The following is a result of an email that I sent out regarding the 1957 Mexican assembled E-Code Thunderbird that was recently offered for sale at the San Antonio Don Kruse Auction March 28th, 2015. High bid was $46,000 but it did not reach the Reserve price and did not sell. This caused some comments back regarding this email, as some people do not know that 197 1955-1957 Thunderbirds were assembled in Mexico City for Ford in their La Villa plant. I have known about these Tbirds for some years now.
The following information regarding 1955-1957 Thunderbird assembly in the Mexico City plant was originally sourced from CTCI's "Early Bird" and noted as well in the VTCI's 1955-1957 Original Factory Specifications manual, which Alan Tast was a co-author of. In addition, Alan, who provided me with the following information, also covered this subject in his book, "Thunderbird 1955-1966" published in 1996.
The topic of 1955-1957 Thunderbird Mexican assembly was covered as follows on page F7-1 of the 1955-1957 VTCI OFS, dated 12/3/2002:
1955 Additional Information: No breakdown of engine/transmission combinations has been found by VTCI Export: Of the 16,155 cars produced at the Dearborn Assembly Plant, 619 were exported as assembled units, and 48 were shipped “knocked down” for assembly at a Ford facility overseas. An additional 47 cars were shipped to Ford’s assembly plant in Mexico City, where they were given serial numbers which included ‘MEX’ in place of the Dearborn Assembly Plant's “F” code. Of these 47, 6 have Fordomatic, 29 have overdrive, and 12 are three-speed versions. One car was imported fully built, probably to provide an example for assembly at the La Villa plant in Mexico City (Sources: Early Bird, Sep-Oct ’93, p. 25)
1956 Additional Information: No breakdown of engine/transmission combinations has been found by VTCI Nine out of every ten hardtops sold were with the portholes installed. No cars were delivered from the factory with the 260 hp dual carburetor package- this was a dealer-installed accessory. Export: Of the 15,631 cars produced at the Dearborn Assembly Plant, 694 were exported as assembled units, and 90 were shipped “knocked down” for assembly at a Ford facility overseas. An additional 91 cars were shipped to Ford’s assembly plant in Mexico City, where they were given serial numbers which included ‘MEX’ in place of the Dearborn Assembly Plant's “F” code. Of these 91, 9 were built with 292/3speed, 33 with 312/Ford-O-Matic, and 49 with 312/Overdrive (Sources: Early Bird, Sep-Oct ’93, p. 25)
1957 Additional Information: Export: Of the 21,380, 580 were exported, and an additional 72 were KD (“Knock-Down”) Mexican production figures for knocked down cars sent to La Villa plant are (engines unknown): Fordomatic 25 Overdrive 34 Total 59 Final production for 1957 is adjusted to 21,439 units to include Mexican cars. (Sources: Early Bird, Sep-Oct ’93, p. 25)
It's very rare to run into one of the Mexican-assembled 'Birds. That one was found in the San Antonio area doesn't surprise me. With that being stated, the question of Mexican-built '55-'57s has not come to my attention in the 12+ years that the current OFS for '55-'57s has been in use. I'm not aware of any differences between the Mexican-assembled cars versus Dearborn-assembled export cars or others knocked-down for export and assembled at Ford plants overseas with exception of the unique VIN. Export cars typically had heavy-duty components, kilometer-gradiated speedometers where required, etc., and I'm not aware that any non-standard color combinations were offered unless the car was special-ordered or shipped in primer or a non-standard or non-Ford-offered color. The Concours Rules and the OFS do cover instances where a special-ordered color or trim can be verified by the data plate and other documentation to avoid a modification point deduction.
Part of the reason why we ask for people to submit their VIN and data plate information with their registrations to VTCI Regional and International conventions is so that unique or unusual cars can be documented and identified by the Chief Judge, so that they can prepare for questions from the judging team. We also ask owners/registrants to have information available during the judging process to help document such unique conditions and educate judges to help them understand features that otherwise have not been documented. It is the responsibility of both judges and owners to thoroughly read the OFS and know where information is in preparation for judging. And should something fall through the cracks, an appeal process is in place to amend show-field tallies if it can be proven that an item that was scored incorrectly in terms of authenticity or use of factory-installed/designed components.
If you have additional questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
Alan H. Tast, AIA, LEED AP Technical Director, Vintage Thunderbird Club Int'l. http://www.vintagethunderbirdclub.net
Author, "Thunderbird 1955-1966" & "Thunderbird 50 Years"