Featured Thunderbird for April 1996

Picture of Featured T-Bird

1957 / Exterior: Starmist Blue / Interior: Blue & White / 312 cid / Automatic

Owners: John & Barbara Blair, Carefree, Arizona

The story of the Starmist T-bird began nearly forty years ago.

Barb saw her first little 'bird when she was a Junior in high school; it was light blue with a white porthole hardtop. It was love at first sight. Unfortunately, it took more than love to buy one; the sticker price was almost $3,000.

A couple of years later, we were married and in college. Before graduation, Steve, our oldest son, was born and T-birds were totally out of the picture for over a decade.

Right after we moved to Phoenix in the late 1960's, we began to hunt for a second car. T-birds were still out of the question, for a variety of reasons. In the late 70's, we purchased a "basket case," '56 T-bird and brought it home in a pick-up truck. More parts were in the bed of the truck than on the chassis in tow. After working on it for more than a year, there was little visible progress (but many $$ and hours spent). There was more to complete a restoration than I could handle; we sold the car.

Twelve years went by before the experience wore off. We began to watch the ads and, from time to time, drive one that looked especially good. Most drove worse than trucks. A brief flirtation with the idea of a "kit" was brought to an end by the indignation of "real t-bird" owners.

In February 1992, I was driving into Phoenix when the Starmist car was spotted near a group of auto repair shops. [Originally a southern California car, it had spent the last twenty years stored in the barn of the second owner south of Phoenix.] Our first test drive was a disaster. The power steering . . . didn't. A second test drive found the brakes to be . . . questionable. A third test drive sealed the deal. And thus began a second experience of pouring money into a T-bird. This time it was a lot more money, but the progress was highly visible. A professional restorer, Ken West, did a full cosmetic restoration. The frame and underside were in great shape, so no "frame-off" was needed. But everything else was painted, straightened, polished or replaced.

But the saga didn't end there. By September 1992, the work was done and Barb was driving it home (~ 30 miles). An old pick-up pulled in front of her, she swerved to miss and went "four-wheeling" in the desert. A small tree got in the way, part of the trip was airborne and many desert plants were uprooted. Approximately one hour after pick-up . . . so. Back to the shop. Two weeks later, the car was actually better than when she first tried to take it home. This time she made it all the way. In 1993, Santa brought a rebuild of the engine and transmission.

It won Best 1957 Touring award at the September 1995 Regional in Arizona.

John & Barbara Blair

Copyright © 1996 by John Blair

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