March 16, 1958 – The 50,000,000th Ford

In 1913, just 10 years after the founding of Ford Motor Company, the 1,000,000th Ford, a Model T of course, left the assembly line. With the assembly line now in place, production was essentially on cruise control. Minus a few hiccups involving war and model transition, Ford was pumping out more than a million automobiles per year by the early 1920s. By the end of Model T production in 1927, the 15,000,000th Ford had left the factory. This massive scale production led to the 50,000,000th Ford, a Thunderbird, leaving a Dearborn, Michigan assembly line on this day in 1958.

Ford assembly line
Above: Ford assembly line in 1913.
Top: 1958 Ford Thunderbird by Greg Gjerdingen CC2.0

The Thunderbird initially competed with Corvette, outselling it as a two seater from 1955 to 1957. it outsold Chevy’s sports car. The personal luxury car was destined for big changes though. Believing the small capacity of the car limited its sales potential, Ford executives, led by Robert McNamara, opted to increase the size of the T-Bird, leading to a complete redesign for 1958. With anticipation running high, and fears of a massive flunk, the new four seat Thunderbird started heading for showrooms. It was a massive success, a much needed win for Ford amid the huge Edsel fallout. More than 200,000 of the second generation Thunderbirds flew off the sales lot before a new redesign for 1961.

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