Ford Thunderbird 1957-1958
For the Thunderbird in 1957 the grill is larger, the spare tire is back in the trunk mounted vertically now, the tail fins are more pronounced, and the portholes are now a standard feature as they do offer better visibility for the driver. The hard tops roof is made of fiberglass, there are also many new paint choices offered this year. A new option are the four way adjustable “Dial-o-Matic” power seats designed to automatically move back when you turn off the ignition to make it easier to exit the vehicle. The options include telescoping steering wheel, push button interior door handles, and a tachometer are all choices to be made. The standard power is the original 292 which will take the car up to 120 mph (193.12 km/h). Offered optionally in ‘57 is a new 312 cu in (5.1 L) Y-block engine which develops 215 hp (160 kW) when bolted to the three speed standard transmission with manual overdrive. However the engine will put out an additional 10 hp to give 225 hp (168 kW) if you mate it with the Ford-O-Matic two speed automatic version. Additional power options for the 312 cu in (5.1 L) include two four barrel Holly carburetors offering a power boost to 300 hp (223.8 kW) but with the McCulloch or Paxton supercharger the engine will develop up to 340 hp (254 kW). All this is on the table if you want it on your new Thunderbird in ‘57.
Ford Thunderbird first generation sold a total of 53,166 units in the three years it was produced. The ’57 is produced for an extra three months because the ’58 versions are late due to engineering details that need attention.
Thunderbird second generation is after a bigger market share and Ford executives, in particular, Robert McNamara, decide the 1958 version will seat four as this will give the car more appeal to a larger segment of the buying public. The unibody construction is chosen to offer the largest seating capacity in the smallest compartment on the shortest possible frame. This new “T”bird is completely designed by the styling department before any engineers are even consulted. The car is a full nine inches (230mm) lower than any other vehicles of the time and the body carries a major part of the stress that is normally taken by the frame (monocoque construction) the balance of the engineering methods used are more conventional. The tunnel for the drive chain assembly intrudes into the passenger compartment which is partially disguised by the addition of a large full console which extends to between the twin bucket seats holding ashtrays, electrical switches with other minor controls.
The ’58 power is the FE series 352 cu in (5.8 L) engine rated at 250 hp (190 kW) at 4,400 rpm and develops 352 lb-ft (477 N-m) of torque at 2800 rpm. The transmissions available are basically the three speed manual with overdrive or the Cruis-O-Matic as an option. Independent front suspension with coil springs and the rear is a live axle suspended by coils with drum brakes all around. Many fans are unhappy the two seat version but sales figures confirm they are on the right track, as well, this is the car of the year in ’58 according to Motor Trend. Due to late production there are very few convertible models leave the assembly line this year.