You still see two-seat 1956 Ford Thunderbirds on the boulevards of Beverly Hills, which is only fitting. Ford might have been inspired by European sports cars, but the Thunderbird ended up an all-American boulevardier convertible designed for comfort and smooth, powerful straightline performance. That the "Little Birds" were also uncommonly handsome only hastened their climb to "instant classic" status, one reason so many survive today.

1956 ford thunderbird
The 1956 Ford Thunderbird was an instant classic, and remains so to this day.
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A sturdy steel body and amenities like roll-up windows were other appealing T-Bird virtues. As proof, the debut '55 outpolled Chevrolet's fiberglass Corvette by 23 to 1 at 16,155 units. The '56 slipped to 15,631, but that was hardly bad for a specialty car in a "fall-back" sales year.

1956 ford thunderbird
The 1956 Ford Thunderbird offered up to 225 horsepower with its V-8 engine.

The '56 T-Bird was much like the '55, but a standard "continental" spare tire opened up needed trunk space, front-fender ventilator doors enhanced cockpit comfort, and the available lift-off hardtop gained distinctive "porthole" windows that helped visibility. Typical of the time, the '56 also offered more power, courtesy of a new 312-cubic-inch V-8 packing 215 horsepower with optional stick-overdrive or 225 with self-shift Fordomatic. The previous year's 292 continued with the standard three-speed manual, but was upped to 202 bhp. Handling took a step backward, as springs and shocks were softened, but buyers loved the resulting smoother ride.

1956 ford thunderbird
The 1956 Ford Thunderbird's sleek styling has kept it popular even to this day.

A deft restyle and even more power lifted sales to 21,380 for 1957, but any two-seat T-Bird is a car for the ages. Just ask those happy owners in Beverly Hills.

For more classic convertibles of the 1950s, see:

1950 Oldsmobile 88

1955 Cadillac Series 62

1957 Lincoln Premiere

1951 Chrysler New Yorker

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Oldsmobile Super 88

1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

1955 Mercury Montclair

1958 Continental Mark III

1951 Rambler Custom Landau

1956 Lincoln Premiere

1958 Edsel Citation

1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta

1956 Packard Caribbean

1959 Cadillac Series 62

1954 Hudson Hornet Brougham

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1959 Dodge Custom Royal

1954 Packard Caribbean

1957 Chrysler New Yorker

1959 Ford Thunderbird

1955 Buick Century

1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner

1959 Pontiac Bonneville

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