Although appearing later than Chevrolet's sporty Corvette, Ford's "personal luxury" Thunderbird became far more popular, selling more than 16,000 cars in its first year. First shown at the Detroit Auto Show in February 1954, it entered production that September. Its sleek two-seater body displayed many contemporary Ford design cues, and available power trains came from the regular Ford catalog. All cars had the 292 cubic inch "Y-Block" V8, while transmission choices included standard three-speed manual, manual-with-overdrive, or the popular self-shifting Ford-O-Matic. Customers could order a folding soft top, removable fiberglass hard top, or both.
For 1956, the Thunderbird was given a few subtle changes. The spare tire, which had intruded on luggage space, was relocated to a "Continental" mounting on the rear bumper. Wind wings were added to the trailing edge of the windshield, cowl vents to the front fenders, and the hard top gained porthole windows in the rear quarters.