For the Ford Thunderbird’s sophomore year of 1956, various style changes took place, with the ultimate goal of adding room in the trunk. This was, after all, an upscale luxury cruiser (as opposed to the Corvette’s sports car positioning), and there was a good chance the two occupants may be traveling with luggage to their destination.
The added trunk space was achieved my moving the spare wheel to the outside, in its own very stylish container. Additionally, the exhaust outlets, once integrated into the rear fascia on the 1955 model, were now worked into very subtle outlets on the corners of the rear bumper.
The addition of “porthole windows” for the 1956 Thunderbird improved rearward visibility and added one of the T-Bird’s signature styling cues. This was a no-cost option.
To improve cabin ventilation, small air vents were added behind the front wheels, which made for another functional component that became a signature stylish touch.
V-8 power continued to be standard for the ’56 T-Bird, with the 292 cid Y-Block sending 202 horsepower to the rear wheels though either a 3-speed manual or a Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission.
For 1956, Ford added an optional 312 cid version of the Y-Block V-8. This engine put out 260 horsepower with the manual transmission, or 225 horsepower with the Ford-O-Matic. There was a third transmission option – an overdrive transmission with planetary gear-sets. With this transmission, output was just 215 horsepower.
Production volume for the 1956 Ford Thunderbird was 15,631 units, which was the lowest of the first three years of the T-Bird, but still well more than three times higher than the Corvette at the time.