1956 Ford Thunderbird (Ford)
Chassis no. P6FH179057
- It has been the private car of the Innocenti family: the entrepreneurs who helped to put Italy on the wheels, with the Lambretta first and with the Innocenti cars, later.
- Eligible to the Mille Miglia, a 1955 model raced the 1957 Mille Miglia.
- New Milan original plates.
- Car imported to Italy brand new: speedometer in km.
- Optional 312 c.i. engine, with manual transmission (215 hp).
Ford Thunderbird (colloquially, T-Bird) is a nameplate used by Ford for the model produced between 1955 and 1997 and 2002 and 2005 over eleven generations. The first generation of the Thunderbird was a two-seat convertible produced by Ford in between 1955 and 1957, the first 2-seat Ford since 1938. It was developed in response to the 1953 Motorama display at the New York Auto Show, which revealed to the public the Chevrolet Corvette. The Corvette, in turn, had been developed in response to the popularity of European sports cars among Americans. Considered a "personal car" by Ford and built upon the heritage of the bespoke roadsters of the 1930s, it was made largely with existing components, marking the first step towards the evolution of the “personal luxury car” as a mass market segment in the United States, a car classification for American luxury coupés and convertibles produced from 1952 to 2007. These cars priorities were comfort, styling and a high-level interior feature. Unlike the Corvette, it was not marketed as a sports car: Ford positioned the Thunderbird as an upscale model. Though sharing some design characteristics with other Ford cars of the time, such as single, circular headlamps and tail lamps and modest tailfins, the Thunderbird was slender and sportier in its shape, and presented features like a hood scoop and a 150 mph (240 km/h) speedometer hinting a higher performance then other Ford cars. It was light-weight for its era and fitted with a standard V8 engine, but the Thunderbird focused more on driver comfort than speed and was not a direct rival to either the Corvette or other European sports cars. It remained the only two-seater Thunderbird until the eleventh-generation in 2002. Ford unveiled the Thunderbird at the Detroit Auto Show on February 20, 1954. The first production car went on sale on October 22, 1954, as a 1955 model. 3.500 orders were placed in the first ten days. While only 10.000 exemplars were planned, the Thunderbird sold exceptionally well in its first year. The Thunderbird outsold the Corvette by more than 23-to-one for 1955. 16.155 Thunderbirds were sold versus a sale of only 700 Corvettes. The engine was the proven OHV 292 cubic-inch (4.8L) Y-block V8 from Ford's Mercury division. The car used existing design and off-the-shelf Ford mechanical components. It was constructed body-on-frame using a version of the standard Ford frame, cut-down to a 102-inch wheelbase identical the Corvette's. It was produced with a Fordomatic automatic or manual overdrive transmissions. Unique features were a telescoping steering wheel and a speedometer. The car could hit 180–190 km/h.In 1956, the spare wheel was moved outside to a Continental-style rear bumper. To improve visibility with the hardtop in place, a hardtop with "porthole" windows was available at no additional cost. An optional 312 cu in (5.1 L) Y-block V8 was added. In 1957, the front bumper was reshaped and the grille, tailfins and taillights were enlarged. The spare wheel moved back inside, and the instrument panel was restyled. The 312 ci became the standard engine. A substantial redesign was planned in 1958 with the addition of a rear seat. However, that is another story. While the Thunderbird was more a “luxury” than “sports” car, it was nonetheless used to run races. The car has competed mainly in the US, at the Sebring 12 Hours and Watkins Glen Grand Prix, among others. There is also a surprising story of the T-Bird at the Mille Miglia. In 1955, the famous racing driver Alfonso de Portago was entered for the race but, at last, he did not attend. In 1957, Francois Smadsa and Anna Raselli, a French-Italian team brought a Ford Thunderbird to the Mille Miglia. The car, at high speed, was not very suitable on the twisting Italian roads, since it had a fairly “soft” handling. It was slightly banged up, indeed, but it finished the race ranking 137th.
Thunderbird, chassis no. 340601901, was built in 1956 and is the first-generation T-bird. It was newly registered in Italy on March 16th, 1956. From the documents, it appears that the next day the car was registered to the "Innocenti, Società Generale per L'Industria Meccanica e Metallurgica". Innocenti was one of the most famous Italian mechanical companies, founded in Milan in 1933 by the entrepreneur Ferdinando Innocenti. The turning point for the company, from small business to mechanical constructions, came with the patent of Tubo Innocenti, scaffolding joints that are still in use today. The successes of Innocenti was concentrated in the years of the Lambretta, a great competitor of the most successful scooter of the time, the Vespa, and in the automobile production with the Mini, built on British Leyland license. Chassis no. 340601901 was registered in the name of the company itself. Based on the testimonies and the nature of the car, it is believed that the car was intended for the personal use of Luigi Innocenti. Son of Ferdinando, he had a degree in engineering obtained in 1948, entering the family business as a technician and a member of the Board of Directors in 1949. In 1958 he assumed the position of Vice President. He became President when his father died in 1966, and remained in this position until 1971 when he decided to sell the company. The Ford Thunderbird was therefore used mainly for cruising and arrived today with its original plates MI299966. The car is painted in the original turquoise colour, specific for 1956, the "L - Peacock Blue (11415)” and has interiors in two-tone “Dark Peacock – White (XC)” vinyl. In 1956, the Thunderbirds left the factory painted in a single colour or with a hardtop in a contrasting colour. Often the cars finished in a single colour had the hardtop repainted in white by the dealers before delivery, on customers’ request. It is the case of the chassis no. 340601901, that left the Dearborn factory on December 14, 1955, with a hardtop in the same colour and without the "portholes". Intended for export, with the speedometer in km, it was equipped with the optional 312 c.i. for 215 hp, with a manual gearbox. The car is in good conditions; only the sunroof needs restoration. Excellently preserved, the mechanics were subject to maintenance and fine-tuning. Currently, it is equipped with a new, aftermarket, Edelbrock four-barrel carburettor.
State of the Art: Well preserved, in good conditions. Soft top to be restored.
- Ray Miller, Glenn Embree, Thunderbird! An Illustrated History of the Ford T-Bird, The Evergreen Press, USA 1973
- Brian Long, The book of the FORD THUNDERBIRD from 1954, Veloce Publishing, UK 2007
Certifications and Statements
Registration and Italian license plates in order and updated.
- Mille Miglia. Eligible: 1955 model raced the 1957 Mille Miglia.
- Giro di Sicilia. Eligible.
- Targa Florio. Eligible.
- Goodwood Revival. Eligible
- Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti. Eligible.
- Vernasca Silver Flag. Eligible.
- California Mille: Eligible.
- Nürburgring Classic. Eligible.
- Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Eligible. Class C-1: American Classic Open.
- Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Eligible.
- Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille. Eligible.
- Concorso d’eleganza Villa D’Este. Eligible. This year there is the category “Una nuova Epoca: I’Era del Rock ’n’ Roll”.