Marketed as a “Personal Car,” and not a hard-edged sports car, Thunderbird offered V-8 power, a choice of 3-speed automatic or manual transmissions, a more comfortable ride, and a more luxurious interior than the Corvette, with its “Blue Flame Six” and two-speed “Powerglide” automatic, and also the civilized feature of roll-up windows, rather than the Corvette’s side curtains, something that not only the Chevy, but Jaguars, MGs and Ferraris would quickly adopt, as customers demanded more comfort even in “sporting” cars.
In 1955, the T-Bird outsold the ‘Vette 20:1.
This 1956 Thunderbird has both tops. The folding soft top was actually a $150 option. The fiberglass hard top was standard; the “portholes” were an option. Those little windows were an iconic touch, and they actually do improve rear quarter visibility. Plus, they made Susan Sommers an icon herself, in “American Graffiti.” The “Continental Spare” was a functional reaction to consumer complaints about limited trunk space, and helped associate the Thunderbird with the Continental Mark II.
My car is finished in “Thunderbird Gray,” which I believe was the first metallic paint used by Ford in a series production car, offered only late in model year 1956.
Originally sold in St Louis, MO, the car was registered to owners in New York and central Florida, before winding up in Palm Beach, where I purchased it in 1993
The first and only car that Marilyn Monroe ever owned was a 1956 Ford Thunderbird. Other celebrity owners included Annette Funicello, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, James Whitmore, Kris Jenner, and even Madonna