Motor City

30 July 2016

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Lot 172

1955 Ford Thunderbird

  • Chassis no. P5FH202817

Sold for $35,750


198 bhp, 292 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine with single four-barrel carburetor, three-speed Ford-O-Matic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live axle rear suspension with leaf springs, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102 in.

  • Formerly of the renowned Lingenfelter Collection
  • Nicely optioned and attractively presented
  • An American automotive icon


In the early 1950s, a small team of designers at Ford Motor Company, headed by Franklin Q. Hershey, was given the green light to move forward with a bold new design. By the spring of 1952, the group became keenly aware that General Motors was designing a two-seat sports car of its own. The Chevrolet Corvette beat Ford to the punch when GM introduced it at the Waldorf Astoria’s Motorama in January 1953. Not until one year later, at the 20 February 1954 Detroit Auto Show, was Ford’s new entry introduced. It was called Thunderbird, and it was a “personal luxury car,” establishing a new market segment and spawning many competitors.

The first production car rolled off the line on 9 September 1954, and when enough cars were produced, Ford introduced the car to the public on 22 October. Dealers reportedly received 4,000 deposits, prompting the company to revise its sales estimates upward. Standard features were power steering, brakes, and windows; a four-way seat; and an available radio, heater, and choice of a three-speed manual or Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission. With a gutsy 292-cubic inch V-8 under the hood, the power to effortlessly cruise the new interstates of America was instantly available.

As a result of its clean styling, creature comforts, and V-8 engine, the Thunderbird triumphed over the early Corvette’s novel fiberglass construction, anemic six-cylinder engine, and sports car austerity. The Thunderbird trounced the Corvette in its first year of production, with 16,155 total units to the Corvette’s 700.

The charismatic 1955 T-Bird shown here was formerly part of the well-known John Lingenfelter Collection of performance automobiles here in the Detroit area. Reportedly a longtime Florida car, it displays a glossy Raven Black finish, accented by a black soft-top and removable hardtop, black and white leather upholstery, black carpeting, and an attractive engine-turned dashboard and door panel inserts. The interior is optioned with a power-operated seat, an AM radio, a heater, and a clock, while the headlights are crowned by Mercury trim rings, adding an additional bit of flash to the nose, and the engine is fitted with the optional chrome “dress-up kit.” Intended to be driven reliably, the car has been upgraded to a 12-volt electrical system, with recent mechanical maintenance and a full professional detailing; the owner reports that it runs and drives well. The car is offered with a jack and full-size spare.

Similar to the Jaguar E-Type, Porsche 911, and even the Corvette, the first-generation Thunderbird is a car that no collection, regardless of its scope, should be without. It is more than an automobile; it is an American icon. This well-presented example will allow a new owner to experience what that is all about!

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