances, and for that reason alone, the spare went back in an enlarged (longer)  trunk for 1957.

Thunderbird 1956 ad 2

“Mink Coat for Father”. If that doesn’t spell out the T-Bird’s role in life, what does?

Thunderbird 1957 Foldout (Rev 2-57)-01

Well, it wasn’t just for father, it was also for the mistress mother too! She does the hat shopping in the T-Bird, and he drives to the office in his ’57 Fairlane.  And who drives the kids?

Thunderbird 1957 -04

The new enlarged trunk featured in this ad or brochure page, as well as the new higher output versions of the 312 CID Y-block V8; up to 285 hp. There were even 208 Paxton-McCulloch supercharged T-Birds made with 300 or 340 hp. But realistically, these higher output T-Bird engines were mainly for show and a few publicity dashes in the flying mile or such. The T-Bird never attempted to go racing on road courses, unlike the ’57 Corvette, which acquitted itself very well in 1957.

But that was all soon irrelevant, as Ford moved more fully in the direction already hinted at in this ad: new limousine luxury