Featured here is a great looking 1957 Ford Thunderbird. The 1957 T-Bird was the most powerful and refined of the first-generation models. The year 1957 was not only the last year of the original Thunderbird two seaters, but it was also the model year that many people thought was the best.

1957 ford thunderbird photos
1957 Ford Thunderbird

The Thunderbird Follows the Introduction of the Chevy Corvette

When the Chevrolet Corvette, the first American sportscar, was introduced, plans for the Ford Thunderbird were already on the drawing board.

Corvette was an answer to the European sportcars entering the U.S. market and the Thunderbird was a direct answer to Chevrolet’s new American sportscar

It didn’t take Ford long to respond. From the first Chevy Corvette seen at the 1953 Metrorama, the first Ford Thunderbird rolled off the Dearborn, Michigan assembly line on September 9, 1954. A pretty fast turnaround.

The two seat Thunderbirds were sharp looking. Their styling could be described as refined. This new sportscar was something entirely new for the Ford Motor Company. While the Thunderbird and Corvette were meant to compete with one another, there were significant differences in styling and build. The first major difference between the two competing models were what material they were made of. The Chevy Corvette body was made of fiberglass. The Ford Thunderbird was made with stamped steel.

first generation thunderbirds

Competition for Power

The Ford Thunderbird matched and beat the power of the first generation Corvettes. Thunderbird’s V-8 outperformed the 1955 Corvette six cylinder engines and essentially matched the power of the Corvette V-8 which came out in 1956.

T-Bird Styling

The Chevrolet Corvette which came on the market first was modeled in many ways similar to the European idea of a racing car. Creature comfort was not exactly on the front burner. The Ford Thunderbird on the other hand presented a “California flavor” in auto design. The Thunderbird was really built more like a mid 1950’s convertible than a true sports car. Ford’s Thunderbird was in the “personal luxury” class. For the 1957 model year Ford modified the Thunderbird with new front and rear ends along with a more powerful V8 engine.

While the Corvette had such true sports car features of the time such as no exterior door handles, the Thunderbird had these as well as roll up windows and a fold down convertible top. The Thunderbirds really came out with most of the interior items you’s find in most Fords. The first Ford Thunderbirds certainly had a sportier feel than sedans, but they were not really what Europeans might call a sports cars. Yes, the first Thunderbirds were two seaters that we identify as sports cars but the interior styling was filled with comfort items not found in the Chevy Corvette.

The first generation Thunderbird was known as the “Littlebird”. This was a direct reference to the smaller two seaters. The second generation which ran from 1958 to 1960 were dubbed the “Squarebird”. The “Bigbird” flew from 1961-1963.

1957 Ford Thunderbird Specifications

Available engines were the 292 Overhead Valve V-8 for all three first generation years and a 312 Overhead Valve V-8 for the 1956 and 1957 models. In addition to this, Thunderbird offered the E-code and F-code performance packages. The E-code used dual Holley four-barrel carburetors to deliver 270 HP. The F-code was a supercharged configuration putting out 300 HP.

Available for 1957 was a three and four speed manual and a three speed automatic transmission.

ford thunderbird specifications

Brakes are four wheel hydraulic drum.

The overall length was 185.2 inches for the 1957 model year. The wheelbase was 102.0 inches for all three first generation years and the weight for the three years of the two seater Thunderbirds ranged between 2,980 to 3,145 lbs.

1957 Ford Thunderbird production totaled 21,380 units.

See additional Auto Museum Online articles on the links below..

1963 Thunderbird

1955-1957 Ford Thunderbirds

1960 Chevy Corvette

References for this article included…Ford Thunderbird by Roy Bacon..1955-1979 Ford Thunderbird Windsor Small Block Performance Book by Isaac Martin..Collector Cars by the Editors of Consumer Report..Thunderbird Fifty Years by Alan Tast.

1957 Thunderbird Collector Car Valuation

Ford Thunderbird’s in general are popular collector cars. The first generation T-Birds, the two seat versions like the 57 model, are exceptionally popular.

1957 t-bird design details

When the Ford Thunderbird first came on the scene, it was a milestone in American automobile history. The Chevy Corvette had come on the market prior to the T-Bird and was promoted to compete against the European sportscars. The Thunderbird was built to compete against the Corvette but as mentioned earlier was a different type of sportscar in several ways. ‘

First generation 1957 Ford Thunderbirds that are offered for sale have seen asking prices all the way from the $30,000 range to over $100,000. Prices will reflect overall condition, mileage, trim level and originality. In this range you’ll see T-Birds that have been used regularly and others that are in showroom condition. Most have been restored to a degree with both older and newer restorations. Average retail price value is about $64,000.

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)