Thursday, May 1, 2008

Star of Ford Museum

A 1956 Ford Thunderbird stars in The Henry Ford Museum - 1977

PREVIEW - While we are well aware that many museums rotate their display materials over the course of time, we would hope that the 1956 T-Bird owned by the late William Burnett is still on display. The information presented here appeared in the 1977 issue of SPORTS CARS IN REVIEW. The entire issue was devoted to the cars that have been featured in the HENRY FORD MUSEUM over the years. In addition to the' 56, a brief description of a 300 hp Supercharged 1957 is included, along with a photo on the inside-cover page. With luck, the '56 'Bird will still be on display in May! (during CTCC's Spring Tour to Dearborn)
- Editor

photo one: In 1974, Mr. and Mrs. William Burnett proudly posed for a Ford Motor Company photographer with their (original) 1956 Thunderbird.

1956 FORD THUNDERBIRD - Frequently the perspective of history is required before a car is recognized as a classic design. Hardly so in the case of the original 2-passenger Thunderbird, however. The car seemed to progress from the status of a prestigious new design to the ranks of a collectible, skipping completely the lowly designation of "used car!"
This particular machine was the coveted property of the late Mr. William Burnett, who was chief engineer on the Thunderbird development project in 1953-54. The car is completely original, right down to the tires. Note the gold anodized wheel trim rings and custom spare wheel cover, both of which were Ford experimental items.
Official approval of a crash program to develop a "Ford sports car" came on February 9, 1953, with a 3-month deadline for completion of a full-size design and engineering proposal! The car had to retain Ford product identity and use as many standard Ford car components as possible. While design work was being done, Bill Burnett needed something to try ideas on, to get a head start on problems like handling and brake balance. So he took a two-door sedan and shortened it, with torch and hacksaw, to the 102-inch wheelbase of the proposed sports car. Inevitably, perhaps, this cobbled prototype was dubbed the "Burnetti!" It didn't look like much, but Bill didn't care. He had a test vehicle!

photo two: To Bert Eisenhour, from Bill Burnett - 1974; "The Burnetti" - This was our first cobbled proto-type. All components were placed in the correct position, dimensionally, wheel-base, tread and engine placement, etc. - signed, Bill Burnett

Maker: Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Michigan
Engine: V-8, ohv
Displacement: 312 cu in
Bore and Stroke: 3.80 in x 3.44 in
Wheelbase: 102 in
Horsepower: 225 at 4600 rpm
Speed: 110 mph
Transmission: 3-speed automatic
Weigh!: 3147 lbs.
Lent by Mrs. William E. Burnett, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Displayed in the 1975 Sports Cars In Review show.

Jan. 15, 1977
Dear Bert,
Bill's beloved Thunderbird is now in The Henry Ford Museum, where I am sure he would have wanted it to be. Thank you again for so faithfully sending him the Classic Thunderbird Bird-News - he loved them.
Thought you would enjoy "Sports Cars in Review."
(signed) Lydia Burnett

No comments: