LIMA — “I was six years old when I saw my first Thunderbird in a showroom in Mendon. Ever since that point, I always said I wanted a 1955, 1956 or a 1957 Thunderbird,” said Clyde Rauch, of Lima. He had ridden in one a long time ago when he was a teenager, but had never driven one … until now.
The Ford Thunderbird was marketed as a “personal luxury car,” not a sports car. It was in direct competition with Chevy’s Corvette. The first model year for the Ford Thunderbird occurred in 1955. Ford officials had hoped to build 10,000 Thunderbirds for 1955. The final tally read 16,155. After a slight drop to 15,631 in 1956, the T-bird production increased to 21, 380 for the 1957 model year.
The 1955 through 1957 Ford Thunderbird has been a collector car almost since its introduction. Many auto enthusiasts consider the two-seat 1955 to 1957 Thunderbirds to be the best-looking Thunderbirds ever made, if not one of the best-looking cars ever made.
The car got the attention of Hollywood, as it has starred in many movies in its day. As a matter of fact, it was the movies that taught people the proper way to enter a Thunderbird: don’t open the door, you jump over it and slide down into the car. And, the top is always down.
“I have been shopping for a Thunderbird for the last two years now. I was attending the auction in Scottsdale, AZ. This was a late entry, and I stumbled onto it by accident,” Rauch said. “I told my buddy beside me that he had to stop me from bidding if the bidding got too high,” he added.
Rauch did not have time to alert his wife that he found his Thunderbird. She was surprised when she found out.
“She said, you bought what?” Rauch laughingly said.
Luckily, he has a three car garage, so he had room for his T-Bird.
Rauch’s 1957 Ford Thunderbird is spotless and unique.
“The car is special. There were only seven of these T-birds produced in this color, Canyon Gold. The color is actually a 1958 T-bird color. They did a test run on seven T-birds,” Rauch explained, and he has the first one ever produced with this color which is evidenced by the vehicle identification number.
His car was completely restored. It was converted from a factory three speed manual transmission to an automatic. The person who restored the car told Rauch that you get more money out of an automatic than a manual transmission. Rauch said someday he may convert it back to the three speed manual transmission.
The cars engine is an E-code Special 8V, which means it has dual Holley four-barrels, 270hp at 4,800 rpm and 332-lbs.ft. of torque at 2,300 rpm; which translates to the fact that the car goes fast.
Rauch is no stranger to fast cars, as he had a Boss 351 Mustang that he hot-rodded when he was younger.
“I had it going down the quarter mile at 12.6 seconds,” he recalled.
He has other plans for his ‘57 Ford T-bird though.
“It won’t be a daily driver, but I will drive it,” he said.
Ford’s brochure for the 1957 T-bird read, “… there’s that happy band of extroverts who just get a whale of a lot of fun out of a Thunderbird. To them it’s a daily holiday, a pick-me-up that never lets you down. It’s a full expression of their love of life and the chance to live the life they love.”
With Rauch’s retirement from Tuttle Construction on June 13th of this year, he will have more time to drive his “pick-me-up that never lets him down.”