Featured Thunderbird for June 1998

Highlighted Thunderbird

1956 Roadster, Exterior: Buckskin Tan, Interior: Brown & White
Owner: Bruce Jones, Farmington, Michigan

Hiya TBird Fans!

My name is Alice. I was born May 7, 1956, in Dearborn, Michigan. I am a rare Buckskin Tan color and have my original paint. Forty-two years is a long time to go with the same make-up so I have one or two "beauty marks".

I was delivered to my first owners Alice and Carvel, in Seattle, Washington. The Thunderbird then was the "Banker's Sportscar" and Carvel was a prominent banker. It was fitting for him to buy his 56 year old wife a car that matched her pinkish outfits and hats. When Alice died, I was one of the few possessions that Carvel kept. He took me with him to Palm Beach, Florida and drove me up and down the coast to Miami Beach. In 1969, Carvel met Suzie and they were married. From then on, I lived in Suzie's garage on Miami Beach. Carvel would take me to the golf course, to the beach, to the docks and to Bal Harbour shopping.

It was beautiful there and I fit right in with my art nouveau pinkish Buckskin Tan. Carvel loved to drive me around almost as much as he loved to play golf. Cruising made him happy and he would show off the modern features I had, like power windows and the search on the Town & Country Radio. Carvel was elected mayor of the island he lived on and he always drove me to his mayoral office. Later in life, when Carvel was older, he accidentally ran me into a barrier chain. It caused some scratching and in that spot, if you look really close, you can see that my paint does not match. Carvel did not drive me much after that.

In 1982, Carvel died. Suzie never even sat in me, but she did not have the heart to sell me. I sat there in Suzie's garage on blocks. I was there, only 100 yards from the intercoastal waterway, until Suzie passed away in 1996. Suzie used a racy nickname for my color. Translated to the family version, this nickname would be "woman's breast pink." When Suzie died, she did not decide who would inherit me. The estate executors devised a sort of age orientated selection process for all of her property. I was the fourth item of personal property selected. For those of you wondering what the first three choices were, I was selected after a China cabinet, a sofa, and a signed Thomas Edison note and photograph of family historical value. The estate appraised me at $5000.

In May of 1997, like Rip Van Winkle awaking as an anachronism, I woke as someone was re-inflating my tires and hoisting me off the blocks. My engine had seized and my rubber was dry rotten. The ocean had caused my wires to corrode and my chrome had little dots of green where the sea air had landed. Those exhaust parts that take the heat had rusted through, but my body was fine. Seems the folks at Ziebart had put about a quarter inch of green goo in every nook and cranny and about a half inch of black goo underneath. There was a white tornado in Miami that day. Coincidentally, the tornado touched down just as my wheels hit the ground. In between the rains and the wind, I was rolled out of the garage and onto the carrier truck...I was shipped north.

One of Suzie's grandchildren, Bruce, was taking me home with him...Back to Dearborn...he is a manager type with Ford Motor Company. Carvel had taken Bruce for a ride in 1981 and the two had marveled together at my "modern" features. Bruce had fallen fast in love with me way back then on that first ride and thought of me often. Bruce and I found a little home garage in Dearborn Heights, with a mechanic who has been working on Thunderbirds since they were new. Took my heads off, replaced the carburetor and intake with the '57 style, did a few other things to improve the cooling, all without changing my classic appearance. Replaced most of the wiring, added stainless exhaust, new rubber, brake lines, synthetic oil, brakes...Did just about everything except the transmission. We removed the air-conditioning and radio and put in a modern digital Thunderbird Radio. Soon after all this, in August 1997, I was running down the road again. In an "Economy Run" sponsored by The American Road Thunderbird Club, I placed third with almost 28 miles per gallon. With all this mechanical work...we have not touched my outward appearance. Besides a recent wash and wax, I am the same as I have been since 1956.

My favorite drive is down a tree covered road, with the top off or over to the A&W drive-in for a root beer float. Last week, we loaded up all three boys (Alex, Ben and Teddy) and went for ice cream. I will be in a few parades this summer. Who knows, maybe I'll run into some people in Dearborn thinking about new retro Thunderbirds. That would be fun, fun, fun...

Oh and here are my other details... interior is brown/white... paint is the factory original Buckskin Tan ... removable porthole hardtop (same color)... continental kit... about 57,000 original miles...power windows, seat belts, 312 engine.... non-factory modifications are a 1957 carburetor/intake/radiator/fan, a 1997 digital radio and a modern battery... So, I am mostly the real thing.

Besides the time at the dealership, I have never been sold and have only been passed from family member to family member. Some of the things I plan to do in the next few years... wide whitewalls, soft-top, new vinyl on the seat, new carpet, restored Town & Country Radio, and yes, one day I'll need to repaint my Buckskin Tan.

-Alice June 1998

Copyright © 1998 by Bruce McCulloch Jones

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