April 18, 2024

Classic Wheels Spotlight: 1956 Ford Thunderbird

Meet Steve Stevens & his 1956 T-Bird

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1956 Ford Thunderbird Side

Steve Stevens is the proud owner of a gorgeous 1956 Ford Thunderbird Roadster featuring the highly sought-after Continental package. The distinctive Sage Green (a.k.a. Thunderbird Green) color is only equaled in beauty by the sleek lines and signature proportions of the Ford icon.

Only 15,631 Thunderbirds were produced in 1956, which has only fueled the desirability of this particular T-bird. Not all of them were created equal and Steve’s Continental package elevates his ride to the very highest level of collectability.

According to Steve, 68, it was his uncle who first introduced him to collectible cars. " My Uncle Louie was a Pontiac man. He was not really a gearhead, but he would come over for Sunday dinner and I always washed his car during his visits,” recalls Steve. “I went once to Raceway Park in Blue Island with him.”

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1956 Ford Thunderbird Rear

Thunderbird Evolution

Ford’s Thunderbird entered the American car market in October 1954. There have been 11 generations of T-birds produced on and off from 1955 to 1997. The last generation was offered from 2001-2005 as a retro homage to the most iconic version, the two-door roadster.

When the 1956 Thunderbird came out it was a fashionable reflection of a growing segment called personal luxury. While it shared its sexy styling cues with many Fords of the fifties, the Thunderbird was lower, longer, and sleeker to give it a much more of luxurious feel. Based on the initial sales of the 1956 Thunderbird – it worked.

Removable Hardtop

As a roadster, Steve’s ‘56 T-bird came with a Colonial White hard top. While the removable hard top is made of fiberglass, Steve says it weighs 110 pounds and requires two people to move it. The car had a soft top option which was available in white and black.

Steve says his hard top is original, though the inside headliner was redone. His convertible soft top was also redone. “The original invoice showed my car came with only the Tonneau cover,” he says. “From the original invoice, I traced the car from Dearborn Michigan to L. B. Smith Ford dealership in Lackawanna, New York, aka Buffalo.”

This 1956 Ford Thunderbird Roadster Continental Package was distinct for the unique paint hues, as well as the rear-mounted spare wheel that increases trunk space. Completing the upscale aesthetics are chromed Ford hubcaps and classic whitewall tires.

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1956 Ford Thunderbird Interior

The cabin of the Thunderbird will only accommodate two, but it is a luxurious experience. The Sage Green of the exterior moves beautifully inside where it colors the seats, carpet, dash, and three-spoke chrome-ringed steering wheel. On the dash, a tachometer sits to the left of the speedometer, and the corresponding space on the right is occupied by the clock.

Steve has owned his Thunderbird since 2016. He had always loved the style of the 1956 T-bird and when he ran across the car listed in an advertisement, he made the move to become the owner. While he has not made many changes since he acquired it, replacing the oil pan and alternator, he is proud to say, “You can eat off the engine, it’s super clean!”

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1956 Ford Thunderbird Radio

The first-generation Thunderbird had two V8 options and Steve’s 1956 Ford Thunderbird Roadster Continental Package has the larger 312ci (5.1-liter) Y-block V8. This rear-wheel-drive two-seater has a 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive. The engine is capable of generating 210 horsepower, which is enough for a top speed of more than 100 mph.

Steve says it’s the Continental package that he really enjoys most about his car. He especially likes the unique exterior spare tire situated along the rear bumper. He says he does not carry a full-size spare in the distinct space, allowing a donut tire in the trunk with a hydraulic jack to suffice.

“My car has been in several car shows that have won first-place awards. The crown jewel is the Concours d’ Elegance Trophy from the Geneva, Illinois, car show,” he says. “The car has also been in numerous Thunderbird magazines.”

If you have a car you would like to see featured in Classic Wheels, contact Rudy Host, Jr. at Classic.Wheels.Rudy@gmail.com.