1957 Ford Thunderbird

Chevrolet had just launched the Corvette in 1953, while MGs, Triumphs and Jaguars began to flood in from England into the welcome arms of an eager American market. Ford recognized this as a trend they wanted a part of. But, with some reservations. The ‘bean counters’ at Ford determined that the market for a ‘pure sports car’ was limited at best, and they saw the early Corvettes struggling to make sales, so the decided to define the new 1955 Ford Thunderbird not as a ‘sports car’ per se, but as what they called a “personal car”. But how did it all start? The story goes that Ford general manager Lewis Crusoe was visiting the 1951 Paris Auto Show with Ford designer George Walker, admiring the European flavor for design, and the sports cars they were building at the time. Crusoe turned to Walker and asked “Why can’t we have something like this?” Walker stretched the truth when he said “Oh, but we do”. What he was referring to was a backroom project for a 2-seat sports car following the Corvette and British molds, that was languishing in the design department for lack of support from Ford leadership. Suddenly this sounded like a green light to Walker, who then called back to Dearborn and told them to the project into high gear. With the new mandate, a fundamental change was made away from the crudeness of the Corvette and the British sports cars, with their clunky tops, and leaky side curtains instead of windows. Ford wisely decided to take the new T-Bird upmarket, and bestow it with all the things American buyers were coming to expect in a premium car. And they offered it with a wide range of comfort and convenience options, like power steering and brakes, power windows, even a power seat. It would be years before options like this were available in a Corvette. It must have worked, because in its first year on the market as a new nameplate, the ’55 T-Bird sold 16,155 units to the Corvette’s 700 in 1955 (and only 300 in its debut year, 1953). So, the lovely Thunderbird was off and running, the start of a brilliant career.

The ’55 T-Bird stuffed the spare tire into its already-too-small trunk, so for ’56 they the spare out to a modified back bumper as a “Continental Kit”. But the added weight so far aft threw off the delicate steering so for 1957 the entire rear of the car was redesigned, with a longer rear overhang, creating a large enough trunk to stow the spare tire and have enough useable space left. The tail lights and tail fins were also larger than before. Up front, a restyled bumper framed a larger, re-styled grille. The overall effect was to make it look bigger and more substantial, and it was, longer at least. Whatever it was, it must have worked, because the 1957 model year broke the Ford Thunderbird sales record with 21,380 units sold.

1957 Ford Thunderbird CONVERTIBLE TOP

1957 Ford Thunderbird INTERIORS

For the final year of the ‘Baby Bird’, Ford restyled the dash, instrument panel, door panels and seats. The instruments were now housed in a single pod.

1957 Ford Thunderbird ENGINES

312 V8 w/single 4-barrel = 245 hp

The 312 became that standard engine for the 1957 Ford Thunderbird, with 4-barrel carb and making 245 horsepower. It was available with a 3-speed manual transmission or the 2-speed Ford-O-Matic.

E-code 312 V8 w/dual 4-barrels = 270 hp

Supercharged 312 V8 = 300 hp

The top engine for the 1957 model year was the F-code 312 V8 with belt-driven centrifugal supercharger, making an even 300 horsepower, heady stuff in 1957. It was originally conceived as a factory-modified “stock car” to compete in the East Coast NASCAR racing circuit for the 1957 season. These F-code T-Birds have become known as “F-Birds” and only 211 street versions were built and sold to the public. The engines themselves are 312 Y-blocks with 8.5:1 compression and a 256-degree duration cam, along with strengthened cylinder heads and valve hear, and used a Phase II VR57 centrifugal supercharger to blow-through a Holley 4-barrel carburetor. The heavy supercharger was rigidly mounted to the passenger-side of the engine, V-belt-driven off the crankshaft, with an idler pulley for belt adjustment. A flexible hose entered the rear of the unit, feeding it massive amounts of air from a large air cleaner tucked away behind the passenger-side front wheel well. They are exceedingly rare. All F-Birds have a VIN that starts with the letter “F”. Anything else is not an authentic F-Bird. Buyer beware.

1957 Ford Thunderbird SPECIFICATIONS





Track, front

Track, rear

Curb weight

Brakes, front

Brakes, rear

Tire size, standard


292 V8 w/1-4bbl

312 V8 w/1-4bbl

312 V8 w/2-4bbl E-code

312 supercharged V8 w/1-4bbl

102.0″ / 2591mm

181.4″ / 4608mm

71.3″ / 1811mm

51.6″ / 1311mm

56.0″ / 1422mm

56.0″ / 1422mm

3310 lbs / 1500 kg

279mm drums

279mm drums

7.50″ X 14″

206 hp @ 4500 rpm

245 hp @ 4500 rpm

270 hp @ 4800 rpm

300 hp @ 4800 rpm

297 lb-ft @ 2700 rpm

332 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm

336 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm

439 lb-ft @ 2600 rpm

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