• Marilyn Monroe’s 1956 Ford Thunderbird Up for Auction Next Month

Here’s your chance to buy a car that was owned by arguably the most famous Hollywood actress in history

A 1956 Ford Thunderbird belonging to the late Marilyn Monroe is going up for auction at Julien’s Auctions’ Icons and Idols Auction on November 16. The iconic American actress owned the Raven Black Thunderbird between 1955 and 1962. The car has an estimated value between $250,000 and $500,000, though, considering the provenance behind it, including the fact that arguably one of the biggest Hollywood celebrities in history owned it, the selling price could go through the roof.

Marilyn Monroe's 1956 Ford Thunderbird Up for Auction Next Month
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It’s not often that you see a car belonging to Marilyn Monroe goes up for auction. Steve McQueen? Sure. James Dean? We’ve seen those before. Marilyn Monroe? That rarely happens. Naturally, this 1956 Ford Thunderbird immediately becomes an iconic Hollywood car because of the provenance behind it.

Records show that Marilyn Monroe’s production company bought the convertible from Westport Motors in Connecticut in December 1955.

According to the auction house, most accounts point to the car being a gift to Monroe from her business partner and photographer Milton Greene. A separate report published at the time also indicates that the car was used during her civil wedding ceremony with playwright Arthur Miller on June 28, 1956. It’s unclear if the couple used the car in their private wedding two days later. All told, Monroe is said to have owned the Thunderbird for six years before handing it over to John Strasberg, the son of director and acting coach Lee Strasberg, as an 18th birthday present. In a heartbreaking twist, Monroe died a few months after giving the car to the younger Strasberg.

Marilyn Monroe's 1956 Ford Thunderbird Up for Auction Next Month
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Fast forward to today and the current owner of the car was able to trace its history with the help of John Strasberg, whose father, Lee, inherited a majority of Monroe’s estate, including the car’s declaration of ownership, insurance letter, and a letter from the New York Department of Finance Bureau Collection. The current owner added that he found the vehicle in “lovely show condition.” Nevertheless, he still had the Thunderbird restored to its exact original appearance by California-based Prestige Thunderbird, Inc.

Part of the makeup of Monroe’s Thunderbird is a 312cd V-8 engine that produces 225 horsepower.

The car also features a Holley four-barrel carburetor and a Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission. The engine was rebuilt, according to Julien’s Auctions, and the car currently has 30,399 miles on it. Likewise, it’s equipped with full power steering, brakes, windows, seats, a black canvas convertible top, and a “porthole” hardtop. The car will hit Julien’s auction block on November 17, the second of the two-day auction event in Los Angeles, California.

Marilyn Monroe's 1956 Ford Thunderbird Up for Auction Next Month
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If you’re looking to make a bid on this priceless piece of Hollywood history, you’re going to need to open up your checkbooks for this one. Its estimate price peaks at $500,000, but considering who owned it in the past, it’s very likely that it’s going to overshoot its estimate pretty quickly.

Further reading

1964 - 1966 Ford Thunderbird
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2007ford thunderbird

Read our full review on the 1964 - 1966 Ford Thunderbird.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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Note: all images courtesy of Julien’s Auctions.

This stunning Ford Thunderbird owned by Marilyn Monroe from 1955 to 1962 will be sold by Julien’s Auctions, the world–record breaking auction house, as part of their annual blockbuster event ICONS & IDOLS: HOLLYWOOD to take place on November 17, 2018 live in Los Angeles and online at juliensauctions.com. It is estimated that it will sell for $300,000–$500,000.

One of the most desired women in the world, Monroe’s life was deeply troubled, but during the time that she owned this car she was enjoying some of the happiest days of her life.

Soon after buying the Thunderbird, Monroe married the celebrated playwright Arthur Miller. A published report at the time suggests that Monroe and Miller drove this vehicle to their civil wedding ceremony on June 28, 1956 and likely their private wedding on June 30, 1956.

The Marilyn Monroe Thunderbird was purchased on December 20, 1955, from Westport Motors, Westport, Connecticut in the name of her corporation, Marilyn Monroe Productions. Most accounts suggest it was a Christmas gift from her business partner and photographer, Milton Greene.

Amy Greene, Milton Greene’s wife, speaking about this car, said: "Marilyn liked to drive. We’d take the convertible and with the top down, we’d go sailing along the highway. We both liked to feel the wind in our faces and the warmth of the heater on our legs."

It was a powerful car for its time with a 225 horsepower V–8 engine and a top speed of 113 MPH. This car features its complete dual, through the bumper exhaust system and gives a deep throaty roar at speed––adding to its "va–va voom" personality.

The vehicle has a roadster body with two–doors and was designed to be Ford’s answer to the two seater Chevrolet Corvette. However, the Thunderbird emphasized driver comfort and amenities as well as performance. By dubbing it a "Personal Luxury Car" Ford created a whole new niche in the American automobile market. The 1956 model had the spare wheel mounted in a flashy exterior "continental kit" to allow for more trunk space.

Marilyn Monroe’s 1956 Thunderbird came from the factory with both its canvas convertible top and a detachable hard top with distinctive "porthole" windows. A truly iconic look for a Hollywood legend.

Monroe owned this gorgeous vehicle for six years until generously giving it as an 18th birthday gift to John Strasberg, the son of director and acting coach, Lee Strasberg and his wife, Paula. Legal transfer likely took place only a few short months before Monroe’s tragic death on August 5, 1962.

Darren Julien, President/Chief Executive Officer of the leading American auction house that bears his name, says: "Once in a while something comes along that has a powerful magic about it, a charisma, because of everything and everyone associated with it. This wonderful black Ford Thunderbird is not only part of automotive history but comes with an aura of glamour, romance and tragedy of a true Hollywood legend. It will make the centerpiece of any classic car collection and be an object of fascination to millions."

The Marilyn Monroe Thunderbird was traced and purchased by the current owner with the assistance of the accompanying documents, which were among those received by Lee Strasberg when he inherited the majority of the Marilyn Monroe estate.

The current owner says: "I found the vehicle in lovely show condition. Nevertheless, the car has received a frame–off restoration to its exact original appearance by Prestige Thunderbird, Inc., of Santa Fe Springs, CA. Prestige is the premier west coast firm specializing only in classic 1955, 1956, and 1957 Ford Thunderbirds." In recognition of the car’s important provenance, special heed was given to the retention of original parts, with most driver and passenger touch surfaces left undisturbed."

"Finding this car, a classic two–seater model, after 56 plus years of its unknown whereabouts, was a singular event. No other car has been located and documented as owned by the incomparable Marilyn Monroe."

This 1956 Ford Thunderbird owned by Marilyn Monroe has the serial number P6FH151382. The vehicle is accompanied by documents relating to Monroe and her ownership of the vehicle including: a Declaration of Ownership of a Motor Vehicle issued by the State of Connecticut; a letter from the insurance company Kalvin, Miller, Meyer and Sachs; and a letter from the City of New York Department of Finance Bureau of Collections. These documents were purchased at a Julien’s Auctions sale held on November 18, 2016 and came from files of the Estate of Lee Strasberg. Strasberg became the owner of the documentation when Monroe died. The lot is additionally accompanied by a detailed history of the vehicle compiled by the current owner and consignor.

The car features a Raven Black exterior with an elegant black and white interior. It has a 312 cubic–inch V–8 engine with Holley 4 bbl. Carburetor generating 225 horsepower, Ford–O–Matic automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, power windows, and power seats. It comes equipped with a black canvas convertible top and a "porthole" windowed hardtop, rear fender shields (skirts) and American Classic 670R15 radial tires. The odometer reads 30,399 miles following an engine re–build.

In the early 1950s, North American manufacturers began to worry that they didn’t have anything to sell to someone who wanted a two–seater sporting machine. GM was the first out of the gate, with the Chevrolet Corvette appearing as a ’53 model. Ford’s entry, the Thunderbird, was unveiled in 1554 and first produced for the 1955 model year. The "T–bird" created a sensation when it appeared. Actress Jane Wyman was the very first person to take delivery of a new Thunderbird and drove it right into the middle of a party she was giving to celebrate the event.

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