Ford Thunderbird 1 Generation F-Code

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Thunderbird 1 Generation F-Code





For 1957 the front bumper was reshaped, the grille and tailfins were made larger, and larger tail-lights were fitted. The spare wheel moved back inside the trunk, which had been redesigned to allow it to be mounted vertically. The side "Thunderbird" script moved from the fins to the front fenders. A new option was "Dial-o-Matic" 4-way power seats that, when you turned off the ignition, the seat would move back to allow easier exiting. As well as the standard 292 and 312 engines, versions of the 312 were produced in higher states of tune, and even a few McCulloch supercharged versions, rated at 300 and 340hp (254 kW) respectively. 1957 sales were 21,380, including three extra months of production because the 1958 models were late. The 1957 Thunderbird was the last two-seater Ford sold until the 1982 Ford EXP sport compact car.

McNamara proposed an initial production run of one hundred vehicles to meet NASCAR homologation requirements, and targeted the week-long Daytona Beach Speed Trials scheduled to begin on February 3, 1957 for their competition debut. Thus was born the Ford Motor Company Supercharger Program, which mandated the production of sixty-five Ford Custom Two-Door Sedans, twenty Ford Convertibles and fifteen Thunderbirds, the latter group all hand-built at the Dearborn Assembly Plant. All fifteen Thunderbirds were built on January 25, 1957, incorporating the specified 312 CI single carburetor engine, McCulloch VR57 Phase 1 supercharger, a heavy duty three-speed manual transmission, seat belts and a fiberglass hard top. The formula proved itself at Daytona, where one of the Phase 1 Thunderbirds set a new record for American sports cars with a speed of 138.755 mph, a 6 mph improvement over the previous year’s record set by Corvette.

Ford began coding engines into the vehicle ID number back in 1950. The engine designation, always a single letter, often changed from year to year, and enthusiasts were quick to memorize them, as therein lay the key to their cars’ DNA. For 1957, of the many engine options available, Thunderbird got four, a C-Code 292, a 245-brake horsepower single four-barrel D-Code 312, an E-Code dual-quad option that developed 270 brake horsepower (or 285 with racing equipment), and, at the top of the list, the coveted supercharged F-Code.

The Daytona success prompted Ford management to approve a milder version of the racing ‘Birds for regular production, which began in June 1957; only one hundred ninety four units were built, making them exceedingly rare today. These became known as “F-Birds” for the letter in the serial number denoting a supercharged engine. It is important to note that although identified within Ford as the “Phase 1 Supercharger Thunderbirds, the supercharged racing version’s use of the single-carb engine resulted in its lasting popular identification as the “D/F Bird.”

“D-Code” Thunderbird that is powered by a 245-horsepower version of Ford’s 312-cubic inch V-8, which is mated to a two-speed Ford-O-Matic transmission.

The cosmetics turned out to be mere icing on the cake to the mechanical make-up of this classic Thunderbird. The “E-Bird” is the engine code for the 312 with not one but a pair of four-barrel Holley carburetors. The base engine in the ’57 Thunderbird line-up was the 292 four-barrel, pumping out 212 horsepower. The 312, also with a single four, was a step up and rated at 245 horsepower. The hottest carbureted V-8 was the dual quad 312, boasting 270 horsepower. 


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