1955 Thunderbird With Shocking Looks & Performance

Coral Orange Ragtop Ford Thunderbird

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography By John Jackson

There is lots to see and figure out about this 1955 Ford Thunderbird convertible with its removable hardtop. The 1955 Thunderbird was passed down from Rick Brandt’s father-in-law; since he already had one vintage Thunderbird he had a good idea on who to enlist in helping him build this one. Having worked on a previous project with Dave Timm of Timm Built Customs, Rick was comfortable with saying, “Do whatever you would do if it was yours.” So that’s what the Timms, Dave and Andrea, did, and here are the results.

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03 Custom built 1955 Ford Thunderbird by Dave Timm of Timm Built Customs

When going about building any hot rod there are several approaches that one can take. The result can be based on a performance (engine and trans combo) look, or possibly the stance (rake, lowered, or gasser style), or the color. All of us spend hours trying to decide and possibly even change our minds often on what the color should be, but the final color is critical to pulling off the look you want your ride to give when it is all done. There are some staple colors that just “scream” hot rod, such as Arrest Me Red, a deep black—like a mirror image black.

08 Modified rear bumpers on a classic Thunderbird

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Read More: Unmistakable Bahama Blue Deuce Coupe

Thunderbirds back in the day had the usual colors, like red, black, and white, but Ford was likewise known at that time to have pastel colors. It was a colorful era for sure. In selecting a color for this Thunderbird a trip to the local big-box store was in line. After going through the home paint colors, four colors—all coral hues—were selected. Dave felt that the coral color would give the Thunderbird the correct look and be reminiscent of the past.

09 Late model Chevy 6 2L LS engine mounted in a vintage Thunderbird

Afterward, Dave passed the four colors by Rick, his wife, and daughter and then received the go-ahead to mix up the custom Glasurit Coral color. From here Brian Diveley managed the bodywork and the final spray of the chosen hue. For the most part the body is a stock 1955 Ford Thunderbird but there are a few alterations. For instance, Dave then removed the rear fender skirt and made a template of the front wheel opening and transferred its shape to the rear. The goal was to increase the opening to show off the rear 20×10 Raceline custom wheels. Additionally required in back were the mini-tubs that were added to provide the necessary room for the large wheel and tire combo with 295 Toyo Proxes rears with 235s in front. The centerline of the front axle was correspondingly moved forward slightly to give the Thunderbird a longer appearance. The wheels were patterned after the factory hubcap look but are in a two-piece aluminum wheel. The factory side vents are from an ’02 Thunderbird that rest inside custom bezels that Dave crafted to give a more sleek side appearance. More of Dave’s handiwork comes in the form of the grille and hood scoop. The hood scoop was raised about 1-1/4 inches and stretched to clear the Imagine Injection eight-stack EFI. More sheetmetal and trim touches include the front and rear bumpers that were flipped, narrowed, and smoothed. The stock headlight bezels were set aside and Dave made custom bezels with filled seems that are more compact than the factory ones. Likewise note that the factory running/turn signal lights were moreover removed. The factory gas filler door was smoothed over and then relocated behind the license plate. More subtle touches include the factory tail light lens set aside and custom bezels that allow for flush lenses with a chrome trim ring.

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13 White interior with a 60 Chevy Impala gauge panel in a 1955 Thunderbird

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Inside the bold choice of a white interior stands out but one should look closely and you will see a ’60 Chevy Impala gauge panel filled with AutoMeter gauges. The dash is additionally a combination of paint and custom upholstery work by Auto Additions. They similarly handled the stitching over the Mustang bucket seats and the white carpeting. More interior appointments include the chrome Classic Performance Products steering column with a smaller-diameter version of the original factory Thunderbird steering wheel. More accessories include the Vintage Air AC system with its control panel located within the custom center console. Likewise, the console houses the automatic Lokar shifter with Lokar billet shift boot ring and integral vertical gear selector indicator. Power window actuators are correspondingly mounted into the center console. Bringing all the electrics together is an American Autowire system neatly positioned by Dave.

14 Automatic Lokar shifter in a custom center console of a Thunderbird

There is one modification that’s sure to get everyone’s attention—and some will protest. The original 292-inch Y-block was pulled and, in its place, a late-model Chevy 6.2L LS engine was mounted. While there is plenty that can be done with the original Y-block there is no mistaking that the Bowtie LS engine is a failsafe powerplant that can make copious amounts of reliable power. At first glance the original 292 is paid homage through the good-looking script Thunderbird valve covers adapted to the LS engine via Delmo’s Speed Shop adapters. The internals of the LS engine are stock, but the all-aluminum V8 engine does sport Imagine Injection’s very-impressive-looking eight-stack injectors reminiscent of the old vintage downdrafts from the bygone sporty car era. The ECU comes by way of a FAST EZ-EFI 2.0, and the “fire” goes through the vintage-looking spark plug wires, another Delmo’s product. The serpentine belt system comes from Holley and an electric fan with a custom shroud all works on the cooling tasks. The expended gasses run though the ceramic-coated Hooker Headers as-cast iron headers united with a MagnaFlow exhaust kit to make the exhaust system. From here the tubing eventually runs through a pair of MagnaFlow canister-style mufflers. Hooked up to the V8 engine is a 4L60E transmission with a TCI controller that links to the LS engine.

17 color matching trim on this classic Ford

Read More: 1000HP LS Engine Built For Street, Strip, & Track

The chassis is based on a Ford Thunderbird frame that was modified while at Timm Built Customs who then modified the front crossmember for the Heidts Independent Front Suspension and spindles. In back a Heidts triangulated four-link is used with the narrowed Moser 9 inch rear end that’s equipped with Moser ring-and-pinion and axles. At the corners you will see Heidts coilovers and Heidts 11-inch rotors and calipers along with the Raceline billet custom wheels.

The ’55-57 “small” ’Birds aren’t the most popular but when you see one done “right” it is a great-looking hot rod. Such is the case for this ’55 sporting an unusual but winning powertrain. MR

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of 1955 Thunderbird With Shocking Looks & Performance.

mr january 2024

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