Blue Bird: 1959 Ford Thunderbird Convertible – SOLD!

by | Jul 2021 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Topless Thursday

August 4, 2021 Update – we confirmed the seller of this convertible Square Bird “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

Despite widespread complaints at the time in 1958, when Ford turned the second generation Thunderbird into a four-seat car the sale numbers spoke for themselves. With sales totaling near 200,000 units over three model years between 1958 and 1960, Ford sold approximately four times as many Square Birds as the original Baby Birds.  Ironically, unitized construction and a propensity to rust make finding a Square Bird today a must harder quest, so we jumped at the opportunity to feature this blue-and-white 1959 Thunderbird Convertible originally listed in July 2021 on Craigslist in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin (Milwaukee) with an asking price of $20,900. Comparing that price against the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms the private seller has their Square Bird priced between this guide’s #4 “Fair” (Daily Driver) estimate of $16,100 and its #3 “Good” appraisal of $24,700.  As a second data point, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s asking price exactly at this guide’s #3 “Good” estimate of $20,900.

Although Ford’s original 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird outsold Chevrolet’s Corvette, Ford executives, particularly Robert McNamara, still felt its overall sales volume had room to improve. Market research suggested sales of the Thunderbird were limited by its two-seat configuration, making it unsuitable for families. As a result, Ford executives decided to add a rear seat to the Thunderbird.

The new Thunderbird had a distinct new styling theme. The design was driven entirely by the styling department and approved before the engineering was considered. The design was one of two proposals, styled primarily by Joe Oros, who later worked on the 1964 Ford Mustang. However, the losing proposal, styled by Elwood Engel, would gain its own place in Ford Motor Company history: after minor revisions, it would become the 1961 Lincoln Continental.

The four-seat Thunderbird was designed with unibody construction, eschewing a separate chassis. The intent was to allow the maximum interior space in a relatively small exterior package. The 1958 Thunderbird was only 52.5 inches tall, nearly 9 inches shorter than an average American sedan; the Thunderbird had only 5.8 inches of ground clearance. Ford incorporated the higher drivetrain tunnel that was required in a lower car into a center console dividing both front and rear seats which featured ashtrays, switches, and minor controls.

The remainder of the engineering was conventional, with Ford’s new 300-hp 352 cu in (5.8 L) FE-series V8 coupled to a three-speed manual transmission, with overdrive or Cruise-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission optional. Front suspension was independent, with coil springs and unequal-length A-arms. The rear was initially a live axle suspended by trailing arms and coil springs, which were intended to be interchangeable with optional air springs that were canceled before production. This was changed to a more conventional leaf spring suspension in the 1959 model year. Drum brakes were used on all four wheels.

For the 1959 model year, Ford made changes to the front, rear, and side ornamentation; leather upholstery was available for the first time. The rear suspension was revised, discarding coil springs for Hotchkiss drive with parallel leaf springs. A new V8 engine, the 345-hp 430 cu in (7.0 L) MEL-series, was available in small numbers. Sales almost doubled again, to 67,456 units, including 10,261 convertibles. Thunderbird advertising in 1959 targeted women in particular, showing glamorous models in country clubs and other exclusive settings, and the sales figures bore out Ford’s marketing plans.

We came across this vintage 1959 Ford Thunderbird commercial posted on YouTube:

Second-generation Square Bird convertibles are very rare to come by these days and even harder to find in a color combination like this.  While we’re not big fans of continental kits, we have to admit the one on this T-Bird is compact enough that it works.

Here’s the seller’s brief description:

“No rust. Runs and drives great. New top motor, tires. Very solid and in great condition. Great collector piece.  Will not see these at the shows.

Show or go: what would you do with this Blue Square Bird convertible?  Comment below and let us know!


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