Arizona

19-20 January 2017

Offered from a Private Collection

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Lot 281

1956 Ford Thunderbird

  • Chassis no. M6FH352826

Sold for $34,100


202 bhp, 292 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine, three-speed manual transmission, coil spring independent front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102 in.

  • Offered from a private collection
  • Classic two-seat Thunderbird
  • 292/202 Y-Block engine with three-speed manual
  • High-quality restoration


As the story is told, Ford vice president Lewis Crusoe and chief stylist George Walker were walking down a street in Paris in 1951 when Crusoe pointed to a sports car at the curb. “Why can’t we have something like that?” Crusoe asked Walker. Walker got on the phone to Dearborn and set designer Frank Hershey to work on a two-seat roadster built around Ford mechanicals. A clay model was completed by May 1953, and Crusoe gave the go-ahead for production in September. Shown to the public in 1954, it drew public acclaim and in the introductory 1955 model year, Ford sold 16,155 units.

The Thunderbird was given a few subtle changes for 1956, its second season. The spare tire, which had significantly reduced luggage space, was relocated from the trunk to a “continental” mounting on the rear bumper. Wind wings were added to the trailing edge of the windshield, cowl vents were added to the front fenders, and the hardtop gained porthole windows in the rear quarters. The rear bumper was redesigned to simplify the exhaust outlets, moving them to the outer corners. Manual transmission cars had a 202-horsepower Thunderbird version of the 292 Y-Block V-8; overdrive cars used a 215-brake horsepower Thunderbird Special 312, which was rated at 225 brake horsepower with Ford-O-Matic Drive.

This Thunderbird features power steering, power brakes, and power windows, as well as the standard continental kit and fender skirts, while the removable hardtop has the distinctive porthole windows. The car is equipped with a pushbutton radio with fender-mounted antenna, dashboard clock, tachometer, and fresh-air heater. Painted in Ford’s Fiesta Red, the interior is trimmed in red and white vinyl. The odometer shows fewer than 600 miles, which are believed to have been recorded since restoration. The overall condition is excellent with outstanding contours, good panel fit, and beautiful paint and brightwork. Likewise, the engine compartment is correctly detailed without being overdone.

The two-seat Thunderbirds lasted just three years, selling from 15,000 to 21,000 units annually. While this handily outpaced Chevrolet’s Corvette, it was not a huge success for the company. For 1958, a larger, four-seat T-Bird was introduced. With more passenger and luggage space, it attracted a different customer demographic, and sales soared. Sales, however, isn’t everything. The two-seaters had flair and panache that was lacking in their successors. This helps explain why the Thunderbirds of ’55, ’56, and ’57 have forever captured the hearts of collectors. This Fiesta Red T-Bird will likely do the same.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more