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Welcome to the website of the Classic Thunderbird Club of Chicagoland (CTCC). We are dedicated to the preservation of the 1955, 1956 and 1957 Ford Thunderbird.

The Classic Thunderbird Club of Chicagoland was formed in 1961 to bring together owners of this unique automobile and to provide a forum for the exchanging of ideas, technical information, social activity and fellowship. Whether your classic Thunderbird is a driver or show car, members have found CTCC an invaluable support group of spirited enthusiasts.

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  • Ken Smizinski, President
  • Ed Levin, Vice President
  • Liz Werth, Secretary
  • Tom Bruin, Treasurer
  • Joel Greenberg, Director
  • Lloyd Schellin, Director
  • Len Vinyard, Director
  • Bert Eisenhour, Bird-News
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  • Madeline Zambon, Membership
  • Liz Werth, Publicity
  • Bob Wenderski, Librarian
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For more information, requests, submissions, and comments, email us: info@ctcc9.com

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Classic Thunderbird Club
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DATA PLATE REVISITED

Posted on 08/01/2010 by jlgrnbrg

PATENT DATA PLATES

The following article is reprinted from the July-August issue of the Early Bird. It is one of the best explanations and descriptions on how to interpret the Data Plate information.

Written by Jim Schmidt (1969). Revised and updated by George Barlow, Dave Tulowitzky, John Sailors, John Smith, Frank Stubbs and Gil Baumgartner (2010)


Whether you own or are looking for a classic Thunderbird, so long as you are planning to restore it you will most likely want to know how to tell what it was like when it was new. If you are undecided on the color, or have a specific color in mind, remember that it is to your advantage to adhere to the factory body and interior colors when you restore. Cars restored to original condition are generally worth more and will appeal to more prospective buyers when you decide to sell. Also, factory colors are a MUST for Original Class in Concours judging.

Photo Caption: Top- large Data Plate, Bottom- Small Data Plate.

Clicking on photo will enlarge it so you can read the text.


This article provides a ready reference on all data important to the heritage of the classic Thunderbird. It documents what engine and which colors were original for a specific car. It explains what the production code means, and probably in what area your car was first sold.

Please take the time to relate this article to your own car so you may have the pleasure of discovering something new about something "old".

Patent data plates are located on the firewall of the engine compartment near the heater duct. There were two basic styles used between 1955 and 1957 models. The large data plates were used on all 1955/56 Thunderbirds and 1957 models until mid-April. The small data plate was used on 1957 models until the end of productions of the 1957 Thunderbirds, Dec. 13, 1957. The small data plates starting in April 1957 did not show the destination code or scheduled Item number. On the smaller data plates the transmission type and the rear axle ratio were shown following the date code.


Large Data Plate used on all 1955/56 Thunderbirds and 1957 models until mid-April 1957. (Top Plate in photo)


Small Data Plate was phased in during the week of April 15 to April 19, 1957. (Bottom Plate in photo)


The first letter in the serial number denotes the engine size, as per the following chart.:


ENGINE CODES

Year

Code

Eng.

Carb.

Transmission

HP

1955

P

292

4V

3-Spd Manual

193


P

292

4V

Fordomatic

198


P

292

4V

Overdrive

193

1956

M

292

4V

3-Spd Manual

200


P

312

4V

Overdrive

215


P

312

4V

Fordomatic

225

1957

C

292

2V

3-Spd Manual

206


D

312

4V

Fordo or O/D

245


E

312

8V

All

270


F

312

4V

All

300


In January of 1957, 15 Thunderbirds were produced with supercharged engines. They were built to fulfill a requirement to have supercharged engines available to the public in order for this type of engine to be used at the 1957 NASCAR Speed Trials at Daytona Beach, FL. The data plate date code on these models was stamped A25 (Jan. 25, 1957). The invoice release dates were January 29, 1957. These Thunderbirds have since been referred to as D/F models or Phase One supercharged models because the F model supercharged Thunderbirds were not available until June of 1957. The VIN numbers of the D/F models are well documented by original invoices. The invoices for the D/F Phase One Thunderbirds show "SUPERCHARGED ENG STD TRAN $340.00"

It is estimated that a few hundred Thunderbirds were shipped to Mexico for final assembly in a Ford plant located in that country. The data plates on these vehicles almost always contained the letters "MEX" in their VIN. The early style data plates were used however, character fonts and stampings on the plate differed greatly in appearance from the Dearborn produced Thunderbirds.

A few invoices for the 1957 E models built late on the 1958 assembly line show no charge for E equipment.

The second item is a numeral denoting the model
year: 5 = 1955, 6 = 1956, 7 = 1957.


The third item is always the letter "F", indicating that the car (all two-passenger Thunderbirds) was assembled at the Dearborn (River Rouge) Plant.



The fourth item is always the letter "H", denoting the body style, i.e., Thunderbird.


The serial numbers always begin at 100001 each model year at each separate assembly plant. Thus, your Thunderbird serial number shows the total number of cars, Thunderbirds as well as passenger cars, assembled at the Dearborn Plant from the start of the model year until your car was built-minus 100,000.

1955 production started September 9, 1954 and ended September 16, 1955, at serial number 260,557.

1956 production started October 17, 1955 and ended August 17, 1956. The first 1956 Thunderbird was 102,661 and the last 395,516.

1957 production started September 14, 1956 and was continued into the 1958 model year. The assembly line was shut down from Sept 27, 1957 until October 14, 1957 for conversion to the 1958 model production. The 1957 Thun­derbird was then continued until the last 1957 Thunder-bird was built Dec. 13, 1957. The first 1957 Thunderbird was 100,010 and the last 395,813. Even though those later Birds were produced alongside 1958 Fords in the same plant, they retained their serial number integrity as if they had been produced in the 1957 Ford model year.

The lower line of data plate reveals the physical ap­pearance of the car when it was delivered.

The first item is the Body Type. All 1955 and 1956 models were coded "40A", while all 1957 Thunderbirds were coded 40.

Next is the Color code. The 1955 models had one color code letter indicating the color of the body as well as the hard top. Two tone colors (body & top) were not of­fered in 1955. Starting in 1956 the first few cars had a sin­gle color code letter indicating that the body as well as the top was the same color. Early production 1956 models with a top color different from the body color had the number 1 or 2 following the body color. Starting in Nov., 1955 the color code for 1956 models contained two letters. The two letter color code was used until the end of production of the 1957 models. If the top was the same color as the body the two letters would be the same on all 1956/57 models.

.

Following are the standard factory color codes:


EXTERIOR PAINT

1955

A

Raven Black


E

Snowshoe White


R

Torch Red


T

Thunderbird Blue


V

Goldenrod Yellow

1956

A

Raven Black


E

Colonial White


J

Buckskin Tan


K

Fiesta Red


E

Peacock Blue


M

Goldenglow yellow


X

Navajo Gray


Y

Sunset Coral


Z

Thunderbird Green


T

Thunderbird Gray

1957

A

Raven Black


E

Colonial White


F

Starmist Blue


J

Willow Green


N

Gunmetal Gray


0

Thunderbird Bronze


V

Flame Red


X

Dusk Rose


Y

Inca Gold


Z

Coral Sand


H

Gunmetal Gray Replaced N code Mav 1 957

1958 Colors added or substituted when 1957 T-Birds were built alongside 1958 Fords.

1957

G

Sun Gold


R

Torch Red


E

Azure Blue


N

Seaspray Green


The next item is the Trim code, and is expressed with
one letter on 1955 Models during most of the 1955 produc­tion year by July, 1955 most 1955 models interior codes had an X prefix. The X was used until the end of produc­tion of the 1957 models.


INTERIOR TRIM

Code

1955Thunderbird

A

Black and White XA starting July 1955

B

Red and White XB starting July 1955

C

Turquoise and White XC starting July 1955

D

Black and Yellow XD starting July 1 955


1956 Thunderbird

XA

Black and White Vinyl

XB

Red and White Vinyl

XC

Dark Peacock and White Vinyl

XF

Green and White Vinyl

XG

Brown and White Vinyl


1957 Thunderbird

XA

Pleated Raven Vinyl & Pleated Colonial Vinyl

XH

Pleated Flame Vinyl

XJ

Pleated Bronze Vinyl

XK

Pleated Colonial Vinyl

XL

Pleated Dresden Vinyl & Pleated Starmist Vinyl

XM

Pleated Cumberland & Pleated Willow Vinyl

Some late 1957 Thunderbirds built on the 1958 assembly line had a number 6 or 7 between the exterior and interior color codes. Most had a 6.

Example: EE 6 XH. A
build sheet was found by Frank Stubbs with a code TT (Top Type) 7. The TT code does not appear on data plates or invoices. Additional research by Frank reveals that the Thunderbirds with a known origi­nal top as delivered from the factory with a code 6 had a porthole top. If the code was 7 it was originally delivered with a non porthole top. The number 7 has not been found on many Thunderbirds. If your Thunderbird has a 7 after the color code please send as much information about your car as possible to David Tulowitzky (address listed on the last page). Please state the type of top and if it is known to be factory original.

In all but 1957 models built after April 1957 (some­where between April 15th and 19th the plate was rede­signed and made smaller), the last item is the Production Code.

In all cases the first entry in the Production Code is the date. It is expressed as either one or two numbers, in­dicating the scheduled production day, preceding a letter (which denotes the month).

MONTHS OF THE YEAR CODE

YEAR YEAR YEAR

MONTH

First

Second

MONTH

First

Second

MONTH

First

Second

January

A

N

May

E

S

September

J

W

February

B

P

June

F

T

October

K

X

March

C

Q

July

G

U

November

L

Y

April

D

R

August

H

V

December



Take the 1956 example: (13B SD155), which decodes February 13, 1956.


The W, X, Y and Z were used to denote that the late 1957 models were being produced beyond the normal 12 month model year and are only seen on the smaller data plates. One must remember that these codes were used dur­ing the calendar year 1957 only. To decide which calendar year your car was produced, refer to information explain­ing serial numbers.


Following the month of year code will be the sales dis­trict code where the vehicle was scheduled to be shipped. Sales district codes were not used on 1955 models until approximately Nov. 1, 1954. Sales district codes were let­ters until the 1957 model production started Sept. 1956. Starting with the first 1957 models, numbers were used un­til April 1957 when the sales district codes were dropped. The data plate was redesigned, made smaller and phased in between April 15 and April 19, 1957.


The scheduled item number followed the sales district code until the redesign of the data plate in April 1957. The smaller data plate then carried the transmission and rear axle codes.


SALES AREA CODES (DISTRICT CODES)


The District Codes (showing numerals and letters, although both were never used together) were as follows:

11 /SD

Boston

12/BF

Buffalo

13/BX

New York

14/PI

15

Pittsburg Newark

21/NK

Atlanta

22/CE

Charlotte

23/DI 24/KJ

Philadelphia Jacksonville

25/RP

Richmond

26/DC 31/CI

Washington DC Cincinnati

32/CL

Cleveland

33/DD

Detroit

34/NP 35/FX 36/LX and LU

Indianapolis Lansing


Louisville

41/CX 42/RG

43/KE

Chicago

Fargo

Rockford

44/SP

Twin Cities

45/DQ

51/DN

Davenport


Denver



52/DS

Des Moines

53/KS 54/NB

Kansas City

Omaha


FIRST AND LAST T-BIRD NUMBERS (INTERMIXED WITH PASSENGER CARS)

DATE

1955

DATE

1956

DATE

1957

9-9-54

P5FH 100001

10-17-55

P6FH 102661

9-14-56

D7FH 100010

9-14-55

P5FH 260557

08-24-56

P6FH359516

12-13-57

E7FH395813

Total

(T-Birds) 16,155

Total

(T-Birds) 15,631

Total

(T-Birds) 2 1,3

(District Codes continued from previous page)

55/SL Saint Louis

61/DP Dallas

62/SU Houston

63/GB Memphis

64/NR New Orleans

65/KL Oklahoma City

71/LP Los Angeles

72/SK San Jose

73/SC Salt Lake City

74/SE Seattle

82/EX FMC Export NJ

84/HO FMC Transportation and
Equipment Department


The last set of numbers with the exception of 1957 models produced after April 19, 1957 is the scheduled Thunderbird to be shipped to the sales district code indi­cated on the data plate.


Example: Sales District - Sales District LP (Los An­geles for 1955/56 models). If the number was 521 it was the 521st Thunderbird shipped to that district. If the num­ber exceeded 999 the second letter was dropped from the district code and it would read L 1000 and on. In 1957 numbers were used for district codes. Example: 71 (Los Angeles) If the number was 0521 it would have been the 521st Thunderbird shipped to that district. If the number exceeded 999 the district code remained 71 and 1000 and beyond would follow the district code.


The last entry after the sales district number on most 1957 models the letter P appeared. This is believed to in­dicate that the car was regular production and not special ordered for an individual.


On 1957 models after April 19th 1957, in lieu of a production code, there is a code for transmission type and axle ratio:


TRANSMISSION & REAR AXLE RATIO TYPE CODES

Shows on late 1957 type Data Plates only

Code

Transmission

Code

Axle Ratio

1

3 spd Manual

1

3.10to 1

2

Overdrive

2

3.56 to 1

3

Fordomatic

3

3. 70 to 1


The totals above include "KD" or knock down units prepared at the Dearborn assembly plant for shipment to Mexico for assembly.


Additional information

Beginning with serial number P5FH100011 produc­tion sequence codes (or scheduled item numbers may ap­pear as S-XXXX. This continued through October 1954.


From November 1, 1954 through July 7, 1955 both sales district codes and sequence codes (scheduled item numbers) were used.


However, starting in mid December 1954, a small percentage used only the sequence number and did not in­clude the sales district.


Beginning July 8, 1955 only sequence numbers were used until the end of production of the 1955 models.


Top colors on early 1956 models

Some 1956 models have been located with a num­ber on the data plate for the top color. If your car has this please send a tracing of the original data plate to David Tulowitzky at the address shown below. Please include as much information about your car as possible, including original colors if known.


Data plate information was typed onto the metal plate by employees of Ford Motor Company. Mistakes were not made very often, but errors have been found. If you encounter letters or numbers not included in this decod­ing information, please send a tracing of the data plate to David Tulowitzky at the address listed below or email to: Tulobird@aol.com.

David Tulowitzky

14191TudballAve.

Port Charlotte, FL 33953


To make a good data plate tracing, place a clean piece of paper over the data plate and rub a dull pencil lead or a dirty finger over it.


Please provide as much information as possible, transmission, options, original colors (if known) special features, history, etc.

No information regarding your car will be re­leased. The information is used to gather statistical in­formation about the manufacture of the cars and the percentage of cars by color, trim etc.

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