Featured Thunderbird for August 1995

Highlighted Thunderbird

1957 / Exterior:Starmist Blue / Interior: Antique White / 292cid / 3-speed

Owner: Cindy Wotel, San Jose, CA

I obtained my Thunderbird, CINDY 57, in April 1980. It was in the process of restoration by the previous owner, but hadn't been worked on for a few years. He had started a frame-off restoration and had completed the frame and underside of the body. The rest of the car was in boxes, except for the engine and transmission which were mounted in the car and fortunately were in running condition. My husband, Jerry, and I nursed the car home, about 10 miles, only having to stop for radiator water once.

We then compiled a list of parts and materials needed to complete the restoration of the exterior, interior, and trunk, and drove to a T-Bird parts supplier and made the big purchase. The car came with an original factory tonneau installation. It also had a hardtop without portholes, and the small hub caps. After I confirmed this by getting the original invoice, it was indeed sold without any extras, except for the tonneau cover. Therefore, without power steering or brakes, it is a workout to drive.

We examined the engine and transmission and determined that no rebuild was necessary, that there was indeed low mileage on those components. Therefore exterior paint was the first priority. I decided that I wanted the color combination of Starmist Blue with an all-white interior, instead of the original antique white with black and white interior. After obtaining several paint estimates, and realizing I had already spent all the money I had for the car and parts, Jerry said he could push a piece of sandpaper as good as the next guy, and would take the refinishing through the application of the primer, and then have the paint applied professionally. Since I knew the only car he had ever painted before was a '49 Mercury, and he did it with a brush (he was in college at the time and that's all he could afford), with apprehension I said OK, and the project began. Without going into the details, we also painted the final finish on the car in lacquer in our driveway. If you're wondering, I get a lot of compliments on the paint, and job offers for Jerry to paint other cars. I guess because he used a spraygun and compressor this time.

After installation of the dashboard, wiring, seats, carpet, door and quarter panels, and trunk liner it was ready for driving. I enjoyed driving it very much around San Jose, and in parades, and displays for charities. Then one day since he had a cherry picker handy, Jerry said it was time to finish the detailing of the engine and compartment, so we pulled the engine and transmission out. And like the Beach Boys' song says, Fun, Fun, Fun, until her Daddy (Jerry) took the T-Bird away. Well, 5 years later, my T-Bird is finally back on the road. Does this sound familiar to some of you other wives of shade-tree T-Bird mechanic husbands? I am very happy that it is driveable again, and I am looking forward to many years of fun driving my car.

Cindy Wotel

Copyright © 1995-1996 by Cindy Wotel

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