1957 FORD THUNDERBIRD BACKGROUND 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.