Early Thunderbirds were a lovely blend of two-seater styling and boulevard cruiser with dandy hooded headlights and tiny jet-like fins on the tail.
This was Ford’s effort to Americanize the sports car market that the British car makers had created after World War II, and it worked. Thunderbirds were around for a long time, although sadly they morphed into giant near luxury hardtops eventually.
Thankfully Auto World sticks with the two-seat 1957 Thunderbird for its new 1/18 scale diecast for the recently ended holiday season. This is Auto World’s third Holiday Muscle Edition vehicle and is done appropriately in snowy white.
Thunderbirds, or T-birds to most of us, debuted in 1955 and the last one was made in 2005, 11 iterations in all. The last, was a retro model reflecting the styling and two-seat configuration of the original. It did not approach the success of the original.
Not a sports car but a personal luxury car, the T-bird touted luxury over performance. Yet it originally packed a Mercury division 4.8-liter, 292 cu.in. V8, and a speedometer that went all the way to 150 mph. That’s what’s known as marketing!
First year sales were 16,155 vs. 700 for the still new Chevrolet Corvette. By 1957 the T-bird had a new larger grille and reshaped bumper, plus tailfins and larger taillights, much like on other Fords of the era. By 1957 a 5.1-liter 312 cu.in. V8 was standard and cranked out 245 horsepower. There was even an optional supercharged V8 that pumped 300 horses. Talk about American muscle!
In 1957 21,380 T-birds sold and more than 4.4 million T-birds sold through 2005. In most car aficionados’ minds the pure T-birds were the early two-seat convertibles with a detachable Fiberglas top though, not those giant 1970s and 1980s coupes. As such, the classic 1957 model continues to sell well among vintage car buyers, with ‘57 T-birds easily fetching $50,000 to $75,000 and rare models reaching beyond $150,000.
I really appreciate that Auto World still uses metal for its diecast bodies and I love that the hood, doors and trunks open too. Front wheels are steerable and this creates a realistic diecast model that can be posed in any number of ways, whether in a case or small diorama.
The hood scoop features a chrome grille, the lights look realistic and there’s an attachable red roof with porthole windows. Those portholes greatly improved visibility for the driver, back in the day.
The T-bird also feaures. rear wheel covers, a gas cap on the passenger’s side, a chrome windshield frame and door handles and rectangular air vents that pop open in front of the doors. Auto World also properly adds a turquoise Thunderbird emblem on both the hood and trunk.
This hood opens forward to expose that big V8 with an orange block and chrome headers and air filter cover. You also can see a gold starter motor and well labeled battery and components, plus a Ford logo on the engine’s hoses. The car’s underside is well detailed too and the dual exhausts exit through huge outlets in the rear bumper looking that look like jet intakes.
For 1957 Ford expanded the trunk so the spare tire could be mounted inside instead of in a Continental kit on the rear bumper. That had caused weight distribution problems that spoiled the ’56 T-bird’s handling. So the spare is in the trunk here with a proper checkered trunk mat.
Inside, the 1957 had a single hooded main gauge with round speedometer and this is nicely detailed here. The red interior includes a ribbed dash and chrome trim on the doors and steering wheel hub and horn ring. There are separate unframed side vent windows, plus realistic looking knobs and radio on the dash, and a floor-mounted shifter.
Auto World delivers another sharp muscle car from the ‘50s at a high-value price.
Maker: Auto World
Stock No.: AMM1089/06