Featured Thunderbird for May 1997

1956 Roadster / Exterior: Peacock Blue / Interior: Turquoise & White
Owners: Rich & Sandy Schatz, Sugarloaf, PA USA

My wife Sandy and I bought the car in 1979, needing everything. We knew very little about restoration procedures at that time, even though we had a '56 back in 1967. Over five years with a lot of research and study, my Dad, Sandy, and I did every "r" to the car that exists - Rebuild, Repaint, Refurbish, Rechrome, Replace, Reline, Reseal, -- you get the idea!

This Thunderbird is unusual in that it is one of only 255 which were exported to Europe by Ford from their Harborside NJ export operation. It went to a French Ford distributor, then to a German dealer. It was purchased by a US Army officer, and subsequently shipped back to New Jersey for this officer. The car was later bought by a gentleman in Hazleton Pennsylvania, from whom I bought the car. On the passenger inner fender are the two export tags, with the original Ford tag on the firewall.

Equipped with correct 2-11/16 inch whitewalls, it has the *original* correct non-porthole fiberglass hardtop and the *original* mint condition convertible top and hardware, complete. The car was equipped from the factory with the "town and country" AM radio, power brakes, power windows, and power seat, with standard steering. The special wire basket hubcaps are the only item shown on my original invoice which are no longer on the car. This '56 is one of the very few also equipped with three-speed standard shift and overdrive, the metric speedometer face plate registering to 240 kilometers. Very special also are the rare optional European road lamps mounted in the front bumperettes where the chrome bullet fillers would normally belong. I am told these lights were standard for the Euro-exports, and are listed on the original invoice.

Our "baby bird" has been totally reconditioned and restored in every way, and is a superb driving sports car. There are about 6000 miles on the odometer since restoration. Incidentally, I think it is an interesting note that the 'bird gets between 25 to 28 miles to a gallon of gas on a trip done largely on the interstate highways!

Shown flanking the passenger's door are three of our family's super guitars. Far left is my 1961 Gretsch "chet atkins country gentleman", which I bought new and have used in my bands for many years. It has the original hard shell case. Other than slight playing indications, it is as new, and has never been refretted. The Gretsch is a rare model for that year, and the last one built with a non-removable back, a feature which greatly enhances sound resonance. In the middle is my daughter Risa's mint 1993 Gibson Epiphone "les paul standard", specially fitted with a brand new old stock Bixby tremolo tail piece.

And on the right, my super special order 1996 Gibson"chet atkins country gentleman". Designed solely by Chet Atkins, the master, the Sunrise orange "gentleman" took 7 months for building, testing, and delivery. Chet, an International Thunderbird Club member, went with the Gibson company in 1978, and took his patented model names with him.

The car and the guitars are all unusual, wonderful to own, and handle like a dream!

Dr. Richard L. Schatz

Copyright © 1997 by Rich Schatz

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