Rich and I had wanted a '57 T-Bird for several years and had visited a half dozen people who advertised in the newspaper. We saw a couple of "laughers" and a couple of decent cars. But we kept hoping to find someone who had tucked away and practically forgotten a restorable original. Of course, it also had to be a pastel, have all the power accessories, two tops, straight body....
In the fall of 1993, we attended the annual Big Bird/Little Bird show in Hercules, CA. As usual, we were asking around. "Do you know anyone who is selling a '57 T-Bird?" Surprisingly, someone said he had just spoken with a man a short while before who was thinking about selling one - low mileage, Dusk Rose. But alas he was nowhere to be found. Two weeks later, during his routine review of collector cars ads, Rich spotted another '57 for sale. The guy at the other end of the line turned out to be the mystery man from the show! We came to find the car sported a "D" 312 V-8 engine, "port" window top in matching pink, a rarely used white softtop and every optional accessory Ford offered for the T-Bird that year except seat belts and a chrome dress-up kit.
It belonged to Sam who had bought it for his wife, Maxine, in 1958. For the most part, it was used for summer vacations. Around 1962, the couple moved from Chicago to the Bay Area. Maxine drove her little Bird around the East Bay and each summer they continued to take cross-country vacations. Ten years later, Maxine and Sam parked the Bird with 61,000 miles showing on the odometer. That was the last time it moved for 21 years. For sadly, Maxine passed away after that trip, and Sam didn't feel right driving or selling her pretty pink car. So she sat and gathered dust, rust, papers and boxes. Over time, she was pretty well hidden in the garage.
But Sam got inspired at that show. He admired the restorations and recognized the love and attention most cars received from their owners. He felt it was time for Maxine's car to get the loving care she deserved. We went to see Sam, and it was like going to an interview. He told us about Maxine, their trips in the car and how he didn't want to sell his memories to just anyone. We exchanged stories about our '65 T-Bird and asked Sam for time to think it over. The following day, Rich called Sam to strike a deal. It was two more days before arrangements could be made to swap cash for keys. In that time, Sam got another offer but he honored his price. He knew Maxine's car was going to a good home.
The only improvement made during the next year and a half was the purchase of four tires that could hold air (barely). We pushed the car in and out of our garage once in a while to get to the attic. It used to seem like we'd never have a little Bird, then it begin to feel like we'd never have a running little Bird! Finally, in July '95, we once again watched our car roll up on to a flat bed truck with huge hopes that her next journey would be with Rich at the wheel. Was the engine frozen? What would it take to get her running after 23 years?
It only took less than an hour to discover a new gas tank would be part of the answer. For when the tow truck driver went to unload our car, he allowed a hook to tear a sizable hole. Ancient, extremely foul gasoline flowed out of the tank on to the shop floor. However, encouraging news was is store. The engine turned by hand. Within a couple of weeks, it was humming steadily and quietly!! And the owner of the towing company made good on the tank (and thus is spared from a mention here). We have had her back home for ten days and she's been driven about seven of the them. We're honoring the 500 mile break-in period just like she was new. You see, to us, she is.
Phyllis & Rich Lunardi
Copyright © 1995-1996 by Rich & Phyllis Lunardi