Motorsports accounts for some very powerful, very desirable oddities among collector cars, including this rare 1957 Ford Custom Tudor Sedan with factory-installed, one-year-only supercharger.
Homologation, a sanctioning body’s approval of a car for competition, has been around since the pioneer days of auto racing when international organizations first prevented automakers from campaigning super-exotic, purpose-built machines in production classes. Traditionally, the primary rule for homologation has been that a minimum number of cars (or engines) must be sold to the public to be allowed in competition.
In the 1950s, drivers were racing Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and independent products against each other every weekend, often with full factory backing. To maintain its grassroots “stock car” appeal, NASCAR had strict guidelines for what did and didn’t qualify as a production model. Part of the thrill for its spectators was that they could go to a dealership and buy a car identical to that weekend’s winner.
When Ford head Robert McNamara heard that Chevrolet would be at NASCAR’s speed trials in Daytona Beach with its small block V-8 expanded to 283 cubic inches (and output increased to 283 horsepower), he refused to concede defeat.
McNamara ordered 100 copies of the powerful new 312 ci “Thunderbird Special” V-8 immediately be fitted with McCulloch/Paxton VS57 superchargers for the 1957 season.
Adding the centrifugal blower increased the 312’s output from 270 horsepower (or 285 with a camshaft upgrade) to an advertised 300. In NASCAR Grand National configuration, output was realistically 340 at 5,300 rpm. To amortize the F-code engine’s cost and meet NASCAR’s homologation numbers, Ford made it available in all 1957 models, from the cheapest Custom two-door business coupe to the flashiest Thunderbird and Fairlane 500 Skyliner Retractable Hardtop.
One is tempted to claim the supercharged Thunderbird Specials were “unstoppable” on the track – Ford won 27 of the 52 races in 1957 – but the sanctioning body itself put a halt to power-adders such as blowers, multiple carburetors and fuel injection in mid-season. NASCAR’s decision made the F-code an intriguing one-year-only option.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in November of 2010 at the Robson Estate, Gainesville, Georgia.
300 hp, 312 cu. in, 8.5:1 compression V-8, four-barrel carburetor, three-speed manual with overdrive, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 116"