Casting : Classic '57 T-Bird


The 1957 Ford Thunderbird is one of America's most beloved cars.  Mattel's reproduction of the roadster version of this classic is also beloved by redline collectors.  It is clearly a favorite of many!

Ford introduced the T-Bird in 1955 as a two-seater "personal luxury car".  The car came standard with a removable fiberglass top; a cloth convertible top was a popular option.  The '55 T-Bird featured a 292 c.i. V-8 engine.  For 1957, the T-Bird was re-designed with a larger drop-down grille and front bumper, more prominent tailfins, and large round tail lights.  The spare tire, which had been externally mounted for '56, moved back inside the trunk.  Also, because Ford raced the T-Bird in '57, more powerful engine choices were available, including supercharged versions of the 312 c.i. V-8.  More than 21,000 '57 T-Birds were sold.  The '57 T-Bird was the last two-seater Ford would build until the '82 EXP.

The redline era Hot Wheels version of the '57 T-Bird was one of four classic Fords that were featured in the 1969 line up.  All '57 T-Birds were produced at the US plant and featured an opening hood, a clear cut-down windshield, "chrome" grille and bumpers, and a white or brown interior.

There are some interesting variations of the '57 T-Bird, and they likely correspond to minor changes made to the casting during it's two-year production run.  The most obvious is a change to the base.  Early run cars have a smaller rear fuel tank.  Most of these correspond to dark interior cars.  This change possibly provided for a stronger base, less prone to fracturing when the posts were spun during assembly.

Early (top) and late-run Classic '57 T-Bird bases.  Note the different fuel tanks.

Aside from their colors, white and brown interiors also differ in that the catch piece that forms the center console is wider in white (i.e. late run) interiors.  As with the fuel tanks, this change may have been aimed at making the piece more sturdy.  At least one white interior T-Bird with a narrow console has been found, and it is an unpainted pre-production piece.

Prototype (left) and late run interiors.  Note the wider center console in the late-run interior.

Classic T-Bird interiors.  Again, note the wider center console in the late-run white interior.

Another interesting and very rare variation that has been found on Classic '57 T-Birds is a black-painted front grille.  Unusual black-painted highlights have been found on many of the 1969 and 1970 Hot Wheels cars, but these cars are quite uncommon.  Perhaps the addition of highlights was minimized due to the extra effort that was required in production.  Most of these cars have other hallmarks of early production, suggesting that maybe a first short run included painted highlights that were quickly discontinued.  The purple T-Bird pictured below features a black grille, narrow-console white interior, and small-tank base.

A purple T-Bird with black-painted grille and prototype interior.

Similarly, at least one '57 T-Bird with a black painted hood scoop opening has been found.

A blue Classic '57 T-Bird with a black-painted hood scoop.

Another feature that can be found on some '57 T-Birds are silver-painted headlights.

A blue '57 T-Bird with painted headlights.

Some collectors believe that the Classic '57 T-Bird was one of the first castings of the 1969 line up to be produced as they have been found on the "Cheetah" blister pack cards that were printed in late 1967.  An early run car such as the rare creamy pink T-Bird with dark interior shown below would certainly be consistent with this theory.

A beautiful rose Classic '57 T-Bird in the blister pack!

Color chart

blue common
gold common
green common
lime common
red common
olive uncommon
hard to find
hard to find
light blue
hard to find
brown hard to find
very hard to find
copper very hard to find
hot pink

Copper (left) and brown Classic T-Birds.

A killer light gold Classic '57 T-Bird!

Three shades of blue: light, medium (aka "Windex"), and dark.

A pair of Classic '57 T-Birds in antifreeze.

A rare brown Classic '57 T-Bird with a white interior!

Classic '57 T-Birds in gold and orange.

A lime Classic '57 T-Bird.

Rare and in great condition: a hot pink Classic '57 T-Bird!

Another tough color for the '57 T-Bird: magenta.

An olive Classic '57 T-Bird with a dark interior.

A hard-to-find yellow Classic '57 T-Bird.

An unpainted '57 T-Bird with a prototype white interior.

A very interesting gold enamel Classic '57 T-Bird with a black steering wheel!  (Courtesy of B. Pascal)

Photo & info credits: Ken McLaren, Jerry Schmitt & Rick Wilson

Additional photos provided by the Redlines Online community


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