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PLEASURES OF THE ROAD : EARLY BIRD : Cherished collectible: This sleek, stylish two-seater was the first of a fabulous flock

March 12, 1989|WALLACE GUENTHER

New cars come and new cars go, all but a handful disappearing into the mist of memory. Of those that remain, some are cherished for their age alone, oddities from a time long past. A few, however, enjoy a different loyalty and affection; they're examples of an emotional elan, befitting designs that are classics from infancy. The 1955 Thunderbird is such an automobile; its verve and dash were apparent the moment it rolled off the assembly line 35 years ago. At the time, perhaps few realized that price alone is no indication of value; the T-bird was based-stickered by Ford at $2,944. Its appreciation has been steady, if not astonishing--a mint model today might bring 15 times the original selling price. And speaking of original, we picture above the first of the flock, the No. 1 Thunderbird, owned by George Watts of Villa Park.

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