Featured Thunderbird for June 1999

1968 Thunderbird

1968 Hardtop, Exterior: Raven Black, Interior: Black
Owner: Tom Beggan, Manchester, New Hampshire

Four years ago I bought this 1968 Thunderbird from an elderly woman who'd owned it since new. She bought it from a now defunct Ford dealership in Milton, MA and she stored it in the same garage for 25 years. When I happened by, the car hadn't been driven or registered for 6 or 7 years, and the odometer showed just a shade over 62,000 miles. That was the good news; the bad news was everything else.

When I opened the garage door the first thing I noticed was the car's color. It was Lime-Gold, a pale shade of green/yellow metallic that I knew I'd ever be able to appreciate. Another problem was that this little garage was very poorly ventilated, with a concrete floor that was ideal for generating condensation in the harsh hot-again-cold-again spurts that are so common in New England. As a result, the car's frame had been almost entirely destroyed by rust. There was very little wrong with the body, the interior was nearly perfect, and remarkably, even the floor pans were solid as rocks! It was just the frame that had gone bad, and it was way beyond any hope of repair.

As the woman watched me inspect her car, she noticed that I had a special appreciation for it. She later told me "it was the way I looked at the car" that convinced her I should have it. It was extremely important to her that this car be restored and cared for by someone who could appreciate it as much as she had. Consequently, she dropped her price by 90% and practically gave it to me. She never wanted the money. This was her way of making sure the car would live on. I promised her I'd do just that, and it's been with me ever since.

During my first few days and weeks with the car, I discovered a whole list of other problems: It needed new springs all around, the whole front suspension was trash, and all the vacuum and electric systems were messed-up. The list of things in need of repair included: exhaust, brakes, windows, horn, directionals, swivel-wheel, radio, door panels, A/C, tires, trunk lining & drains, all the rubber window & door seals, most of the car's exterior moldings, plus a whole lot more. I certainly had my work cut out for me if I was going to keep my promise!!!

I've recently completed a two-year frame-off restoration wherein everything has been restored to like-new condition. The frame was replaced with a spotless unit I bought from KC T-Birds in Missouri, (although it ran well) the engine was rebuilt to run on unleaded gas, all the little molding pieces were replaced with NOS, and oh yes.... I got rid of that color. Today the car is triple black, and I love it! I'm still debating on whether or not I should bring it back to show the little old lady. I think she'd be thrilled to know that her car has been 100% restored, but I fear the color change might disappoint her. She'd special-ordered the Lime-Gold color and she mentioned on a few occasions how "nice" she thought the color was.

If you'd like to take a look, I've got a web page with pictures of the car through the whole process of the restoration: http://home.ici.net/~beggan/newpage1.htm

Tom Beggan

Copyright © 1999 by Tom Beggan


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