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1955 Thunderbird - $15,900 (FAllbrook)


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Appears to be a good driver quality car for the money.

The hard top looks to be vinyl covered.  Was this an option or a later addition?

 

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https://sandiego.craigslist.org/nsd/cto/d/fallbrook-1955-thunderbird/7263387015.html

1955 Thunderbird
This is a turn key start and run and drive anywhere Tbird. Three speed on the floor with overdrive. At 75 miles an hour she’s running about 2500 RPMs. goes down the road beautiful with no vibration and steering wheel does not pull left or right . Hardtop only. have some paperwork that dates back 30 years on the car to include original owners manual and purchase order in Phoenix Arizona April 15, 1955. The car came to California somewhere in the 60s and has been here ever since.All gauges work along with an aftermarket radio. I have the original radio and some New parts in the trunk .
Runs awesome, all five original rims date code 1955 and repainted with new tires plus original spare and Jack. recent tuneup, new carpet and seatbelts. Paint looks good from 15 feet away but will definitely require paint and minor bodywork to make it nice. Currently registered with a clear title in my name. Price is firm at $15900 and no trades. listing will be deleted immediately when car is sold so if your reading this it's still available. If you call and I don't answer please leave a message and I will call you back asap.James 760 four four five 4217.

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If the bodywork needed doesn't include addressing lots of previous bondo-over-rust repairs, this car could be a great deal. From the photos, the interior looks to be in better shape than what many more expensive cars have.

 

How's the legroom on these for tall people? The two seaters look a little cramped. Is the '57 better in terms of legroom, or is it only longer in the rear deck?

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Not a bad looking car for the price. The hardtop is not correct (55s did not have portholes) and vinyl covered roof was not an option. Being a California car is a definite plus, little problem with rust. Appears to be lightly optioned, with only overdrive, which was a option. The power seat was standard in 1955. The interior door cards and upholstery are incorrect, although they look in reasonable shape.

 

As for legroom, I am 6'2" and have all the legroom that I need. The telescoping steering wheel is a definite advantage in gaining more room. I should also point out that the interior is roomier side to side than it is back to front. In terms of space, there is no difference between the three years. I would definitely suggest that you try to sit in one or better yet drive one before you buy. A lot of your comfort will be based on how you are built. In my case I have long legs and do not carry excess weight around my middle. I have found it best to move the steering wheel out (closer to my chest) which gives me more room for my legs. I weigh 185 lbs. If you are 6'3" and weigh 250lbs you probably should be looking at something else.

Best regards,

Lew Bachman

1957 Thunderbird, Colonial White

Edited by 1957Birdman
correct word (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, JamesR said:

If the bodywork needed doesn't include addressing lots of previous bondo-over-rust repairs

Sold new in Arizona, now SoCal,  so I would think the chances of rust issues would be pretty minimal.

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18 hours ago, 1957Birdman said:

Not a bad looking car for the price. The hardtop is not correct (55s did not have portholes) and vinyl covered roof was not an option. Being a California car is a definite plus, little problem with rust. Appears to be lightly optioned, with only overdrive, which was a option. The power seat was standard in 1955. The interior door cards and upholstery are incorrect, although they look in reasonable shape.

 

As for legroom, I am 6'2" and have all the legroom that I need. The telescoping steering wheel is a definite advantage in gaining more room. I should also point out that the interior is roomier side to side than it is back to front. In terms of space, there is no difference between the three years. I would definitely suggest that you try to sit in one or better yet drive one before you buy. A lot of your comfort will be based on how you are built. In my case I have long legs and do not carry excess weight around my middle. I have found it best to move the steering wheel out (closer to my chest) which gives me more room for my legs. I weigh 185 lbs. If you are 6'3" and weigh 250lbs you probably should be looking at something else.

Best regards,

Lew Bachman

1957 Thunderbird, Colonial White

How's the headroom? I'm guessing it's pretty claustrophobic with the top up for a six-footer. Better to leave it down and look over the top of the windshield?

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20 hours ago, JamesR said:

How's the legroom on these for tall people? 

 

20 hours ago, 1957Birdman said:

In terms of space, there is no difference between the three years.

 

I sat in one once--I don't know which model year--

and found insufficient legroom.  I could never own one,

sorry to say.

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I am 6’2”.  I had a 55 for several years. Legroom wasn’t a problem. I don’t Ever recall driving with the top up.   Mine looked in similar condition to this one, but I learned over the years that there were a lot of things hidden behind the paint job. It had quite a bit of filler in it. I always thought I wanted one of these but after having one, I got it out of my system.  This car looks like a good value if the panels are steel and it runs as described.

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I never liked them much as compared to an XK140 or a similar year vette.  However, in my old age I've warmed up to them.    Of course, that might be why I didn't like them when I was younger,  all the guys that had them were 30 years older than me.

 

 

This car was in a good location,  but I would be very careful with a rust belt car.  We has one in the shop once for a full resto and it was surprising how a summer car could rot in some many weird spots.

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15 minutes ago, alsancle said:

I never liked them much as compared to an XK140 or a similar year vette.  However, in my old age I've warmed up to them.    Of course, that might be why I didn't like them when I was younger,  all the guys that had them were 30 years older than me.

 

 

This car was in a good location,  but I would be very careful with a rust belt car.  We has one in the shop once for a full resto and it was surprising how a summer car could rot in some many weird spots.

I have to second this. If I was to dabble in this area again, I would look for a straight axle corvette. There is a cost difference (2 or 3 times for a comparable car), but I think I’d be happier in the long run. 
 

in no way am I going negative on the car in question...  it looks like a reasonable value. 
 

I don’t know if there are any Tbirds in my future again,  maybe a sunset coral 56 with a black top......

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Once you're inside and seated, early 'Birds are pretty comfortable for moderately tall people. Getting in with the top up or the hardtop in place, however, can be challenging. Eventually you'll want to wear a helmet because you'll have a dent in your head from whacking it on the door frame. But if you're using it correctly, you'll leave the top off and headroom is no longer a problem.

 

I think of the '55s as Thunderbird beta-test. Lots of questionable engineering that was corrected in '56 and the later cars are better to own and drive. For instance, those little cowl vents they added in '56 weren't just for style points--I had the glue holding the soles of my shoes in place melt and the soles fall off after an afternoon of driving a '55 T-Bird. '55s are also the last year for 6-volt electrical systems, which are fine until they're not and a neglected car will have all kinds of gremlins plus one-year-only parts. And finally, it's a 2-seat 'Bird. Go look on Hemmings at the HUGE variety of cars available for not much more money in much better condition. You can probably buy one of the nicest '55 Thunderbirds around for less than twice the asking price of this one--can you make this one into a superior specimen for $15,000? Meh. With these cars, it always pays to just buy the nicest possible car you can find and let someone else take the MASSIVE hit to the wallet. It's not like there's a shortage of them...

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In my opinion this car would be a decent deal at that price if it were on the east coast. This is assuming the car is rust free, which it most likely is if it was sold in Arizona and then lived most of its life in San Diego. I bought my car from a west coast T-Bird seller and had it shipped east. Although it wasn't quite as rust free as I had hoped it was still in a lot better shape then most east coast cars you see. The biggest benefit is that the bolts underneath the car aren't all rusted, making it a whole lot easier to work on. If you want to see where most east coast T-Birds rust, pick up one of the online parts catalogs and look at the available patch panels. It will point you to the places to look for rust.

As for headroom, I have a bit of a funny experience with that. When I got my car I was about 6" 2.5" and fit into my car fine with the hardtop on (no soft top) with about 2 inches of headroom. The original seat foam was pretty soft and I sank down in the seat which helped with space. Then I replaced the seat foam and upholstery. The new seat foam was much firmer and I lost the 2 inches of headroom I had. Over the years I have lost about an inch of height and I guess the foam compressed some as it is now comfortable again.

As for getting into the car, it is a butt first and swing your legs around exercise. If you are an older guy like me but not too flexible then plan to drive it mostly with the top down.

I think Matt makes good points in his reply. The cockpit can get more than a little hot in the summer and that is the reason why Ford added the air vents in 1956. The 55s also have very little trunk space if you intend to tour with it. The 6 volt system can be a pain especially if the car is not tuned properly and has the wrong battery cables.

Lastly, note that the car does not have the soft top. A lot of the cars sold in Arizona and Southern California were hardtop only. I guess the buyers figured that they could drive their cars without a top for most of the year and only put the top on for the rainy season. Expect to spend upwards of $5K for an original restored top. There are replacement tops available at a lesser cost, but still not cheap.

Lew Bachman

1957 T-Bird Colonial White

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Thanks for saving me a trip to San Diego because I am am too tall.  I would have the top on in those 95 degree sunny southern California days !

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Not picking away at this car in any way shape or form. Just a comment contrary to certain beliefs about Califunny cars. Califunny has a few hundred miles of coastline, with most of the heavy population centers somewhere near it. Any area within about twenty to thirty miles of the actual coast, can be subject to severe rusting issues. My former brother in law had a 1949 Chevrolet pickup that had been in his family since new. Living in Eureka Califunny, the truck had less than sixty thousand actual original miles on it when he married my wife's sister in the early 1980s. Also, living in Eureka, and only a bit over thirty years old at the time, the truck was rusted out as bad as anything I have ever seen. Something really funny looking, was the optional chrome grill. The chrome was beautiful. But there was no steel left behind it!!!! It was all windblown and flimsy, like very thin chrome foil. Even the heavy steel pickup box was rusted through in many places. The fenders were so thin one could actually poke a finger through them in places.

As long as a vehicle spends most of its Califunny time at least thirty miles inland. They usually do great. Occasional drives to the beach are usually fine as well.

 

By the way, That car looks nice enough that even I could like it in spite of being so modern.

Edited by wayne sheldon
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Question since I dont follow these cars - is there no convertible "frame" no soft top if that hardtop is removed?  Just nothing? That would suck to take off the hardtop and get caught in a downpour. Certainly I am just reading this wrong but even the original ad says "hardtop only".  

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2 hours ago, B Jake Moran said:

Question since I dont follow these cars - is there no convertible "frame" no soft top if that hardtop is removed?  Just nothing? That would suck to take off the hardtop and get caught in a downpour. Certainly I am just reading this wrong but even the original ad says "hardtop only".  

 

That is correct. You could get a soft top OR a hard top at no charge, but both was extra. Surprisingly, many buyers opted just for the removable hardtop, either because they didn't expect to ever remove it or because they lived in a climate where rain was unlikely or infrequent and there wasn't much risk of getting caught without. Hardtop only cars just have an open storage space behind the seats where the convertible top would ordinarily stow. Personally, I can't think of a more miserable place to be than in a 1955 Thunderbird on a hot day with a hardtop in place. Unless you like saunas, I guess.

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5 hours ago, wayne sheldon said:

Not picking away at this car in any way shape or form. Just a comment contrary to certain beliefs about Califunny cars. Califunny has a few hundred miles of coastline, with most of the heavy population centers somewhere near it. Any area within about twenty to thirty miles of the actual coast, can be subject to severe rusting issues. My former brother in law had a 1949 Chevrolet pickup that had been in his family since new. Living in Eureka Califunny, the truck had less than sixty thousand actual original miles on it when he married my wife's sister in the early 1980s. Also, living in Eureka, and only a bit over thirty years old at the time, the truck was rusted out as bad as anything I have ever seen. Something really funny looking, was the optional chrome grill. The chrome was beautiful. But there was no steel left behind it!!!! It was all windblown and flimsy, like very thin chrome foil. Even the heavy steel pickup box was rusted through in many places. The fenders were so thin one could actually poke a finger through them in places.

As long as a vehicle spends most of its Califunny time at least thirty miles inland. They usually do great. Occasional drives to the beach are usually fine as well.

 

By the way, That car looks nice enough that even I could like it in spite of being so modern.

Absolutely agree, I lived in California for 50 years and beach cars showed rapid rust on the chrome. My Buick is an inland car built and lived in California for 75 years, but you can't expect that from all California cars. 

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5 hours ago, wayne sheldon said:

Not picking away at this car in any way shape or form. Just a comment contrary to certain beliefs about Califunny cars. Califunny has a few hundred miles of coastline, with most of the heavy population centers somewhere near it. Any area within about twenty to thirty miles of the actual coast, can be subject to severe rusting issues. My former brother in law had a 1949 Chevrolet pickup that had been in his family since new. Living in Eureka Califunny, the truck had less than sixty thousand actual original miles on it when he married my wife's sister in the early 1980s. Also, living in Eureka, and only a bit over thirty years old at the time, the truck was rusted out as bad as anything I have ever seen. Something really funny looking, was the optional chrome grill. The chrome was beautiful. But there was no steel left behind it!!!! It was all windblown and flimsy, like very thin chrome foil. Even the heavy steel pickup box was rusted through in many places. The fenders were so thin one could actually poke a finger through them in places.

As long as a vehicle spends most of its Califunny time at least thirty miles inland. They usually do great. Occasional drives to the beach are usually fine as well.

 

By the way, That car looks nice enough that even I could like it in spite of being so modern.

Your description of the truck sounds about right. The climate up there eats steel.

Eureka is inside California's border, but the similarity with most of the rest of the state ends there. More like the Oregon coast than LA. It's rainy, wet, and 55 degrees year-round. Head east a few miles, and the climate is hot and dry.

I think it's fair to say that California cars that haven't spent their life at the ocean shore have a pretty good chance of minimal rust damage.

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suchan, you are right.  Eueka is so far north it's almost Oregon.  I don't believe there's much comparison in climate there compared to SoCal.  While I have found a few cars over the years that spent much time in marina parking lots to have some salt air rust issues, that is the exception rather than the rule.  The warm dry climate here is mostly superb for vintage cars.  I bought my '38 Plymouth coupe a few years ago, after a lifetime here in the south.  The entire car disassembled easily including all the suspension nuts and bolts, like it had been built only a year previous.  Zero rust issues after 80 years.  I find this typical with most cars I buy here.

I'm happy to take a look at this T bird for anyone here who may be interested.

Cheers, Greg

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Eureka is extreme. I grew up in San Jose, a small mountain range and about 40 miles from Santa Cruz beach. No rust issues in San Jose. But we spent enough time in Santa Cruz, friends and family, to know of several with severe rust issues. I went to look at a 1920s Dodge that had spent most its life within ten miles of the ocean near Santa Cruz. Far and away one of the worst rusty vehicles I ever saw! (And it wasn't even fifty years old at that time!) Even around Eureka, go about ten more miles inland, not even fifteen miles from the ocean, a world of difference in the climate. Cutten, a little town barely South of Eureka, has a warmer climate and few rust issues (if one remains in Cutten most of the time). I am less familiar with any coastal areas much South of Monterey, but have heard a few stories.  Again, only Califunny cars that spent most of many years within a few miles from the ocean generally had significant rust issues. But every time I hear "California car --- NO RUST", alarms go off in my head. Millions of people live and/or work within five miles of the ocean. That means MOST Califunny cars will not have significant rust issues. But some will.

 

Still, I think that T-bird looks nice for what it is, and at the price. However, I would recommend someone look at it up close. As I would recommend with any car anywhere. But especially when I hear "San Diego". Just because it is right next to the ocean.

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Hmmm?

Santa Cruz is still NorCal.  Pretty wet winters up there.  500 miles north of San Diego. 

I still don't see a correlation between the Bay Area weather and southern California weather. Maybe I've just been extremely lucky with all the cars I've owned. 😄

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