1955 as everyday driver

57tbird57

Active Member
Joined
May 3, 2019
Thunderbird Year
1957
My name is Ben Thomson, and I am 17 yrs old interested in classic and antique cars. I have been looking for a car for a while now, because my parents drive me everywhere and I’m sure they are tired of it. The ‘55 t bird has caught my eye the most as a car that would get me out of bed and want to go to school, and I think it would be a great car for me. YES I know it’s not as safe as a modern car and the insurance will be higher, but I don’t mind those things because it’s something I would love to drive. I know I should make a few mods to make it a little bit safer such as the breaks and what not, but can anybody answer for me, is the ‘55 a reliable car? Yes I’m also aware it is probably not as reliable as a modern car but is it reliable enough for everyday use? I am prepared for anything the car throws my way since I took advantage of the job market and I have studied the engine if there’s a problem. Also is there any other mods that would make it a more reliable or safe car without ruining it? Thanks
i have my 57 insured thru Hagerty and it only costs a little over 200 a year
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1957
Ben, I hate to rain on your parade: I really do. I think it’s great to see young people interested in classic cars. And while I’m far from an expert, I do have a ‘57 Thunderbird, and I’d recommend against you getting one as your daily driver for three reasons:

1. To quote an earlier response:

“A car that needs no major repairs, has power steering and brakes and both (good) tops will set you back at least $40k today, and it will be imperfect at that price. Count on spending $$$$$ on maintenance and improvement.”

Truer words were never spoken and they reflect my own experience precisely. So, unless you have a *lot* of excess income (not just for the initial purchase, but the many thousands of dollars in maintenance/repairs); or you have (a) the skills to do most such work yourself *and* (b) a lot of spare time (which seems unlikely at your age), your thunderbird might end up sitting around a lot more than being driven.

2. Driving Safety: I don’t know anything about the engineering of modern v classic cars. I do know that modern driving habits are very different then they were historically. That means, when driving a classic T-Bird, you’re either “out of sync” with 99.9% of the drivers around you (which is dangerous because you will be driving in a manner they’re not used to anticipating; or they will be driving in a manner that is very hard for you to react to in a T-Bird (longer braking distance, different turning ratio, etc.); or you drive in a manner to try to be “in sync” with the drivers around you, which the T-Bird is not designed to do. So, while it’s true that young folks drove these cars when the cars were new (and indeed, drove much more aggressive cars too), *everyone else around them was driving roughly the same kind of cars with roughly the same kind of habits.* (And, even so, traffic deaths and injuries were a lot higher then than now.)

3. Personal safety: there are two aspects to this:

(a) I am guessing that, given your age, you have at most 2 years of driving experience. By contrast, I have 35 years of driving experience, so I am very familiar with traffic patterns, my own reaction times, gauging necessary stopping distances, looking out for pedestrians, etc.; and I am nonetheless still *extremely* cautious driving my T-Bird. I would imagine, then, that trying to drive it well and safely without those decades of experience would be exponentially harder.

(b) Attempted theft. The T-bird will draw a lot of attention, some of it unwanted. At my current age, my reaction to an attempted carjacking would be “Sure, here’s the keys! Want me to clean the interior before you steal it? Happy to; just don’t hurt me!” :). I just am at an age and station in life where material possessions aren’t worth even the slightest risk to my safety. By contrast, when I was *your* age, at best, I likely would at least mouth off to or cuss the carjacker out; at worst, I’d try to physically resist or speed away. Neither would be smart.

My advice: get an unexciting reliable car like a Honda as your daily driver. Then use whatever discretionary funds you have to occasionally rent a classic thru Hagerty RideShare (or wherever) and also go to classic car shows, join a local classic T-bird club, etc., to keep your love of the classic cars alive. Then, spend a couple of decades making and saving money. By then, you’ll be middle-aged. *Then* buy a T-Bird as your second car. :) (And In the meantime, get friendly with and do some labor for some of the “old heads” in your local t-bird club and prove yourself trustworthy: maybe they’ll let you take one of their cars for a spin now and then!)
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 14, 2019
Thunderbird Year
1957
Is it insured for those under 25 years old, unmarried and 15,000 miles per year driving?
Good point. The first car I ever bought new was a VW Scirocco. I was young and single and selling VWs so I got a good deal. It was basically a Rabbit in the front and a sporty hatch back in the rear. Didn't realize the insurance was twice that of a Rabbit. Only had it a year or two as I couldn't afford the insurance at that age.
 
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1955
My name is Ben Thomson, and I am 17 yrs old interested in classic and antique cars. I have been looking for a car for a while now, because my parents drive me everywhere and I’m sure they are tired of it. The ‘55 t bird has caught my eye the most as a car that would get me out of bed and want to go to school, and I think it would be a great car for me. YES I know it’s not as safe as a modern car and the insurance will be higher, but I don’t mind those things because it’s something I would love to drive. I know I should make a few mods to make it a little bit safer such as the breaks and what not, but can anybody answer for me, is the ‘55 a reliable car? Yes I’m also aware it is probably not as reliable as a modern car but is it reliable enough for everyday use? I am prepared for anything the car throws my way since I took advantage of the job market and I have studied the engine if there’s a problem. Also is there any other mods that would make it a more reliable or safe car without ruining it? Thanks
It tends to overheat. You want to have a 6 blade fan and perhaps electric. You better know the ignition system of a car of that age. You need to know that it is standard at 6 volts unless already modified. You will also need to change the brake system too. 55 did not even have seat belts much less a whole shoulder system... If you are seeking a daily driver already to go you are probably at $25-30K too.
 
Joined
Jan 1, 2021
Thunderbird Year
1955
Biddle "nailed it" I hope he leaves the "non-Ford" images on here to reinforce his point.

You can do everything right 100% of the time and some teenager updating their Facebook page can change your life in an instant of distraction.

You brought up two things, reliability and safety, I'm a rarity in that I can give you "real-world" personal experience with both.

I can tell you a vintage car can be as reliable as you have the skills to make and maintain it. This fastback Mustang made the 3 hour run from Tidewater, Virginia to Southern Maryland (where I worked during the week) EVERY weekend for two years at 65 mph in the late 90's. Never once, let me down or gave me a problem; it was also my daily driver in Maryland while I worked there. However, original and even good repro parts are harder to get now and a water pump or other failure might take you days or weeks to resolve, not good for a daily driver.
View attachment 22018
Safety is an entirely different issue, these cars have no crush zones, collision, computer "nannies". airbags, ABS brakes, shoulder harnesses, side impact protection, collapsible steering columns and on and on. And now, with distracted drivers, texting and possibly under the influence or just plain aggressive - its not the same world when I commutted. Trust me on this, I have first hand expereince, my 63 Corvette in 2016. Aggressive, uninsured driver on a sunny, summer Sunday afternoon in an Escalade pulled right out in front of me. $65,000 and 18 months to repair it, I got knocked out and if it were any worse I wouldn't be typing this. My meticulous attention to maintenance (like the original drum brakes and lap seatbelts) saved my life; the perfectly opreating brakes hauling me down from 40 mph to a survivable speed before impact.

Others will disagree but I wouldn't recommend a vintage car for a dialy driver.... They are great weekend crusiers and a wonderful hobby though.
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A word on classic car insurance, nearly all policies provide a low premium because risk is reduced as the car is driven a limited number of miles and usually to car events. They also provide "agreed value" meaning you and the insurance company determina a value for damage repairs/replacement - this Corvette had a $95,000 policy. A Daily Driver policy will be substantially more expensive and may only be "stated value" - meaning, if the car is wrecked, it would most likley be totalled and the compensation would be for a 60 year old, used car and next to nothing. Do your homework on this.

Just so people don't worry too much, the Corvette was repaired by an expert with 50 year sin the biz and sold last June to a South African collector for a substantial sum.
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At least 90% of the motorists I see on the highway during commute hours, have their eyes on their smart phones, not the road, texting/surfing the net; they are not teenagers. About a month ago, a 63-year-old driver of a Ford F550/750 ran a 4-way stop and plowed into a 27-year-old, who was on his way to work. The driver of the truck probably was going 55+, considering 55 is the posted speed limit on country roads. The 27-year-old, his parents' only child, was killed. He had been engaged to my daughter.
 

MJ_Indy

Active Member
Joined
Apr 2, 2017
Thunderbird Year
1957
Ben, there have been a lot of good comments on here, and hopefully they have encouraged you to stay interested in the hobby and search out a T-Bird to have as a weekend cruiser and find something modern for a daily dinner. When I was your age I used to take my dads ‘57 T-Bird out. I can only imagine how nervous that must have made him. He’s passed now, but I still have the car. Great memories when I take it for a drive now. Like you I was interested in a classic for my first car, inspired by all the time spent sitting in that T-Bird as a kid. We found a 64-1/2 Mustang for my first car when I was 15. When I look back I can’t imagine putting a new driver in a car like that in todays traffic full of distracted drivers. My son just got his license last month, he has a car with abs, air bags, etc. I feel much better knowing he’s in a car with more protection in the event of an accident.
By the way, I still have the Mustang - going on 36 years. Hopefully you can find a car you will enjoy restoring and taking out for a cruise as well!

Edit to add pictures, the first from 1986 when we purchased the Mustang and now after restoration. Hopefully you find something you keep for the next 30+ years.
 

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Joined
Feb 9, 2019
Thunderbird Year
2002
With all the caveats I still want to reinforce what a great hobby classic cars are; even though they can be a challenge, if you have a stressful life you'll find out that they can be incredibly therapeutic, maintaining them, detailing and dricving them, on occassion. Having to keep one running to get to work everyday is a different ballgame if you have to depend on it.
I don't know much about the early T-birds, but they are pretty primitive I'm betting, if you can snag a first gen Mustang they are incredibly easy to keep running and the reproduction market is extensive. I'm an hour from a National Parts Depot warehouse and you could almost build a Mustang from their parts, nearly all of which are available across the counter there.
 
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