Treasures: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

This week we bring you another Treasure from the Vinson collection – a 1955 Ford Thunderbird catalog. What makes this catalog so unique is that it was supposed to have been destroyed. The following excerpt from A Collector’s Life: An Autobiography tells the story in Mr. Vinson’s own words.

When Ford announced its sensational Thunderbird in ’54, the prototypes bore a chrome spear on its sides which began at the headlamp, swooped down through the front fender, started upwards, and continued horizontally through the door and fender to the rear. The motif was repeated on the ’55 Ford passenger cars but was dropped from the T’bird when it went into production.

Ford Thunderbird catalog, with the chrome spear. Click to view the catalog in its entirety in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Somewhere along the way I heard a rumor that there was literature showing the car with the spear, but I never saw any. One Sunday in the early ‘80s, I was at home when a local friend with no interest in cars, John Rison Jones, telephoned to say that he’d returned from an antiques show at the D.C. Armory where he’d come across a man who was selling what he claimed to be a rare Thunderbird catalogue. There could only be one piece that deserved that term, so I immediately went over to check it out. But it was true. What’s more, there were two of them, and two or three page proof.

Ford Thunderbird catalog without the spear. Click to view the item in its entirety in the Hagley Digital Archives.

The man knew what he had because he wanted $100 for each for them. According to him, Ford had ordered all copies destroyed, and these were the only ones saved. I bought both, he threw in the page proofs, gratis. I was awed to own the world’s supply of something. Once home, I phoned Bob Tuthill who’s never seen the piece. As I was negotiating with him for a $1,200 1934 Packard Custom Cars catalogue, he agreed to credit me $400 towards it for the second catalogue (I never really considered destroying it so that I would have the “only” one in captivity). Later, I sold the page proofs to John Robinson for $50. He said he’d heard that there were as many as 8 catalogues that were saved, but Bob Tuthill, Jim Petrik, and I seem to be the only collectors who have them.

The versions of the catalog with and without the chrome spear are available in the Hagley Digital Archives.  A scan of a hand written note from Mr. Vinson relaying the story of these catalogs is included at the end of each catalog in the digital library.

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

2 thoughts on “Treasures: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

  1. In addition to those rare “Fairlane Bird” catalogs, a number of advertisements were placed in magazines, showing cars with the short-lived side trim. At least one of these ads was for spark plugs.

  2. Pingback: Hagley Video Minute Featuring the Vinson Collection | Z. Taylor Vinson Transportation Collection

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