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Ford Built This Thunderbird Phase 1 to Set Speed Records in 1957, and It Did

Anyone now knows the story of how Ford took on Ferrari at Le Mans, thanks to the passion and dedication of a team of engineers and drivers who saw the Blue Oval can be much more relevant on the track. But not many know that the American carmaker was trying to prove itself from long before 1966.
1957 Ford Thunderbird Phase 1 17 photos
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About a decade earlier, Ford introduced the Thunderbird. As soon as it hit the market, the car was deemed essential in both keeping the carmaker’s reputation at high levels, and also fighting the development of new technologies by the competition, including a new fuel-injection system by Chevrolet.

Since there wasn’t enough time to beat Chevy’s tech with something similar (the Thunderbird came to be in 1955, and Chevy’s mechanical fuel injection was launched one year later), Ford’s Robert S. McNamara demanded the fitting of a McCulloch supercharger on a 312ci carburetor engine, and make it better than any fuel injection system.

Thus a special and very limited run of 1957 Thunderbirds was made, fitted with a McCulloch VR57 Phase 1 supercharger for the 312ci single 4-barrel carburetor engine.

The result? One of them set a new record in the flying mile competition for American sports cars at Daytona, reaching speeds of 138.755 mph, 6 mph faster than the previous record.

The car that actually achieved this is not the one pictured here. In fact, of the 15 built, only 8 are believed to have survived to this day. And this is one of them.

Believed to be the last made in the limited run, this particular Thunderbird has been restored a decade ago in Melbourne, Australia, by Gil Baumgartner. It still packs the original McCulloch supercharged engine, the 3-speed manual transmission, and pretty much everything else.

The car is listed on the list of cars to be sold by Mecum at the Kissimmee auction in Florida, and will sell on Saturday, January 11. The auctioneers estimate the car could get as much as $320,000.

 
 
 
 
 

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