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The Fabulous Thunderbird: 1957

The Fabulous Thunderbird: 1957

"1957 Thunderbird. Removable glass-fibre hard top has stylish 'port' windows." Color transparency from the Ford Motor Co. photographic archive. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Glorious Kodachrome

Just one look at those reds and greens and you know it's Kodachrome - a now-discontinued, quite complex and unique, photographic process.

The unfortunate thinking of many of the time period that your wife was just as important accessory as your car, and both created a background image for the young executive to 'get ahead'. Now all he needs do is join the local lodge.
This photo displays this kind of thinking.

It was a wild ride

In the pre-dawn hours of a chilly spring day in 1957, my fighter pilot dad raced through the streets of Kokomo, Indiana, where he was stationed at Bunker Hill Air Force Base (now Grissom Air Reserve Base), in an attempt to get my mother to the hospital before I was born. He was driving a 1957 Thunderbird which my mother used to say was his real baby.

Since my sister was already fourteen months old, I've got to wonder what my mother drove because we couldn't have all piled into the T-bird unless one of us hung out of the porthole. Not exactly a practical family-man automobile, but then my father's mantra was "Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse." He did in fact live fast and die young -- in a plane crash, one month before his 38th birthday.

BTW dear old Dad made it to the hospital without incident, where I was born moments later at 6:56 a.m., just inside the doors, on a gurney, delivered by nurses.

Not an antenna

Mr.Rogers: If you look carefully, you can see that the white pole is not part of the car; it's actually a newly-planted baby tree, right behind the rear-right fender. We see the beautiful people and the beautiful car - with a tall tape-wrapped white stick and spindly branches blocking the house window shutter.

[The sapling-antenna comment was a joke that *almost* everyone got. - Dave]

I thought the comment possibly was intended as such, but once I looked carefully at the photo, I was surprised that the photographer was willing to snap such a disturbing composition.

Fabulous Thunderbirds

Tuff Enuff

Car Color

I believe the color here is Bronze ("Bronze Poly" on color charts) – a 1957 Thunderbird-only color. Corrections from Ford experts welcome!

Not all changes are for the best

I like the 1957 version of 425 Golfcrest Drive better than the 2020 version. The changes to the front porch removed all the original character, and the dormer window doesn't fit with the rest of the house. And it looks like the house needs some foundation work.

Oh and the color of that Thunderbird? It's hard to tell. It doesn't look like Flame Red or Fiesta Red, the two reds available that year. It could be Mandarin Orange (Code N), which was a reddish orange.

The hidden persuader

Compare the color of the car and the color of the dress. Then compare the front bumper of the car and the front of the woman. Any doubt about the target market?

"The Ford is strong with this one."

Even if you had never seen a Thunderbird, you would know at a glance which of the major can companies produced this car. It's got Ford written all over it.

Happy Birthday

"Happy birthday sweetie. It's all yours, but if you're just going to go out and have fun fun fun all the time, I'm taking it away."

Three on the tree

And a tree on the fender.

Automotive obesity

I have noticed that car manufacturers seem to overfeed their designs, as the same model tends to put on a few more pounds with every year it's in the market. The '65 Mustang was a really nice little car. Not so, the 1970 version.

Just saying

Ford is a for profit enterprise. It would seem reasonable that a measure of success toward that end would be sales volume. As to that, the number of 55, 56 and 57 Birds sold totaled 53,166 units, and the 58, 59 and 60s totaled 198,191 (according to one source). To his credit Henry was very forthright when he said he fired Lee Iacocca because he “just didn’t like him.” There wasn’t a thing in Lee’s history at Ford that warranted his dismissal from a purely business perspective. Think Mustang. His greatest strength, I believe, was he loved cars. Lee was just a car guy and instinctively knew what would work. The board at Chrysler understood that and bet the farm on him.

Custom Shop Antenna

I bet he could pick up stations 100 miles away with that thing.

Her Waist

They were called girdles or foundation garments, and they were necessary for the fashions of the time. And no lady would head downtown or to a function without her gloves. You can see this in action in 1958 in this Shorpy photo. The car behind the ladies could rightly be called a land yacht compared to the T-Bird. My mother had a special pair of kid gloves for driving her 1949 Hillman Minx Convertible.

425 Golfcrest Drive

Altered, but still recognizable. Dearborn golf course in background.

What Goes Up ...

For quite a few years it was common to encounter the claim that the height of women's hemlines was a reliable predictor of approaching economic conditions. Is it possible that the decidedly over-canvased model in this photo might have helped usher in the major U.S recession that arrived in 1958?

Hot dog car

That's the model Ford should have offered in the relaunch or 2002. Not that hot dog they came out with.

A young Motor Head

I'm 64 years old now and I've been a car enthusiast for a lot of them. The '57 Thunderbird was the first car that I can specifically remember. We were at a gas station and at the adjoining gas pump was a neato car with a little round window in the top. It was the coolest thing that I had ever seen. My parents had to drag me away from it.

Robert McNamara

T-Birds were classy little cars, but I've heard McNamara was the ruination of that.
Wonder if the dull finish was for photographing purposes?

Uncle's cars

I had a great-uncle, single, who had the coolest cars when I was a kid: a bright red late-fifties Cadillac with tall pointy fins, then a mid-sixties T-bird with suicide doors. Our immediate family had large boring cars to hold the seven of us, but he had only himself to worry about, being a bachelor.

Re: Beautiful Car

From what I heard, you can blame Lee Ioccoca (the Father of the minivan) because it was his lobbying that changed this sporty two-seater into just another Detroit land-barge. He didn't want a car that just appealed to (as he put it) the "belt in the back" crowd.

Fnarf is right

The original Thunderbird was a beauty. The "Second Generation" was not.

What I'm wondering about this photo is, what the heck did that model eat? Her waist can't be more than 12 inches!

Such a beautiful car

It's a shame what happened to it. By the early '70s it was approximately the size of an aircraft carrier, with similar handling characteristics. My dad had one.

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