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1955 t-Bird What direction to go. Original or modest update

John Taylor

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Looking to take over a 1955 Thunderbird project.

Trying to decide whether to keep as original as possible or make some changes.

Change to 12 Volt, Original paint or base/clear coat, disc brakes, Original color or choose another color.

How is the value affected?

I am wanting to drive and enjoy it.

John Taylor

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If you are keeping the rest of the original drivetrain,  just rebuild the stock brake system completely.  It's more than sufficient for the car and you will not have the headache of trying to get a non stock system properly engineered so it works correctly.  

For value Tbirds have been pretty flat and lately they seem to be dropping some with a very nice example to be had in the 25-30 G range. That's something nice enough that almost any one here would be happy to own it.  If you don't paint it, it's original color,  I would atleast choose something in the 1955 Ford Line up.  Cars often look funny when painted a non authentic color.  Pearls and some metallics just don't go on old cars, though they may look great on a paint chip. 

I would say if you are rebuilding it to nay great degree the 12 Volt upgrade is not a big deal.  It could always be reversed if someone down the line wants it back to original as long as you use the correct wiring for a 1955 car if you are replacing any of the wiring harness. 

There are alot of these on the market so you could easily spend more than what it's worth rehabbing even a good car.  

In the end it

s your car,  but if you ever plan to sell it,  be advised modifications may adversely affect the value and things like a color change to non period colors may make it down right hard to sell.  

Post pictures when you get a chance.  


I had a 57 Tbird 10 years ago and had it for 10 before that driving it all over the place.  Bone stock drivetrain 312 with auto and it ran great.  It never let me down.  I sort of miss it,  but you have to part with them to keep moving up the old car food chain. 


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I’ve owned about a dozen 55-57 early Birds, and never had a braking problem with any of them.  I had one ‘55 that I drove daily for quite a while.  

You need to realize that, while the early Birds look great and look sporty, they are not sport cars, and don’t handle like a sports car.  Not that they’re not fun to drive, just don’t expect it to handle like one.


I would never attempt to restore one these days, much too expensive.  These Cars are a commodity in the car collector world, decide what color and options you want, and as mentioned, 25-30k will buy you a very nice car.  In our area, a basic paint jobs is 8-10k and a show winning, non-pebble beach paint job is 15-20k. With the example of that kind of cost in restoration, you can’t go wrong buying a good car to start.

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If you want a better handling car then I would suggest the following:

  • Get radial tires
  • Install gas shocks
  • Install a beefier anti-sway bar in place of the original and an anti-sway on the rear (there was no rear anti-sway bar on the car originally)

The CASCO kit for the shocks and sway bars runs $600, but will make a world of difference in the way your car drives. 

Good luck with your project,

Lew Bachman 

1957 Thunderbird Colonial White

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