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In the Garage: 1957 Ford Thunderbird
THE CAR AND ITS OWNERS
1957 Ford Thunderbird owned by Joseph P. and Arlene Nolan
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
When the two-seat Thunderbird debuted in 1955, it outsold its direct competitor – the Chevrolet Corvette – by a ratio of 23 to 1 and continued to be a hit right through the ’57 model year. Yet while Chevrolet stuck with its dual-passenger sports car and turned it into a top-selling icon that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, Ford switched gears in 1958 and morphed the T-Bird into a less popular four-seat coupe, a decision that enthusiasts lament even today.
When the company tried to revive the two-seater from 2002 to 2005, it was met with a tepid response and, if anything, reinforced collector interest in the first-generation cars. While many have been preserved, few can match the quality of the Nolans’ multiple award-winner. “Although a high number remain,” Joseph Nolan says, “few are as meticulously restored as this one and, in factory ‘Triple Flame Red,’ its appearance is striking and – as the license plate reads – ‘timeless.’”
HOW LONG THEY’VE OWNED IT
WHERE THEY FOUND IT
They bought it from a Rhode Island owner. The convertible had been purchased new in Far Rockaway.
“This is a Number 1 (top condition) frame-off restoration, which addressed every major and minute element of the original manufacturing process,” Nolan says. “I specified precisely what I wanted, made all acquisitions, conducted all research and directed one major restorer and numerous subcontractors. I maintain it with help from excellent local specialists. While the undercarriage is as flawlessly detailed as every element of the car's exterior and interior, it is thoroughly sorted out for well-mannered driving, including electrical, front disc brakes, suspension enhancements and wide whitewall radial tires. Everything works, including updated music, clock and seatbelts.”
TIPS FOR OWNERS
“If you want a perfectly restored car at a reasonable price, seek out a certified concours car or buy one from (specialists) Marvin Hill or Amos Minter,” he advises. “Chasing a lesser car with your checkbook wastes time and money.”
Nolan estimates the value between $75,000 and $90,000.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“Low-mileage cars, such as this 44,000-mile car originally purchased with under 34,000 miles, have been carefully maintained,” he says. “I am only the third owner. All original sheet metal is a perfect starting point for a great restoration, as everything else must still be rebuilt or replaced. Although purchased in Far Rockaway, the car was immediately transported to Florida, where mild winters and unsalted highways contribute to longevity.”