Featured Thunderbird for November 1998

1960 Hardtop, Exterior: Black
Owner: Ken Harkema, Spring Valley, California
Article written by Sky Silverton

"WOW !!!!! WHAT A SQUAREBIRD," is what youíll say when you see THIS car! Now, Iíve been around T-Birds and especially Squarebirds for a long time, but Iíve NEVER seen one THIS original. Ken Harkemaís 1960 Squarebird Hardtop is just simply gorgeous. If you are a Squarebird fan, only then can you fully appreciate things like a FLAWLESS dash with perfect stainless, perfect glass, even Ford production codes and symbols still stamped under the hood and frame, and, to top it all off, a superbly comfortable ride.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ken Harkema and photograph this car for an upcoming monthly column in a popular car collector magazine. Ken has owned OVER 80 Squarebirds and, believe me, KNOWS THEM COLD! (I thought I knew a lot about Squarebirds in my 10 years of ownership, but Ken makes me look like a rookie!)

I would like now to share some of my interview with readers here at the T-Bird Cyber Nest:

Sky Silverton: Ken; letís start at the top; give us a brief summary of what weíre looking at hereÖ.

Ken Harkema: The carís got 20, 200 right now (8/1/98); it was purchased by me here in Southern California; an older lady and her husband separated and she got the car; it was stored in Palm Springs; she rarely drove the car and it sat in the garage; the car was passed down to her daughter; she didnít drive the car either; she in turn sold the car to an 85-year old lady and being of that age, she didnít drive it much either! Then, this ladyís son worried that Mom might hurt herself in the thing, so he decided to sell it, and thatís how I came to buy it.

SS: Whew----quite a story, but the car survived it all beautifully. How long have you now owned it?

KH: Iíve owned the car about one year now.

SS: And what restoration work have you done to her?

KH: I did new dash pad; new paint job; and all exterior chrome; but everything inside the car is still original; including all weather strip, carpet, seats, headliner; all interior chrome.

SS: Tell us about the production code markings that youíve found.

KH: There are a number of interesting markings on this car that Iíve never seen before. While the inspection stamp in engine compartment on the fire wall is on a lot of cars, I also noticed on the right hand side of the radiator thereís a date inspection stamp; other stamp marks also appear underneath the grill which I have since copied and documented. Also on the right rear brake drum is the sequence number on the build sheet or "R.O.T. sheet" as it was called, so as the car went down the line it was sequenced and that number is still on the brake drum. There are some other unusual markings including a "16" written on the door jam---I have no idea what that represents, but it is an original marking.

SS: So, we might be looking for someone from the Ford Wixom plant, circa 1960, that might have some idea what a few of these codes meanÖ.

KH: Iím researching that right now with the VTCI (Vintage Thunderbird Club International); weíre trying to come up with all the original markings; drive shaft stencils, head lamp markings and things like this to authenticate as much as possible for all Birds.

SS: Tell us about the drive train on this car.

KH: Itís a 352cid, 300hp car; 3 speed automatic, a 3.10:1 rear end ratio.

SS: Basically, a pretty typical Bird for the year.

KH: Other than the standard 3-speed manual trans, this car was upgraded with an automatic transmission. Of course, the 430 Lincoln engine was available at this time, but this car doesnít have it. It also does not have Sun Ray hubcaps or some optional exterior chrome; but, Iíd say itís very typical of the era---not flashy, but extremely original.

SS: How does she run and drive?

KH: It runs and drives like a two-year-old car. No problems right from the day I bought it. When I first bought the car and saw 20,000 miles on the odometer, I just assumed it had been around once or twice. But when I got the car home and started getting into a lube job and oil change, I noticed that the ball joints were still riveted, rather than (replacement) bolted on! The past owner did a little research and gave me the name and number of the previous owners; I contacted them and got even more details; at that point, I began to realize how original this car really was!

SS: Ken, how many Squarebirds have you owned, past and present, total?

KH: Iíll guess that Iíve owned somewhere between 80 and 100 Squarebirds, I donít know exactly.

SS: OK, and how many of them were a match for this car?

KH: I would rate this car as the best; itís not the flashiest; but as far as originality and how the car actually drives down the road, Iíve never driven a Bird like this particular car.

SS: Tell us about your background with Birds.

KH: My father purchased a new Bird in í59; it was the first one in the City of Reno back then; in the mid 1970ís, I restored one for my father; within 6 months I restored one of my own; I kept restoring them; by 1988 I was asked to take over the position of Concours Director for the Vintage Thunderbird Club; Iíve held that position for the last ten years.

SS: I can confirm that this is a VERY SPECIAL ĎBIRD, having just taken a ride in it with you for our photo session!

Written by Sky Silverton

Copyright © 1998 by Edward Sarkis Balian

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