Ford Thunderbird

Two days sashaying round LA in a raven black ’57 T-Bird was one of my highpoints of our first series.

And we chose the ’57 because it’s the best T-Bird of all. Designed as a ‘personal car’ by Ford to take on Chevrolet’s Corvette and all those Jaguars and MGs imported by the boatload from Britain in the 50s, it was one of Ford’s coolest post-war designs. But the thing about the ’57 is it was the most refined of the two-seater Birds with options like power hood, brakes and steering, electric windows and even a radio that increased its volume the faster you drove. There are also dinky little fins at the rear, exhausts that protrude from the chrome bumpers and willing V8s coupled to 3-speed manual and auto gearboxes.

The ’57 is a lazy and soft riding cruiser that’s easy to love for its surprising levels of refinement and good looks. Go for the biggest V8 (a 312 cubic inch) or rare supercharged version and it’s a quick straight-line classic that even managed to record 146 mph at the 1957 Daytona Speed Week. The auto is the nicest driver but the rare manuals are getting quite collectable. And remember that handsome hardtop s removable so it’s a snug coupe in winter and a swish ragtop in summer. The best news is that prices haven’t gone nuts. You can still buy an older restoration T-Bird here in the UK for less than £30,000 and they’re even cheaper in the US. This is one of the few American classics that, like the Mustang, work well on British roads because of its compact dimensions. And they’re such a rare and exclusive ride that I’m always surprised what good value they still are.

And when you think that it would take £70,000 to restore one from the ground up, the prices of already fettled T-Birds really do look compellingly reasonable. If you’re importing from the US where there’s a huge supply of fine cars available you only have to pay 5% import duty because they’re over 30 years old. Add around £1,500 shipping and the cost of bringing a classic T-Bird to the UK isn’t expensive either. So if my trips along Sunset Boulevard in that black drop top have inspired you – take it from me I enjoyed every mile and our car was totally and utterly reliable throughout the grueling shoot. The ’57 T-Bird is that rare thing these days, a swoopy old roadster that’s seriously undervalued and one that was driven round Hollywood by Elvis, Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Truly legendary classic credentials don’t come any better than that.



Car Body: Steel two-seater roadster with hardtop
Production Date: 1957 (21,000 built)


Displacement: 292/312 cu ins V8
Maximum Power: 202/225 bhp


Top Speed: 120 mph
Acceleration: 0-60mph 9.7/8.5 secs