dherr HalfDork
8/9/19 2:14 p.m.

My friend is going to purchase his first classic car this weekend. 1956 Ford T-bird, black with black interior, porthole hard top, 312 V8. It appears to be in good condition, no rust, original paint, nice interior, number matching, runs and drives perfectly. We have watched the videos and looked at dozens of pictures of the car, seems legit. Claims to have 60,000 miles on it and the motor was rebuilt 30,000 miles ago after a long time storage, which also sounds legit. Haggerty has a #2 at $56K and #3 at $36K with #4 at $20.5K. The owner purchased it from his father-in-law and has had it for 15 years.

Trying to help him to establish the value. He has already turned down an offer of $25K and has told my friend he will sell it for $29K. Based on the video and pictures, it looks like it is between a #3 but possibly with the original paint looking good but not quite #3 standards. What do you all think? I don't think he can loose at $29K. Mechanically it looks really good, same with the interior.


dherr HalfDork
8/9/19 3:47 p.m.

The description from the ad describes the details "56 T-Bird original engine, and auto transmission. Original interior and exterior colors, 312 with newly rebuilt correct tea pot carburetor and total rebuild of power steering pump. Two tops, fender skirts. Runs and drives great. Turn key ready to drive and comes with a lot of documentation. Car is a consistent local show winner."

They describe it as excellent condition, which makes it seem more between a #2 and #3. Some pictures below: Personally, not my style, but I can't see how he can loose if it is as good as it looks for the price he has negotiated.

Indy-Guy UberDork
8/9/19 4:04 p.m.

Looks like a really good car from these few pics.  I've always liked this body style.  If he can afford it, I think it's a good deal.


Edit: The only thing I'd change on the car is remove that continental kit.  I hate those.

Woody MegaDork
8/9/19 6:24 p.m.

My friend’s father had two ‘57s and was also the original owner of a ‘65 Mustang coupe. Total car guy (son was less so). He and I would talk Mustangs for years. His son moved away and one day the father called and asked if I would help remove the hardtop from the nicer of the two T-Birds. Then he asked if I wanted to drive it. Of course I did. He had owned it since 1970 and his son had never even driven it. 

 I drove it for about an hour.  I was shocked at how ancient it felt. Way more than eight years older than my Mustang, which already felt like a relic compared to my 12 year old ‘89 Civic. 

My T-Bird want ended that day. 

dherr HalfDork
8/9/19 10:55 p.m.

Yeah, that was my thoughts as well. I told my friend that this is going to drive like a car from the 50's but the said this is his dream car, so we will see how it goes....


ShawnG PowerDork
8/9/19 11:30 p.m.

Nice car!

I'm fairly familiar with the '56 and '57 T-birds as a couple of my customers have them.

I've found the '57 drives much better than the '56 but I can't find a reason why.

Things that add value that I can see in the pictures are:


Tachometer (cable driven)

Correct engine (allegedly) with correct carburetor (allegedly)

Skirts (where are they?)

Continental kit (I hate them, I think they look awful but the old farts seem to like them)

Big engine.


Here are the cons I can see from the pictures:

Markings in the engine bay are missing. There are several water-slide decals that should be on the firewall and are missing. Not a deal breaker but you would lose points in a judged show.

"swiftsure power brake" trim is missing from the center of the brake pedal.


Some things to be aware of:

It's not a fully optioned car. There's no A/C, not sure if it has a power seat.

Exhaust manifolds have been ceramic coated.

Teapot carbs are nicknamed "The towering inferno" for a reason. In typical Holley fashion they have gaskets below fuel level but in the teapot, they placed the float bowl above the carburetor instead of beside it. Weeping gaskets plus a sneeze through the carb can result in an engine fire. Just keep an eye on it and you should be fine. As long as you are aware of it's foibles, you can manage it.

These use a goofy "Load-A-Matic" distributor, it's particular to the engine / carburetor combination. If you swap carbs, you won't have the correct vacuum plumbing for the distributor to work properly. A later Y-block distributor can be installed but you might lose the tach drive.

Engine only starts in "N"

Transmission is a three-speed but starts out in 2nd gear unless you manually select "low"

Ask to take the hardtop off. Dirt gets under the gasket at the back and will rub through the paint.

Y-blocks have solid lifters, there may be some valvetrain noise.

Go here and decode the VIN to see how correct the car really is: http://www.tbird.org/DataPlate/cdata.htm


If it were mine:

Ditch the whitewalls and get rid of the swim deck on the back. It's supposed to be a sporty car, make it look right.


Hope that helps.

chandler PowerDork
8/10/19 12:34 p.m.

In reply to ShawnG :

Guess I can only like once

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
8/10/19 12:41 p.m.

Hopefully wearymicrobe sees this. I believe he has one. 

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
8/10/19 12:49 p.m.
Woody said:

 I drove it for about an hour.  I was shocked at how ancient it felt. Way more than eight years older than my Mustang, which already felt like a relic compared to my 12 year old ‘89 Civic. 

My T-Bird want ended that day. 

I have a similar feeling about most old cars from the 60's and 70's (and even the 80's). For whatever reason I can tolerate it with my Triumphs, but it's definitely something to get used to.  My dream car was (and in some ways still is) a '69 Charger, although that dream was severely tarnished after I drove one - and that was nearly 30 years ago and I was comparing it to the '82 Subaru I had at the time. 

Of course, this is also way resto-mods are big business these days. 

dherr HalfDork
8/11/19 11:19 a.m.

Thanks for all the comments, ShawnG this is excellent information. I have sent to my friend the post and will see where he is at in the purchase process. We were out all day yesterday, so not sure if he went to drive the car or not.

spitfirebill MegaDork
8/15/19 6:46 p.m.

He definitely needs to drive the car.  My wife drove a 66 Mustang for a few years in the  mid-70s and it felt old then.  

purplepeopleeater Reader
8/20/19 10:20 a.m.

In reply to Ian F :

A 56 T-bird is basically a chopped & channeled 56 Ford. With old bias ply tires & 50 plus year old springs bushings & ball joints, plus a worn steering box, driving one can be an adventure. Get the suspension, steering & brakes right, mount some of those funky radials that look like bias plies & ditch the 'Christmas Tree' Holley  (life's too short to drive rolling Molotov Cocktails) & you'll have a fun safe cruiser. Or, if it's all original & that's your thing, detail it to the max & trailer it.  Enjoy!

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