Bob Arnold's 1957 Thunderbird (from February 2003)

Fun, fun, fun! It’s hard not to have that thought cross your mind when looking at the old two-seater Thunderbirds. Obviously Bob Arnold of Titusville, Florida had some of those same thoughts, as he bought this 1957 T-Bird back in 1996. It was purchased from a private party in Louisiana, and at the time was only partially restored.

While finishing up the restoration Bob got wind of the car’s history. It was originally delivered to Capital City Ford in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in March of 1957 and was later delivered on some kind of lease/loan arrangement to the Honorable Governor Earl Long. Governor Long, known as a free spirited politician in Louisiana, always seemed to be in the social fast lane. This car was an example of his flamboyant style. While serving his third term in office, he was supposedly shot in the butt by a lady friend while sitting in this car. Although Bob always thought the story was folk lore, he discovered a bullet hole in the driver’s side floor pan during the restoration process. Story has it that because of possible political fall out, the incident went largely unreported to the public. Not uncommon in those days. Bob brought the restoration to completion in 1997, though it is a work constantly in progress to maintain the authenticity and preservation he requires.

With 21,380 produced, this was the most popular of the 1955-57 two-seater generation of “little birds”. In terms of sales however, this low number is not what Ford had hoped for. In 1958 the decision was made to scrap the “little bird” for the new generation four-seater know as the “square bird”. Although to this day, most people feel this was a huge mistake by Ford, almost 50,000 T-Birds were sold in 1958 ensuring its future and financial success.

There were several features that were new for 1957. Including a new combination bumper grill with built in rectangular parking lights, and canted tail fins with the Galaxy look taillights wrapped around a newly designed trunk that was now 5-1/2 feet long. The exterior is painted Flame Red, and of course retains its all original appearance. There is a white convertible top that hides away nicely behind the seat, and it also has the trademark removable porthole hardtop in red. The interior had a new look dash with all around padding for safety, and the new Volumatic Signal Seek Radio that automatically “raises and lowers its voice” depending on engine RPM’s.

Under the hood you’ll find a 312 cubic inch “Y” block V-8, which is a “D” model with the engine dress up kit. It puts out 245 horse power through the 3-speed Fordomatic transmission, and Bob makes sure that the whole under hood area looks about as close to showroom stock as possible, just like the rest of the car. So good in fact that it won an AACA National Award at the 1998 Southeast Regional Nationals in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Bob has the original dealer’s invoice and documentation on his Thunderbird, which reflects that it originally sold for $3,197.11 back in 1957. But except as trivia, that figure is rather irrelevant now, as of course the car is worth way more these days. Plus, how can you put a dollar figure on the fun had by its owners throughout the years (with the exception of the shooting incident, no doubt). Yes, I think you could safely say that Bob has had lots of fun, fun, fun with his car. And since he is the daddy, no one is going to take this T-Bird away. CN