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

In 1913, just 10 years after Ford Motor Company was founded, 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 able to start pumping out more than a million automobiles per year by the early 1920s. This massive scale production led to the 50,000,000th Ford, a Thunderbird, leaving a Dearborn, Michigan assembly line on this day in 1958.

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

The Thunderbird was initially introduced as a Corvette competitor and from 1955 to 1957, it outsold Chevy’s sports car, all while being marketed as a two seat personal luxury vehicle. 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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