The power part of the equation came from the 292-cid version of the corporate "Y-block" ohv V-8 shared with Mercury. Equipped with a Holley four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts, it made 193 bhp at 4,400 rpm in cars built with the standard three-speed manual transmission, or 198 bhp in those fitted with the extra-cost Fordomatic automatic gearbox. Overdrive was also available for stickshift cars.
Though it was inspired by the many -- mostly foreign-built -- sports cars that were capturing the imagination of American enthusiasts in the early 1950s, the Thunderbird was built like a little luxury car. Its family car-like suspension delivered a softer ride than "pure" sports cars (and would be made softer still in 1956). Roll-up windows and the availability of a removable fiberglass top lent more all-weather comfort than the folding tops and snap-in curtains associated with most other two-seaters. A standard telescoping steering column helped drivers find an optimal position behind the wheel. Optional power assists cradled passengers in the lap of luxury.
Story via How Stuff Works