Featured Thunderbird for December 1999

1973 Thunderbird

Owner: Wade Turner, Sydney, Australia

I bought this car in a car yard in Sydney Australia. I drove past it everyday for two months and finally I couldn't resist any longer. I paid $8,500 for it($3,000 US) which, considering it is already converted to right hand drive, basically covers the cost of the conversion. So as far as that goes, it was a good buy and at the least, a good starting point for a restoration. I already owned a nice '65 Galaxie, but the T-Bird was more comfortable, and with 'modern' features, like disc brakes I had to have it.

Upon closer inspection, I had bought a real gem. It's original colour was 4U, emerald green, an optional 'glamour' colour in 1973. It also features a white leather interior, air and the usual options. The power seat was still on the left because I guess the conversion got a bit tricky. The brake booster remains in the same spot with a connecting bar under the dash. The steering box has been relocated inside the chassis rail. The dash has been mirror converted, as have all the A/C controls, radio etc. The only thing that hasn't been converted are the windscreen wipers, which would have to be done if the conversion had been done more recently. I recently imported a set of the optional wire wheel covers which have enhanced the look of the car immensely.

It features a strong 429 cid engine that only needed a tune up. Since then I've put electronic ignition on it which has really improved it's performance. Apart from minor mechanicals and valve stem seals, the engine is in good condition for it's age and has covered 108,000 miles.

When I got the car home, and cleaned it up, it came up like a new one. It has been resprayed several times but close to the original colour. I can't tell when the car was originally imported, but the DSO is 13, which is New York. This is unusual since most cars imported to Australia come from the West Coast. Judging by the fact that the majority of wear is on the right hand seat, I'd say it has spent more time in Australia than in the states.

Not long ago when I was up under the dash doing some maintenance, I stumbled across a bundle of letters placed between the wires. On closer inspection, it revealed that between 1983 and 1986 at least, it was owned by a Mr Perry, the owner of a travelling circus called Perry Brothers Circus. Having done some research, this car was used by Mr Perry to tow a large twin axle trailer around the country, setting up the circus from town to town. This explains the tow kit and pump-up shock absorbers. Like most T-Birds, it has an interesting history. He certainly picked the right car to tow with that 429 and all that torque.

Cars of this era are rare in Australia. With the Arab oil crisis (which effected us too) people generally stopped importing thirsty American cars in favour of Japanese ones. To show you how rare they are, there is only one 1972 and one 1976 in the club, nationally. You just don't see these over here, let alone trying to find parts for them.

I use the car every other weekend, mainly on club outings. We recently attended our national concours in Echuca, Victoria with 61 T-Birds in attendance from across the country. All models were represented from 1955-1989. On the trip, I covered just over 1000 miles, and had no problems to report. I guess the moral of this whole story is that sometimes things turn out to be better, if not more interesting, than you could ever imagine them to be.

Wade Turner

Copyright © 1999 by Wade Turner

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