HomePick of the DayBlack survivor 1959 Ford Thunderbird

Black survivor 1959 Ford Thunderbird


Ford took a calculated risk when it transformed the two-seat Ford Thunderbird roadster into a four-seater, arguably the first “personal-luxury car.” Ford brass feared that the ’55-57 T’bird was a niche product whose sales would falter, and the plan was to broaden its appeal.

The immediate rewards were terrific, with sales soaring as the bigger 1958 cars hit the showrooms. These were the so-called square birds, which described the ’58-60 styling before they became more like four-wheeled missiles in 1961, and continued to roll out to new owners in the 10s of thousands.

Black survivor 1959 Ford Thunderbird | ClassicCars.com Journal
The broad, sculpted rear is highlighted by large, circular taillights

But something was lost, too, if you consider the enduring success of Thunderbird’s arch rival, Chevrolet Corvette, which has stayed the course as a popular sports car long after the Ford became irrelevant. Maybe if the Thunderbird two-seater was kept, it would have enjoyed such success as well. Who knows?

The Pick of the Day is from the second year of the square birds, a 1959 Ford Thunderbird coupe in the very desirable color combination of black body and red interior, which nicely sets off the luscious design. Looks kind of like a Batmobile, too.

This ‘Bird is also a remarkable survivor in original condition with just 28,500 miles on its odometer. The Arlington, Texas, dealer advertising the Ford on ClassicCars.com for its Seattle owner goes into great detail regarding what was done to get the car back on the road again after a long slumber.

Black survivor 1959 Ford Thunderbird | ClassicCars.com Journal
Styling is hihglighted by a distinctive squared-off roofline

“This is an exceptional car for a Thunderbird enthusiast that is looking to do minimal work to have a show-winning car that is also a pleasure to drive,” the ad says. “It runs and rides like an absolute dream.

“The engine is the original 352cid V8 that pulls 300 horsepower with a 4-barrel carburetor coupled to a Cruise-O-Matic transmission with 3:10 gearing. The car has had the water pump replaced, the radiator re-cored, bypass hose replaced, water control valve replaced, custom fit new spark plug wires, points and condenser replaced, ignition timing adjusted and the battery compartment and soldering redone with new cables.

Black survivor 1959 Ford Thunderbird | ClassicCars.com Journal
The red interior is mostly original with some repair work done

“The entire brake system has also been gone through and overhauled, including repacking the front wheel bearings and replacing the seals. The suspension is all stock with the exception of the upper and lower control-arm bushings, idler arm and sway bar components being replaced. The front end has also been aligned.”

The rust-free body remains in good shape with glossy paint and decent trim, the dealer says. The seats have all-original leather with new foam padding and a replacement dashboard panel and pad. Everything works as it should, the dealer adds, with the exception of the electric clock. The sale includes the original owner’s manual and registration.

The asking price of $17,900 seems fair enough for such a well-preserved relic that can be driven and enjoyed immediately, or brought up to the next level as a pristine show car.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. My Grandfather, Herbert Schneider was the original hot rod sleeper family car guy. Formerly a Buick Century man from 1949 to 1956, in 1959 Gramps bought a appliance white T Bird from Midway Ford in Los Angeles. It got the optional 430 Lincoln engine in it as a factory option. While putting out about the same horsepower as the 4 barrel 352, the torque was up there around 450 foot pounds, and made the otherwise sedate Bird fly! Black leather interior and electric windows completed the package. We lived in Silverlake, where old time racer "Doc" McHenry lived, in his mansion Bella Vista, along with his Allard J2X. One time Grandpa and I were in the mighty T Bird stopped at the intersection of West Silverlake Boulevard and Monon Street. All of a sudden a noisy black and red Allard pulled up on the inside of us, where West Silverlake Blvd. went from two lanes to one. Obviously Doc though it was an easy win, until my Grandpa power braked the T Bird, and when the light changed, shot out of the intersection before the Allard even got it into gear. Herbert bought a new car every ten years, and in 1968 traded the T-Bird in on a vedoro green Pontiac GTO with the 366 horse engine, his and hers Hurst shifter, 10 bolt Detroit locker diffy, and the handling package. What it didn’t get was disc brakes, which made it stop like a ’55 Buick with the trunk full of lead weights. Still love that T Bird, and it looked almost alive with that awesome front grill, and those big eyebrows. I get another one someday…


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