Reflecting the Glory..
Being an Irishman, March is always a special month because of the celebrations that happen on and around the 17th. This year, though, we had a special birthday celebration on the 7th, because on that date in 1966 our Thunderbird was born, coming off the line at the Ford plant in Wixom, Michigan. In reality, the car came to our home in Germantown last April 30 and has become a part of the family. And a long-time dream came to fruition.
My first look at a "flair bird" was in 1971. A colleague at Holloman AFB, N.M. had a 1966 Landau and I fell in love with the lounge seats and the overall classiness of the car. It was a graceful beauty. My mind was made up that someday I would have my own Bird. That came about late in 1978 when I factory-ordered a 1979 model with complete gauge package and the works. I loved that car totally until it came to an untimely demise, totally, with my oldest daughter behind the wheel in 1984. (To paraphrase the Beach Boy. She had fun, fun, fun til they came and towed the T-Bird away.
It wasn't until 2013 that I got the bug to realize my dream of having a Bird again, only this time it had to be a convertible and I had my sights set on a 1966. That winter I found it while looking on My Classic Garage. And it was completely restored.
The early history of the car is unknown except that in the late 80's it had a rough life. Marty and Sharon Greene, of Frostburg, Maryland, found it parked next to the Sky View Motel near Grantsville, Maryland in 1991. It was really a shell of its original self with an engine and transmission that had come from who-knows-where, front fenders that had been torched so someone could put add headers and side-pipes, and bullet holes in the windshield and right front fender (a couple holes are still there near the battery area). Sharon thought it would be a great Fathers Day gift project for Marty so she bought it for him and restoring it to factory condition became a loving task of his for the next 22 years. The car was featured in the Thunderbird Scoops September/October 2008 edition.
Once finished it was driven in some local parades and got a few hundred miles put on every year on cruise nights. But after a couple years of that Marty was ready to move on to another project and that's when I discovered it. After an inspection and appraisal, the deal was done and the car was shipped to Wisconsin.
Originally Honey Dew yellow in color, Marty had the car repainted Diamond Blue (color code N). He had also purchased a 1966 Landau that was used for parts to replace most of the front end sheet metal. The engine and transmission from the Landau were also rebuilt and the interior door panels were salvaged. Overall, the car is a carefully done restoration with authentic parts and resembles the way the car would have looked when it came off the line at Wixom.
It arrived in Germantown with white wall / red line, bias-ply tires (including a matching spare) which gave an old-fashioned feel to its handling! I have since replaced those with radials which greatly enhanced the ride, had some alignment work done, gave it a good chassis lube to get rid of some squeaks (we found some grease zerks that were supposed to go in at its first lube job 48 years ago had NEVER been installed!!) and she runs like a charm.
The car was a real hit at two local July 4th parades last year but we won't do that again, 390's don't like to be idled in traffic for long periods of time - they get HOT!! But it purrs beautifully at highway speeds and turns a lot of heads just going down the street. Look for us at some of the Cruise Nights this summer. I think you'll agree with what Marty wrote in the Thunderbird Scoop article, "She now reflects the glory she was made to represent"
Carroll and Jean Merry