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58-60 Square Birds

jerrym3jerrym3 Posts: 202
edited March 5 in Ford
Just thought I'd put this out there to see if there's any interest in a sqare bird chatbox.

Mine's a 1958 White Hardtop, white/black inside. I'm second owner; car has original 60K miles. Bought it in 1989 (49K miles) from the original owner; a 93 year old lady who could no longer drive.

Even have the original paperwork from Hackensack Ford, Hackensack, NJ.

If there's any interest, I'll post all the options and prices.


  • blh7068blh7068 Posts: 376
    Thats cool! Im the second owner of a 71 (fire)bird mostly original, 64k and have most of the orig paperwork. Sure, post the info...that stuff is always neat, regardless of vehicle type.
  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    I'm a Thunderbird fan in general, (Mine's a '95, nothing unusual, but she runs good and I like her). However, as nice as the 58-60's are, I'd rather have a 55-57 or 61-63 over the squarebirds. Either that, or a 2002. Actually, I would kinda like to find a barely restorable 55-57, and put in a Jaguar AJ-V8 engine, and the independent suspension Setup from a mid-80's Jag XJ6, and go with a nice custom interior while keeping it mostly stock on the outside. I know it involves major $$, major cutting & welding on tha car, and such a custom would never be worth what I put into it, but hey, I can dream, can't I?
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    OK, I'll contribute. In 1958, when the first "squarebirds" [when did they actually start calling them that?] came out, I was 12 years old, and along with my best friend across the street, was a budding carnut, keenly interested in anything new coming out, and in the late 50's, I tell you, it was a great time to be a kid carnut. We thought the 58 Thunderbird was fantastic looking then, and I remember even seeing the first 58 Lincoln Continental, with all its bulk and radical [then] angular styling, etc., and, as kids, thinking "what awesome looking cars!" But then, in those days, everyone was captured by the styling excesses of the 50's, and that's why they made them that way. Anyway, the 58-60 T-birds were quite revered in those days, and for some years after. The style was the thing. Just look at how much that squarebird style was copied for years after, in the rooflines of various Falcons, Comets, and big Fords for several years after. My friend's Dad wanted a 59 T-bird so bad for a number of years after that, but in those days, the price was just a little out of his reach. He kept driving the old 55 Ford Ranch Wagon. Even the Studebaker Hawk of 1962 or whatever, kind of copied that same "squarebird roofline." The roofline style of the squarebirds was copied and imitated for many years after the squarebirds stopped-a tribute to the styling theme they intiated-whether you liked Thunderbirds or not. Personally, I never did like Thunderbirds, especially the later ones in the 60s. I saw them as kind of piggy, flaccid and overweight pseudo luxury cars with inefficient, common Ford drivetrains that were outclassed by other makes. But, I always respected and liked the styling/concept of the original squarebirds as a statement that would live on in many other forms for a few years. Now, whenever I see a "squarebird" on the road, I look, with respect, for the concept it introduced at the time, with nostalgia, and I'm glad there are still a few of these on the road to rock our memories of the late 50s! By the way, today I saw a 58 Ford Skyliner, backing out of a garage I've passed many times before, but never knew what was inside. How many 58 Ford Skyliners [retractable hardtop, in red and white, do you see?
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    ...with the factory sunroof (2536 produced), a/c, power seat and windows and the 'J' code 430, thanks.
  • mminerbimminerbi Posts: 88
    I agree with much of what carnut4 said in message #4, and would summarize my feelings by saying the styling, exterior and interior, of the Squarebird was outstanding. Bullseye! Today such a car would be referred to as a segment buster, because it defined personal luxury. The size was also perfect, in my opinion. I would add, though, that for me the main drawback of all 4 seat Thunderbirds, and not just the excessively large and space inefficient ones of the '60s and '70s, is their excessive weight. Does anyone know why they were so heavy? I can't help but think how much better their performance, in particular, but also their fuel efficiency would have been if their weight, including the Squarebird's, had been more proportional to their size. Does anyone else feel similarly?
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,647
    Yes, their weight, especially the unsprung weight, makes them a chore to drive.

    I think it's just the laziness of the Detroit engineering of the time, using ladder frames, lots of chrome, huge V8 engines of no great efficiency--all this adds up to weight.

    While American styling was wild and creative in the 60s, American innovation and engineering really went south, compared to Europe. Essentially we were making the same cars we made in 1949, with fancier bodies.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Years ago I was getting some tires at Sears and met a couple there who collected squarebirds. They had one of them there, a '58, and they mentioned something about rear suspension problems but I can't remember the specifics now.

    Yes, the weights are staggering, especially for a car with such a short wheelbase. Lots of chrome of course, but I think a lot of it comes from all the bells and whistles they came with, plus probably lots of sound deadening material.
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    the rear suspension in squarebirds. As I remember, the 58s had coil spring rear, but in 59, they switched back to leafsprings-anyone confirm or remember this? Also, the squarebirds had unitized body and frame? Or was that later? That might account for the weight.
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    I gotta admit, I've never really cared for the exterior styling on the Square Birds. Regulars in the classic car town hall will know my penchant for the '64 and '65 "Flair Birds" - but, even I don't like the grill on the 66's.

    However, my T-Bird styling preferences are moot because I found the clamshell buckets in the Flair Birds to be quite uncomfortable. And, since the whole point of owning one of these is for driving (or, at least it should be), I dropped my long-time fascination with these cars once I discovered for myself the lack of front seat comfort. So, as much as I like their overall styling, I've taken Flair Birds off my list of classic cars I'd like to own.

    With regard to the Square Birds, I will say that their interior styling was very nice for the period - same thing with the following generation Bullet Birds ('61-'63).

    Of course, these ramblings are only my humble opinion.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Posts: 202
    I presently own two Birds, a 58 and a 94. I also owned an 85 TuboCoupe from 1985 till 1994.

    So, I'll start with the oldest.

    I never had any intention of owning a square bird. Like everybody else, I wanted a 55...57 or anything in the early 60's, before the Bird became a Lincoln, or vice versa.

    But, I had known about this little old lady, who's back yard butted up against my wife's aunt's back yard, and her low mileage TBird. Since I was the present owner of a "classic" car (64 Galaxie 500 XL convert), I was asked to give her an idea as to what the car was worth, since she could no longer drive.

    So, on a beautiful afternoon in 1989, I took the 1964 convert over to her house to take a look.

    The car, white with black/white interior was parked nose in in a very narrow one car garage in Ridgefield Park, NJ. Car was on four flats, and hadn't been started in four years. But, it had an original 49,000 miles! Car had no dents, but you could see where the little old lady had some little old accidents. The grille inset was the Chevy-like 60 instead of the honeycomb 58 (probably picked up from a wrecking yard), the front seats needed covers, and the dash was all cracked up and in bad shape.

    So, I told her that, without starting the car, I figured $4,000.

    Two days later, I got a call that she "liked me" (I guess when your 93, you like anybody that talks to you), she also saw (by my convert) that I was not out to buy and sell, and she offered me the car for 4K.

    The next weekend, by brother-in-law and I, armed with battery cables, tools, new plugs, and a rented air compressor, went to see the car. We filled up the tires (they held air!), pushed the car outside, removed all the plugs, squirted some oil down the cylinders, hooked up battery cables, put a little gas down the carb, and attempted to start it, air filter on, of course.

    Darn thing kicked over pretty quickly, but was running rough. Car looked good, though, and I started to get an appreciation as to how advanced these cars were in 1958.

    Took it for a ride, car still missed, but decided to buy it anyway. Drove it home, getting a little concerned about the miss, parked it in my garage, and went upstairs for dinner.

    After dinner, I came downstairs, popped the hood, and found four unattached sparkplug wires! My brother-in-law thought I had re attached all wires, while I thought he has attached his side while I did my side.

    Attached the wires, and (surprise) the miss went away.

    One thing that the little old lady said to me was that she and her husband (never had kids) really wanted the two seater, but they waited too long to buy one, and the sqare birds were announced. I imagined buying a 57 two seater with 49,000 original miles in 1989!

    Tomorrow I'll look for the original Hackensack Ford paperwork with the cost of the car and all the exotic options, like skirts. I'll post all the figures and bottom line cost, including what they got for a trade-in on their 1950 Nash.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,353
    You are correct. The 58's had a one year only rear coil suspension.

    I always liked these cars, especially the 1960 models.

    They handled horribly and had lousy brakes, still, they had a classy look.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,647
    Yes, the '58s have something of a reputation for scary handling. This is why Ford made considerable changes to the suspension in '59. Not only the rear leaf springs, which kept the rear axle in place during high torque and braking instances, but they also repositioned the front shocks entirely and beefed up the stabilizer bar. The '59 is no sports car but it is more manageable to drive.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Posts: 202
    As an owner, I can confirm that the 58 handles like garbage. But, I seem to remember Ford racing square birds on the oval track, although I don't remember which year.

    Pricing for a 1958 Thunderbird as follows: (Taken from original car invoice dated 4/14/1958, Hackensack Ford, Hackensack, NJ.)

    hi-fi radio--$128
    Pwr steering--$88
    FA (?) heater--$90
    BU lights--$19
    Wheel covers--$24
    PA (?) wipers--$14
    WW tires--$55
    Fender shields--$35

    base price--$3,846

    less trade in-$700 (1950 Nash)
    net cost--$3,558
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Posts: 202
    (Information taken from a book on Ford history)

    The 58 product planner, Thomas Case, fought to retain a two seat version as well as the four seat version; Robert McNamara shot him down. However, if it weren't for McNamara, the Bird might have died altogether.

    Car was definitely "unit construction".

    Rapid fire, clever engineering. Two thirds into the design stage, they discovered that there wasn't enough width for rear wheel movement. They split the die and moved the two sections apart.

    To keep the height of the car 10" lower than the regular Ford, the resulting design revealed that the driver's butt was only 12" off the ground. This resulted in high door sills, and the seats literally in a deep well. Bingo, the first "tunnel control console", which has just about become a standard with any bucket seat car.

    Wixom plant went on overtime to meet the demand; profit per car reached $1,000.

    Convertible was a late addition. 1958 sales were 36,000+ for the hardtop and 2,134 for the convertible.

    If you're not familiar with the car, you get a surprise to learn that the radio speaker is in the console, along with the heater controls and ashtray.

    When you buy an after market stereo radio to fit the car, they provide a speaker set up housing two separate speakers that's designed to fit in the console. (However, I did have to take a hammer to the driveshaft hump to get the stereo speaker to clear the hump.)

    To change the cracked dash and to provide room to work, I had to remove the instrument section, glove box, seats, and console. It was a tough job, but you can't tell any difference from an original installation.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    What's interesting about that list of accessories is that apparently you could have bought a '58 T-Bird without r&h, as the ads used to say--radio and heater. I wonder if there's a Bird out there with radio delete.
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Posts: 219
    I remember my grandmother would always order her cars without a radio. She usually had a top of the line model so the lack of radio would usually take people by surprise.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,353
    Power steering was an option! Can anyone imagine driving one without PS?

    When I was a kid working in a gas station, we had a customer with a beautiful '60 T-Bird. It was gunmetal grey (not a great color)and had the black and white vynal interior. I remember it had factory A/C which was pretty rare, even in So. Calif. He kept this car in immaculate condition and ended up selling it for (I think)
    800.00 in 1968. He offered it to me first.

    Since I already had a couple of cars and probably didn't have the money anyway, I passed.

    Oh well!
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,647
    Actually, killing the T-Bird after 1966 or so would not have been a bad idea.

    It could always have been resurrected in the present time or maybe late 90s.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Posts: 202
    I agree that after 1966, the Birds lost their way.

    But, let's not forget the 1983 through 1989 TBird, especially the TurboCoupes.

    I bought a new 1985 TC in black/gray inside/5 speed. It was a great car, until I totalled in the last snowstorm of a miserable winter in the NEast, 1994.

    At slightly over 100,000 miles, the original brakes had just been changed (95,000); the clutch was original; the shocks were original; but the turbo had been changed.

    Car ran like a medium sized V-8 while getting over 30 MPG on the highway. And the 88's and 89's with the intercoolers were quicker.

    Fantastic car, and a styling leader in 1983.
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    My brother's girlfriend had one when I was in high school (also a 5-speed), I borrowed that car every chance I got. Nice looking car, and it was quick, stylish and had good ergonomics for the time. It was quite a handful in snow and rain, though.
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