Featured Thunderbird for March 1998

Highlighted Thunderbird

1958 Hardtop, Exterior: Winterset White, Interior: White
Owner: Jed Zimmerman, San Pedro, CA

Over the last 23 years I have bought, fixed up or restored, more cars and trucks than I can remember. Thus far my favorite classic car purchase and restoration has been my '58 HT. With my association in various clubs and with the advent of the Internet, my fascination continue to grow with TBirds.

I purchased the '58 Bird in July of 1993 from a lady in Cerritos, CA for $500 with another $250 of back registration and penalties on the title. When I purchased the car it was titled with CA as a '59 TBird. It had a '59 grille and tail light pans, but everything else was unmistakably all '58. When I decoded the data plate, which the VIN matches the frame stamp number, I found it was a '58. Thus I have properly retitled it with the State of CA. Later I found the correct the '58 grille and tail pans.

The restoration seemed to go slowly at first with a minimum of expenditures and doing all of the work myself. The 1st year or so, I completely stripped the car inside and outside of everything except for the suspension and drive train. The entire interior of the car was prepped and repainted with the original winterset white, as well as the trunk compartment. All of the vinyl trim parts were repainted to the correct blue. The dash had been removed, heater core and controls repaired, as well as all wiper parts and dash instruments and lighting repairs. Then a new dash, floor and trunk insulating material, carpet, door panels, headliner and much else was installed. All of the interior chrome trim was cleaned, buffed and reinstalled.

During the second year and simultaneously with the interior restoration I was able to complete all of the exterior body prep work, as well as finalizing the under hood and most of the engine compartment, and door, trunk and hood jambs. All of the under hood prepped areas and all jambs where then painted winterset white. All other exterior surfaces were left primed.

Had the front bumper rechromed and cleaned and buffed out all other chrome and stainless. Remanufactured the front fender bullet inserts, machined and touched up a few other little trim goodies.

Seats were the most difficult and time consuming. All of the seat foam was either non-existant or substantially deteriorated. I enlarged the seat cushion diagrams out of the shop manual to actual size on a copy machine. With a calipers I was able to transfer the measurements to the new foam and laminated all new cushions, by cutting, glueing and shaping. Once complete the cushions were affixed to fully restored and rust free seat frames over a poly upholstery mesh and hog ringed on. The upholstery kit fit the seats like new. All of the under carriage for the seats including the electric motor and wiring was also restored.

The engine then came out as well as the tranny and were completely gone through. This was the only part of the TBird resto that I did not do completely myself. Had the expert help of Timney Machine in Signal Hill, CA. Jeff Timney is a Big Block Ford guru. The engine had the complete job with all new parts, both upper and lower rebuilds. While the engine was out I completed the resto to the engine bay and finished off the winterset paint job including the front end frame members.

Lastly, I finish sanded, reprimed and put 8 coats of Winterset White Acrylic Enamal on the exterior. All of the chrome re-inspected, buffed if necessary again and reinstalled with any correct rubber seals, pads, and weather stripping parts. All other weather stripping, for doors, windows and trunk has been replaced. Two front side windows were replace and the doors got all new weather stripping.

Have I forgot anything? You can see why this resto took me 3 years. The very last things I have to do are:

- Correct white wall tires
- original hub caps
- get the A/C unit back on and charged up

These last 3 items prove to be quite spendy, so I have been holding out on them until the very end. Otherwise the car is 100% complete and original right down to the correct color brake springs and decals on the engine. Oh yes, I belong to Funbirds of SC and the VITC.

Jed Zimmerman

Copyright © 1998 by Jed Zimmerman

Return to Gallery of Featured Thunderbirds.