Eternal Idol

*This is a translation done by a machine.

American Graffiti, produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by a newcomer named George Walton Lucas, depicts a night of green '60 teenagers at Mel's Drive-In with rock music (set in Modesta, California, but actually filmed on location in Petaluma, California).

Japanese youths were immediately enthralled by the pure and affluent lives of American youths in this masterpiece representing America in the 70's. Especially the scene where main character Kurt, played by Richard Dreyfuss, falls in love at first sight with a beautiful blonde woman in a white Thunderbird, and the sad afterimage of the ending of the movie attracted many car lovers.

Speaking of the Ford Thunderbird, it had another deep connection to the movie industry. Just before the death of Marilyn Monroe, she also owned a black Thunderbird.

Interestingly, all of these Thunderbird are 1956 years old. Therefore, there may be a tendency in Japan that this year's Thunderbird is the most preferred.

However, the first Ford Thunderbird were only produced for three years from 1955. When GM first entered the sports car market that American cars didn't have at the time with a Chevrolet Corvette (C1), the market reaction was unexpectedly slow, and rival Ford sought to compete with a specialty car rather than a pure sports car, albeit a two-seater. It can be said that Thunderbird was developed by taking Corvette's strategy in the opposite direction.

Despite the fact that Corvette struggled with FRP body panels, a material for the new generation, and growing dissatisfaction with its 6-cylinder engine, Thunderbird, a compact convertible with a familiar steel body and 292 cu: in (about 4.8 liters) V8 engine, was very popular. Not only the sporty style, but also the various comfortable equipment was a factor of popularity.

The following year in 1956, it was already minor changed. In addition to the 312 cu: in (5.2 liters) engine as an option, the hard roof features a "port hole" specification to ensure a field of view behind the car, and the 1956 model features a "Continental" style where the spare tire is placed at the back of the body to increase the trunk space.

The 1957 model evolved into a more high performance model with a more gorgeous face, visibly longer tail fins, and the addition of a high-powered version with a supercharger (which was quite rare). The rear spare tire was put back into the trunk again.

Production was 16155 for 1955 model, 15631 for 1956 model, and 21380 for 1957 model, for a total of 53166 units, a double-digit difference from the C1 Corvette.

After this, Thunderbird was changed to four-seater to enter the larger market. Especially in the mid-1960s, the Mustang took over the personal specialty and the Thunderbird was transformed into a large four-seat luxury car. It is said that it was an evolution with strong awareness of the family.

Therefore, American enthusiasts call the first generation, the only one with a compact body, "Smallbirds", or "Classicbirds" in honor of the glory of the first generation. In Japan, the nickname "Baby Thunder" seems to be preferred.

Jun Nishikawa's Highlights!

Introducing the 1956 Ford Thunderbird, the longing for the Japanese and the smallbirds.

The current owner is a hobbyist who loves to ride cars and motorcycles, old and new, and if he likes it, he'll buy and ride anything he can find. Whether it's an American car, an English car, an Italian car, or a French car, if he feels like riding it, he does it. He is not a so-called "collector". He enjoy riding the cars and motorcycles buy. For decades, he have lived a dream lifestyle where he take every possible care of His favorite cars and bikes so that he can enjoy them to the fullest, and then change them after two or three years.

He and this Thunderbird met about 3 years ago. He saw this car in a classic car shop he was familiar with and fell in love with it at first sight. Of course, there was an afterimage of the movie 'American graffiti' and he thought, "I want to ride it!".

When you want to ride a car on a sunny day, it always leaves the garage smoothly. The current owner's policy is to keep the car in such condition no matter what kind of car it is, even if it is a pre-war car. This Thunderbird has been thoroughly modified for practical use, mainly for heat prevention.

However, it looks almost original. That's important. The rear bumper and muffler, which is a feature of the '56, was changed by the previous owner to a separate system. This is a standard '56 modifier because the bumper would be badly stained if the original method was left in place.

When you open the hood, you can see how hard the current owner has been working to overcome the heat management issues. In particular, measures against percolation are carefully taken. For example, the fuel line was changed to a route that would minimize the effects of heat, a C1 Edelbrock carburetor was installed with a new plate foot joint, a new radiator core was installed, and an MSD was installed.

Other practical modifications include changing the wiper operation from vacuum to motor, and changing the headlight to bright. The next owner will be able to enjoy Thunderbird at ease.

Of course, they have all the original parts, so you can put them back. Enjoy it to your heart's content for a while, then return to the original. It's fun.

Overall, it is in excellent condition. However, it is not in mint condition. There are some minor scratches on the body, and the chrome isn't exactly shiny as a mirror. The interior is also damaged. However, the car itself is so solid that you don't even notice it. This is something you have to see to understand, but in short, a classic car with a decent powertrain and chassis looks solid. The small scratches are proof that the current owner enjoyed driving the car!

Yes, speaking of reverting to full original, by analogy, based on this unit and the VIN number, the original color seems to be black (Raven Black) with a 312cu:in engine (the car's verification says 4800cc, or 292cu:in). The interior is probably original in this condition. It could be reverted to the original black like the crow, including the port-hole hardtop (now red). Yes, just like Marilyn Monroe's beloved Thunderbird.

We were covering the event in the extreme heat of over 35 degrees Celsius. It wasn't exactly the environment for a classic car, but the Thunderbird engine woke up with one shot and was running smoothly. Only on this day, I thought that the white one which is bright was better than the jet-black one.

Vehicle Specifications

Model Year1956
Year of PurchaseSep 1996
Engine Capacity4,800cc
Steering WheelLeft
Chassis No.P6FH158687
Engine No.
InspectionMarch 2021
AreaAichi, Japan