Cross-Referencing for parts doesn’t always work

April 1, 2012 | By Richard Prince


I thought I read somewhere that there was a book that would cross-reference parts from other Fords that are the same parts as those used on the 1956 Thunderbird. I had a friend that restored a 1967 Corvette and he found one of these cross-reference books. He found, for instance, maybe an alternator that was used both on a ’67 Corvette and a ’67 Impala. By going to his parts supplier the alternator cost for the Impala was much less than the same alternator he could get through his Corvette source.

I’m restoring a 1956 Thunderbird and can’t believe what they want for “1956 Thunderbird” parts. For instance, sun visors are two to three times as expensive as sun visors for a 1956 Ford. This may be a poor example, but I do believe Ford used the same parts in the 1956 Thunderbirds as in the 1956 Fords. I thought I saw something in one of your issues and put that issue in a “special” place. Guess what, I can’t remember that “special” place.


I am not aware of a cross-reference book that is specific to vintage Thunderbirds as they relate to other Ford products. You can, however, learn a lot about which parts from other Ford vehicles will work in your Thunderbird from a general Ford Master Cross Reference Parts Manual.

Bear in mind, however, that in many instances cross-reference books will indicate which parts are functionally interchangeable without necessarily being cosmetically identical. I know of many situations where a part from one model will function correctly in another model from the same manufacturer (or in some cases, even in a car from a different manufacturer) but look quite different. The sun visors that you refer to are a good example. Sun visors from various other vehicles will certainly attach to your Thunderbird and function as sun visors even though they may look markedly different from the sun visors that originally came in your Thunderbird.

As far as pricing of parts is concerned, it’s easy to find fault with parts suppliers who charge considerably more for parts for certain cars but there is often (not always, but often) good justification for this. In model year 1956 Ford manufactured approximately 1,408,478 vehicles. Of these, some 15,631 were Thunderbirds while about 665,106 were Fairlanes.

One of the most basic principles of economics—the law of supply and demand and its impact on pricing— makes it inevitable that model-specific parts for 1956 Fairlanes will cost less than comparable model-specific parts for ’56 Thunderbirds. This is true for OEM, NOS, used or reproduction parts.