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When Ford launched the Thunderbird it created a whole new category of cars, with an emphasis on luxury and comfort over practicality and performance. Such was the success of what they started, that they produced over 4.4 million Thunderbirds over a production run of 50 years.
The car originally came about after American manufacturers saw the popularity of European sports cars. Chevrolet were the first to respond with the Corvette, but Ford took a different path and opened up a whole new market.
The car mechanically featured many existing components from the Ford production line such as the chassis/suspension set up, and Ford’s proven 4.8L V8 engine. Interior is where the major changes were made in the shape of a luxurious interior featuring electrically adjustable seats, a telescopic adjustable steering wheel and other novel features for the time like push button door openers.
Even with the main focus of the car being around comfort, it did not lack in performance, with some quoting speed figures around 110MPH. For the time, it was a lightweight construction, and so can be considered a fast luxury tourer.
This beautifully restored Thunderbird is owned by Mark. Mark has owned this car for nearly three years and has built a beautiful car collection of over fifteen cars with the help of his brother-in-law; Rob Carrigan. Mark loves the thrill of buying the best examples he can, once added to his collection he then enjoys driving them when he’s in the country. Mark really does only buy the best-of-the-best examples, and we are very fortunate to be handling the sale of his collection.
So why is Mark now selling his collection? Well, Mark is based overseas and these days he doesn’t get the opportunity to drive his collection as much as he’d like, as more recently his business opportunities are keeping him abroad, so the time has come to pass the cars to new custodians.
Mark has owned this car for a couple of years, but really we need to talk about the previous owner, former racing driver Colin Blower. Colin carried out a nut and bolt restoration on this Thunderbird, a labour of love you could say.
Over 6 years at his garage in Hinckley, Colin personally completed the project finishing in 2010. The restoration is documented in his personal journal with 91 pages detailing everything he did with the car. We’ve photographed the first 10 pages and included them below to give you a sense of the care and attention that this car has received. Up to page 27, Colin totalled up 1,373 hours of his work, we haven’t had a chance to total all the work yet but it looks likely to be over 4,000 hours.
Colins ownership and restoration is the reason why Mark bought this particular car. He had known about the car and asked Colin on a number of occasions to purchase it from him, finally getting his chance a few years ago. Testament to Colin’s engineering skill, the car looks beautiful and the engine purrs as it ticks over, in a way that seems better than it would have when driven off the production line at the factory.
Finished in black, with matching black fabric hood, and striking brightwork across the car, this Thunderbird is a real head turner. The colour combination really makes the most of the styling of the car, the chrome bumpers, grills and overriders look great as they contrast against the black. With such stand out styling, you really feel like you are transported back in time just looking at the car.
Wheels & Tyres
Continuing with the chrome theme, the wheels feature huge chrome hub caps, and period correct white wall tyres. The are in lovely condition, take a look through the video to see them in more detail.
The Thunderbird is a big car, with vast panels and those very distinctive front and rear wings. Across all of the bodywork, we didn’t observe any dents, you can see this in the exterior review video with the light reflecting to show you. In addition to this, considering the size and age of the car, the panel gaps and shut lines are really good. There was a lot of care taken in the restoration and that shows with the build quality of the car. The underside of the car is also super clean, we took a number of photos and videos under the car with lights on to show this.
The paint finish on the Thunderbird is of a very high quality. It is deep in its finish, and has a mirror like look with no sign of orange peel. Importantly we observed that the finish of the paint is consistent across the entire body of the car. Being finished in the base colour of black, there are some slight light scratches visible on the bodywork, but these would easily be polished out by machine. Over time the car has picked up a few niggles in the paintwork which are best observed and noted in the extensive exterior review video; leading edge of the bonnet front and back, rear side leading edge of drivers side door along with a paint defect in the rear quarter middle, passenger side bottom front leading edge, small paint defect just below where the hood meets the body on the offside.
Glass and Trim
The glass across the car is in great condition, including the rear window in the hood. The chrome across the car is in really good condition, there is lots of it and it reflects light nicely. Take a look through the video to review the condition and see that on a few parts of the trim there is some slight pitting as you would expect from a 1955 car.
Just two seats in this car, which means a very spacious and airy cabin for the two lucky people travelling in the Thunderbird. As mentioned in the introduction, for its time this car was a trendsetter for luxury. Features such as electric windows and electric adjustable seats were not heard of in 1955. A really comfortable and tidy cabin.
Seats and Carpets
The interior of the car has been fully refreshed as part of the restoration. Finished in red leather, with matching red carpets and chrome trim across the dash it looks stunning. There is no wear on the seats, and the carpets look in great condition too. The door cards feature chrome, red and white finish and all look lovely.
The dash looks great with the red trim and metal strip spanning across the width of the car. Lots of lovely little touches like the Thunderbird and V8 badging really set the car off from the interior. The all important world first tachometer, with its unique glass design that lets light in from the front looks really fresh, and all the gauges work correctly.
Steering Wheel / Gear Stick
Both the steering wheel and gear stick are in good condition and in a matching colour combination to the car.
Rob took me on a quick run in the car, getting it to speed and across a variety of surfaces. The car performed without fault, and was an enjoyable ride as a passenger. It is worth mentioning again that this car was former racing driver Colin Blowers pride and joy, and the condition of the mechanics of the car to this day are testament to his skill and care during the nut and bolt restoration he carried out.
Engine and Gearbox
The car started on the button from cold (albeit with a battery booster) even with the car having sat unused for some time, with the engine idling smoothly extremely quickly. On the road the engine pulled us along without issue, and the smoothness of the engine running along with the relative quietness of the twin exhaust set up, sometimes can make you forget there is a huge 4.8L Y block V8 under the hood. The automatic gearbox worked an absolute charm on our short trip. Both when cold and at temperature, the car changed gears effortlessly, not a judder or jolt in sight.
Suspension and Brakes
On our loop through the local town, on to a short dual carriageway, and down a country lane, the car handled all of the different surfaces and speeds without issue. Brakes on the car are strong, as with all other mechanics.
The drive with Rob was without fault, and as a passenger was very comfortable. The cabin has lots of room, and the vast windscreen gives you a great view out on to the open road. Both at low speeds around the town, and at speed on the dual carriageway, there were no untoward noises or shakes observed during the journey.
Electrics and Other
The battery was flat when we first started the car, having not been used for some time. Rob assures us that the battery will be charged and tested before sale.
The car was imported from America, and was first registered in December 2006. We have included all of the paperwork that comes with the car in the media below for you to review, including invoices and receipts.
The car is showing just over 82,061 as of 14.06.2018.
HPi Check Results
– This car is HPi clear and will be supported by our own HPi check.
Mileage Records – MOT
– 07.06.2016 – 81,947 miles
– 30.09.2014 – 81,829 miles
– 17.11.2011 – 79,815 miles
– 15.10.2010 – 79,502 miles
– 27.10.2009 – 78,417 miles
– 05.11.2008 – 76,568 miles
– 15.11.2007 – 76,567 miles
– 03.11.2006 – 76,567 miles
The Thunderbird turned out to be a very important car for both Ford and the American automotive industry. It opened up a whole new market for Ford and other companies to follow, and spawned the personal luxury car category.
Sitting as a passenger in this example of the Thunderbird, and going on a drive, you really do feel like you are in something special. Built in 1955, the features and ride quality really are luxurious for the time, and testament to the ownership and restoration of this car.
The restoration is a really important factor to consider if you are looking at this example, and considering buying. This car has been carefully restored by an expert engineer and race driver over 6 years. We’ve been told it was Colin’s pride and joy, and that passion shines through in the quality of the car today. Rob described the smoothness of the engine as “like a Singer sewing machine”, a carefully maintained car that the new owner will be able to enjoy for years to come.
We’ve agreed a very reasonable price for this car for when it goes on auction, unlike some unrealistic prices you might see with other restored Thunderbirds, and so we believe this has to be the best value Thunderbird on the market in the UK today, get in touch to discuss more.
KULRAJ SINGH SALH
This auction listing was written by Kulraj Singh Salh from information gained from Rob the custodian of the collection, and having visited and photographed the vehicle.
If you have any specific questions about the vehicle then please use the comments section below. Rob will receive a notification and will reply as soon as he can.