Automotive Mileposts  
Image: Celebrity Thunderbirds
The Ford Thunderbird has been the preferred mode of transportation for many celebrities over the years. Jayne Mansfield may have had her pink Cadillac, but for many notable personalities and celebrities, anything other than a T-Bird was simply unacceptable.
1955 Thunderbird
Frank Sinatra

Without a doubt the finest male singer ever. He had a way of always doing the right song the right way. Sinatra would pause for just the perfect amount of time, then have just the perfect amount of emotion in his voice. His songs are timeless.

Sinatra was also a very accomplished actor, appearing in many cinematic classics. And he always had the most beautiful costars to perform with. Doris Day, Celeste Holm, Debbie Reynolds, Kim Novack, or just about any other top name you can think of.

The photo at right was taken while he was filming The Tender Trap.
Frank Sinatra - 1955 Thunderbird
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller - 1956 Thunderbird 1956 Thunderbird
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller - 1956 Thunderbird Another Image of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller - 1956 Thunderbird
Very little can be said about Marilyn Monroe that hasn't already been said. It seems fitting, though, that an icon such as Miss Monroe would be associated with another icon, the Thunderbird. Marilyn reportedly had two different Thunderbirds, although the facts about them aren't clear. One was a Raven Black 1956 model that she had in New York, which may have actually belonged to her famous husband, Arthur Miller. The other was painted Sunset Coral, and was generally used in California. The pictures at left and above are of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe in the black 1956 Thunderbird.
1957 Thunderbird
Nick Adams

Nick appeared in many of Hollywood's best movies during the 1950's, including Rebel Without A Cause, Picnic, Giant, Our Miss Brooks, Teacher's Pet, and Pillow Talk. Adams was a last second replacement in Pillow Talk, as the original actor chosen for the role became ill and couldn't show up for shooting. His career began to slide in the 1960's, with Adams appearing in more forgettable movies than in memorable ones.

Nick died of a drug overdose on February 7, 1968 in Beverly Hills at the age of 36. Nick is pictured in his Raven Black 1957 Thunderbird about the time he was filming the western Fury At Showdown, which co-starred John Derek.
Nick Adams - 1957 Thunderbird
Image not available at this time
Screen legend Sandra Dee photographed in 1958 with her new Cameo Rose Ford Thunderbird Hardtop. Miss Dee only kept this car for a few years, and replaced it with a White 1961 Imperial Crown 4-Door Hardtop.
1958 Thunderbird Hardtop
Sandra Dee

One only has to consider a few of the hit movies Sandra Dee has appeared in to appreciate her popularity. Among them: Gidget, A Summer Place, Imitation Of Life, Portrait In Black, and Come September.

Dee once described herself in an interview by stating, "I was a junior Doris Day for years." Like all good things, this too changed, and portraying the innocent, proper teenager stopped being lucrative. The innocent youth act was no longer selling in the late sixties, but no one had that character down better than Sandra Dee in the late fifties and early sixties. She was the daughter every mother would have loved to have.
1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster
Elvis Presley

Many have heard the story about Elvis Presley's Sports Roadster having a wire wheel failure, which led to a recall early in production. Some reports have Elvis driving the car at the time of the failure, while others say two of Presley's employees were driving the car at the time.

The Thunderbird Sports Roadster model was a brief but brilliant snapshot in time, with production lasting less than two years, and has become one of the most collectible of all vintage Thunderbirds.

There are rumors that Elvis may have owned a 1956 Thunderbird, there's even a picture of him sitting in one, but no evidence to show it belonged to him.

Additional information:
Thunderbird Sports Roadster: What Went Wrong?
The Most Wanted Ford Thunderbird Models 1955-1979
Elvis Presley - 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster
Above, Elvis Presley sitting in his new 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadster. The car was Rangoon Red with a Black Vinyl interior, and interestingly, was equipped with very few options. Not even power windows or seats were included. The car was purchased off the showroom floor at a Memphis Ford Dealer, and was the same vehicle that suffered the well-publicized wire wheel failure.
Denny McLain - 1969 Thunderbird
Above, Denny McLain with his 1969 Ford Thunderbird. The custom license plate indicates McLain's initials, and his pitching record.
1969 Thunderbird Two Door Landau
Denny McLain

A gift from Ford Motor Company, McLain's Thunderbird was presented to him on September 27, 1968 - and was fully loaded - including the rare Power Sunroof option. Given to McLain at the peak of his career as a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers, McLain pitched 31 winning games, with only 6 losses in the prior season. This put Denny in a very select club, as he was the first major league pitcher to win 30 games since Dizzy Dean of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1934.

Unfortunately, shortly after this achievement, McLain's baseball career took a sharp downward turn, and he was a pitcher for only a few more years, after being traded to several other teams.

Additional information can be found in The Showroom at Automotive Mileposts Archive.
Year Unknown
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn

They were the most respected couple in the movie industry, turning out hit movies like Desk Set, State of the Union, Woman of the Year, Pat and Mike, Adam's Rib, and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, which wrapped up filming just two weeks before Tracy's June 10, 1967 death.

In her book Me, Katharine Hepburn makes reference to a Thunderbird she and Spencer Tracy owned. Almost as if writing a letter to him, she states, "I've had an offer on the old Thunderbird. I wanted to keep it but it is just too impractical. Whitney (George's dog), [referring to director George Cukor] a yellow Labrador retriever, has torn the leather to pieces. And it has not been properly cared for. Dear old Bird. Fun to drive - not so much now. Beginning to wonder whether it will just have a cardiac arrest. But it's yours—I mean mine. I had to buy it back from Louise when you died." [Reference to Louise Tracy, Spencer's wife.]

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn on the set of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"
Above, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn on the set of "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner." Tracy was ill during filming, and had to work short days, a fact that was concealed from studio executives by the cast and crew. Scenes requiring Tracy's presence were filmed in the morning, so he could go home during the afternoon. The studio never knew of this arrangement, and was very reluctant to do the picture in the first place, based on the fact that there were legitimate concerns that Tracy might not be able to finish the picture. To overcome this concern, Tracy and Hepburn agreed to have their salaries placed in escrow, to be used as collateral in case filming wasn't completed.

The final scene of "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" is one of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's most brilliant performances as a team. It's almost as if they knew they'd never be on screen together again. At one point, Katharine Hepburn shudders, and there's a realization that the feelings being expressed by Spencer Tracy are likely not part of the role, but a very real expression of his love for her.

Just 10 days after filming wrapped, Spencer Tracy died at the home he shared with Miss Hepburn. Katharine Hepburn won the 1967 Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Christina Drayton in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner."

More Celebrities and Notable Personalities Who've Owned Thunderbirds Over the Years

Elvis Presley - 1956 Thunderbird

Above, Elvis Presley was photographed in a 1956 Thunderbird. There is no record that this was Elvis' car, however he did purchase a 1956 Continental Mark II as well as a 1956 Cadillac Convertible.
- Lucille Ball (Flamingo 1959 Convertible)
- Halle Berry
- Victor Borge (Honeydew Yellow 1966 Convertible)
- *Edward Cornelius (From singing group Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, hit songs included "Treat Her Like A Lady" and "Too Late To Turn Back Now") (Raven Black 1968 Fordor Landau)
- Katie Couric (Torch Red 2002)
- Bing Crosby (Thunderbird Green 1956) (Used in Ford television commercial)
- Vic Damone (Thunderbird Gray 1956)
- Doris Day (Colonial White 1956 - not verified)
- Sandra Dee (Colonial White 1958 Hardtop)
- Dante DePaolo (Rosemary Clooney's husband)
- Dion (Silver Gray 1961 Hardtop)
- *A.J. Foyt (Gold 1961 Convertible, Indy 500 Pace Car)
- Annette Funicello
- Ivan G'Vera (Actor, appeared in The Hunt for Red October, Days of Our Lives)
- Senator Barry Goldwater (Arizona) (Raven Black 1955)
- Alan Jackson (1955)
- *Jack Lemmon (Torch Red 1955) (A gift from Ed Sullivan for an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in lieu of a cash payment)
- Paul Lynde (Sunlight Yellow 1964 Hardtop)
- Prince Rainier of Monaco (Corinthian White 1963 Limited Edition Landau)
- Rosie O'Donnell
- *Pat Priest ("Marilyn" on The Munsters TV-show) (Candyapple Red 1964 Convertible)
- Dale Robertson (1963 Thunderbird Italien Show Car)
- Nancy Sinatra (Dusk Rose 1957)
- Barbara Stanwyck (White 1971 Two Door Landau)
- Barbra Streisand (Raven Black 1957 and Colonial White 1957)
- Robert Taylor (Brittany Blue 1965 Landau)
- Pam Tillis (Vintage Burgundy 1964)
- John Travolta (Thunderbird Blue 1955)
- Ritchie Valens (1958 Convertible)
- Dennis Wilson (The Beach Boys) (Torch Red 1955)
- Oprah Winfrey
- Natalie Wood (Sunset Coral 1956)

*Photo coming

We will update this page as new information becomes available

1955-1979 Ford Thunderbird Contents | Movie and TV-Birds

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