Lot 107

Motor City 2014

1955 Ford Thunderbird


$38,500 USD | Sold

United States | Plymouth, Michigan



Chassis No.
  • Offered from a prominent private collection
  • The purest original form of an American icon
  • An original Torch Red car
  • Numerous desirable options

198 bhp, 292 cu. in. overhead-valve V-8 engine, three-speed Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission, independent front suspension, solid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and front disc and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102 in.

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 February 20, 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 September 9, 1954, and when enough cars were produced, Ford introduced the car to the public on October 22. Dealers reportedly received 4,000 deposits, prompting the company to revise its sales estimates upward. Standard features were power steering, brakes, and windows and a four-way seat, as well as 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.

Decoding the chassis number of this 1955 model reveals it to have been built in Dearborn on February 13th, where it was finished in paint code R, or Torch Red. Numerous Thunderbirds have been restored in this iconic color, but to find one that was originally finished in Torch Red is rare indeed.

The car was previously owned for many years by a well-known Thunderbird enthusiast from New Jersey, Ralph Voorhees, whose stable it shared with numerous award-winning cars. This particular Thunderbird received a total rotisserie restoration to concours standards, and it earned AACA Senior and Grand National First Place awards. Its paint and interior remain in excellent condition, and the engine bay and undercarriage are still well detailed. In addition, the Thunderbird is equipped with numerous desirable options and accessories, including both hard and soft tops, a Ford-O-Matic transmission, power steering, a chrome engine “dress-up kit,” a power driver’s seat, backup lights, and wire basket wheel covers.

This Thunderbird is offered today from the private collection of a well-known enthusiast, and it is a wonderful example that no garage is complete without.