This 1956 Ford Thunderbird Redefines Cool: A Multilayered Classic That’s Sure to Turn Heads

I said it before and I’ll keep saying it every chance I get: to me, the Ford Thunderbird is one of the most beautiful cars ever made, right up there with Chevy’s Tri-Five beauties. It’s a car so incredible I rarely enjoy seeing them modified in any way. Restored, sure, but altered not so much. And then I come across this thing.

The Thunderbird has been imagined by Ford from the get-go as a personal luxury car. That translated into a relatively small size, engines just powerful enough to get the blood pumping, and all of the top-notch appointments of the age.

And by age I mean a long, long time ago. The first Thunderbird came about in 1955, and from there it went on to be produced until 2005. That’s exactly half a century of being on the market (kind of, as there was a 5-year production gap in the early 2000s), during which time eleven generations of the breed were made.

Not all were visually impressive. The more recent Thunderbirds, starting with gen six (or perhaps even gen five) kind of lost their bearings and started to follow the crowd, not really standing out in any way.

But the first few generations (the very first above all the others) are to many people, myself included, the pinnacle of American car design. After all, not only did it transform what people thought a car should look like, but it would most definitely win any beauty contest, even in our day and age, a time when we have such things as hypercars.

As said, the Ford Thunderbird is one of the few American cars of old that should be enjoyed unmodified. In fact, some modifications are so wrong that they completely ruin the appeal of the base vehicle.

But not the conversion we have here, one based on a Thunderbird from the very first generation. A risky choice, as that one is also the most coveted, and any mistake, no matter how small, would have ruined the build.

1956 Ford Thunderbird

Photo: Barrett-Jackson

Back in the day when this generation of the T-Bird originally rolled off the lines, it came in several body styles, including convertible, and that means seeing one with no roof is not something that would surprise. Yet it does exactly that once you learn the vehicle sitting before us was originally a hardtop.

The custom Thunderbird is the work of a California-based crew called RMD Garage. For one reason or another these guys chose to completely remove the roof and, in a bid to make up for its absence, fit the car with two individual steel cowls, located on the car’s body right behind the seats.

This approach gives the car a true feeling of roadster-ness, much more so than you get from a factory convertible.

The body of the Thunderbird follows the general design lines of its original self, probably in a bid to hide what a real custom beauty this thing actually is. You only need to look at the cut bumpers and the new lines they create with the fenders and quarter panels.

And the color play between the Galaxy Gray Pearl exterior color, the shine of the Schott wheels (sized 19 and 20 inches in diameter and wrapped in Toyo tires, with the ones at the rear wide enough to get noticed), and the careful detailing almost makes you forget there is a lot less chrome on the car that it originally had on.

The exterior plays the perfect contrast game with the Scarlet Red interior, such a great choice that it makes the Thunderbird truly unforgettable. And quite modern, too, as lost in the sea of red are all the appointments a modern-day driver would need, including a wireless phone charger and a Bluetooth-capable, retro-style radio.

1956 Ford Thunderbird

Photo: Barrett-Jackson

The body of the car was placed on top of a chassis that was made in-house by RMD but whose exact makeup is not known. What we do know is what supports it: 4-link adjustable coilover suspension from RideTech and a Ford 9-inch rear-end.

All of that is needed for the presence of a Gen II Coyote engine to make the presence of its 650 horsepower felt. Sent to the wheels in a controlled fashion by a six-speed transmission, the troop is kept in check by a Wilwood braking system. The point of origin for this power, the engine, is the only one visible under the hood, as everything else has been hidden from sight in the modified bay.

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