Featured Thunderbird for July 1998

1955 Roadster, Exterior: Torch Red, Interior: Red & White
Owner: Rick Deutsch, San Jose, California

The quest for our Thunderbird goes back to the summer of 1992. Hot August Nights in Reno was approaching and since I'd never been there, I convinced my wife, Diane, that this would be a fun time. For perspective, Diane is not a car-person. She calls my '73 Dodge Charger the "Blue Bomb", and thinks it's a low-rider; not the muscle-car that it is.

The Hot August Nights event turned out to be a blast. Over the years, I had secreted a desire to buy a '32 Ford Rod . . . like the one in American Graffiti. At the Car Auction, I sat in one; a nice one with a chopped top. The problem was that I couldn't see anything out of the 4" windows. I realized this would be a dumb idea, and we continued to view the other cars on display. During the auction, a couple of Early TBirds were sold. We looked them over, and Diane blurted out: "Gee, what a cute car; we'd look nice in one of those!" I could see a window of opportunity opening, that I shouldn't let close.

When we got home, I proceeded to purchase every book and video ever produced on '55-'57 Thunderbirds; a couple hundred dollars worth! In my quest for information, I even stopped by a local San Jose mall where a TBird Club had cars on display. Turns out, they were with the Santa Clara Valley Thunderbirds (SCVT). I spent hours probing the members for opinions on the cars.

Eventually, I got the name of Pete Grey and stopped by his "Thunderbird Nest" garage. By then, I had responded to several ads and was narrowing down what model/color to get. We leaned towards the 1956, with the cute Continental Kit and Port Hole top. Pete had just gotten some photos in from a friend in San Diego who had finished a 1 year restoration of a Red '55. The pictures were awesome . . . but we wanted a '56. With Pete's urging, I took the photos home to show Diane. "Call the guy!" she said. The seller was a former SCVT member who retired to San Diego several years ago. Everyone had told me how meticulous he was and that this would be a safe purchase.

After over an hour discussing things like compression ratios and 6 vs. 12 volt systems, I decided this was a real good deal. Even though it was not a '56, the "first year" flavor of the '55 made it appealing. It had non-stock port holes, which we love. We flew down 2 weeks later to pick up the Bird. Driving it up California's Highway 1 was a gas! Thumbs up and smiles emanated from passing cars.

Almost 7 years later, the car's been in several local Concours and even picked up 2 third places. As members of SCVT, we've done dozens of parades, homecomings and displays. All this in addition to our monthly club activities. All in all I'm happy we got the Bird and not the '32 Deuce Coupe...although, if we had a bigger garage.....

Rick Deutsch

Copyright © 1998 by Rick Deutsch

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