20 May 2013

Our Cars: Todd Kraemer’s 1962 Ford Thunderbird

Todd Kraemer is a relative newcomer to Hagerty, but he was associated with the company long before he accepted a full-time position in February 2013. Kraemer worked on various Hagerty projects beginning in 2006, was responsible for the initial look of Hagerty Classic Cars magazine and oversaw the magazine’s design from 2006-2011 before production moved in-house. Born in the Motor City, Kraemer fell in love with automobiles at an early age. He calls his wife “an incredibly tolerant woman who has been putting up with me for more than a dozen years,” and says his 9-year-old twin daughters “keep me laughing — and on my toes — every single day.” They all enjoy cruising in the family’s ’62 Thunderbird.

Employee: Todd Kraemer

Position at Hagerty: Senior Art Director, Media; Art Director and Designer, Hagerty Classic Cars magazine.

Classic Car: 1962 Ford Thunderbird 2-door hardtop

Hobby Background: My dad is a career mechanic. He wrenched on AMCs when I was a small fry, and he even did some drag racing for the dealership in an AMX. I spent a lot of time in our garage as a kid, watching Dad, and we rarely missed a car show. He’d tell tales of the great cars he owned as a younger man — a ’69 Camaro Z/28, a Pontiac GTO and a Chevelle, to name a few. It would have been a travesty — being born and raised in Detroit and having been exposed to many of the greatest cars in the world — not to eventually have a classic in my garage.

Why a 1962 Ford Thunderbird? I actually set out to buy the polar opposite of my Thunderbird. I spent almost two years looking at European, two-seat sports cars. I was keen on getting a Triumph Spitfire or maybe a TR6. I looked at Alfa Spiders, MGBs, Austin-Healeys and even the odd Fiat or Porsche. But nothing that I saw came close to living up to its Craigslist ad. I’d seen the Thunderbird post on a couple web searches and decided to bookmark it, always putting it to the bottom of the list. Finally, when it seemed that all other options were exhausted, I got around to taking a look at the T-Bird. It was far better than advertised and I immediately fell in love with it.

Repairs and Modifications: Despite the fact that I ordered a thorough inspection before I bought the Thunderbird, there’s an oil leak that I’ve been chasing since Day One. Not a big one, but enough of a leak to require a pan underneath when I know she’ll be parked for a while. It may be as simple as a rotted oil-pan gasket, but I haven’t gotten around to taking it all apart. I got the car detailed and replaced a broken fender logo script, plus some other cosmetic touch ups and general maintenance. I recently replaced the original, rusty valve covers with some freshly painted stock ones and swapped out the stock air cleaner for something with more chrome. The battery was anemic, as was the radiator cap, so both of those got replaced, too. Last summer I discovered the car was losing transmission fluid, but there was no visible leak. It turns out the trans-cooler inside the radiator was shot, so the fluid was seeping into the coolant. My dad and I are planning to put in a new radiator. Other future projects include new seat foam in the front buckets, getting the aftermarket radio to work again, and replacing the cracked steering wheel.

Hobby activities: I belong to the FunTime Cruzers, a car club based in the Detroit area. Every Monday night, all summer long, 50-75 cars are on display in a huge shopping mall parking lot, located in the northern suburbs. It’s a great group that’s been growing … and growing … for more than 20 years now.

Interesting Car Stories: I love going to car shows and seeing all the things people use to “accessorize” their classics when they put them on display. My daughters insisted I get fuzzy dice right away and are campaigning for a large stuffed animal on the roof. I’ve been adding little props to show along with the T-Bird, feeding my retro addiction. I tracked down an original 1962 Thunderbird catalog, official owner’s letter and even a ’62 issue of Playboy (don’t tell my wife!). Historical Las Vegas memorabilia is also something I collect, so there’s a period Vegas roadmap, a gaming chip from the Sands and a 1960s pen from the casino tucked in the center console. I also have a vanity license plate – RAT PACK.

Favorite Drive: The 2011 Woodward Dream Cruise. I’d just gotten the car less than a month before and only had time to get it detailed. The T-Bird looked phenomenal after a bit of elbow grease, wax and chrome cleaner. After attending the Dream Cruise nearly every year, even driving a Corvette borrowed from GM a time or two, it was a great feeling to be a part of it all in my very own classic. It was just me and one of my daughters on the ride … the one who has already claimed the T-Bird as hers “when I die” (I’m not even 40!).

Best and Worst Moments: My “worst moment” with the T-Bird was at that same Woodward Dream Cruise. Anyone who has been in the heart of Royal Oak on that Saturday evening knows that it can become a virtual eight-lane parking lot for miles and miles … in the hot August sun. I was creeping along in all that congestion when I learned about the Thunderbird’s tendency to overheat in traffic. Luckily I was able to nurse it off the road and let it cool down awhile, finding smaller back roads home.

My “best moments” in the hobby are nearly too many to count. Because of my job, I’ve gotten to work with collectors all over the country and have fantastic adventures with these folks and their cars. Smoking the tires on a GTO Judge in L.A.? Photographing a Lincoln Continental in front of Don Draper’s house from “Mad Men”? Spending the day with one … two … three beautiful Alfas in the California sun? Just getting to sit in a Tucker at the Gilmore Museum was an absolute thrill for me. I’ve been very lucky. And I think some of my “best” moments are still just up the road!

8 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Grant Glascock United States May 22, 2013 at 14:46
    Use a can of "50 below" in your radiator and it should stop a lot of the overheating.
  • 2
    Bob Garvin Schaumburg, IL May 22, 2013 at 15:06
    Todd - keep the steering wheel. Eastwood has an epoxy repair kit, and with no previous experience, I fixed my old '49 Buick wheel over the winter - it looks brand new !! Its not difficult, just takes some time sanding, and finding someone to paint it. That was a GREAT year for T-Birds !!
  • 3
    michael cusimano sf bay area May 22, 2013 at 18:06
    I own a 60 tbird restoring it great car
  • 4
    Rich Kiene Mizzou Rah May 22, 2013 at 21:36
    My first car was a 62 T-bird.I wanted a MG midget,but my ol man was so taken with the bird,he helped me fininance it,so HE could tool around in it from time to time.BEAUTIFUL car.Wich I still had it.
  • 5
    Scott Bray Columbus, Ohio May 22, 2013 at 21:45
    Nice to see a story from a fellow "Curvybird" owner. These are great cars. They were built exceptionally well when new and have a very well-behaved, quality ride and feel even by today's standards. Easy to own too as the cars are so well loved there are a number of resources where you can get nearly anything from mechanicals to missing trim bits and even pre-sewn interior kits in factory correct colors. I found mine locally in 2008, a 1961 hardtop in Diamond Blue with a Metallic Turquoise interior.
  • 6
    jimmie roan san antonio texas May 22, 2013 at 22:31
    had a 62 bird when I live in California in 1966, really loved the car, sky blue , lowered a little, sprayed on vinyl look like roof, trend back then In that area, and baby moons. not much expense and looked as good as anything on the street. try the trans modulator also for the trans fluid, i'm sure it's possible for the fluid to leak inside the radiator but never heard of it myself. the ford trans were bad about the modulator sucking fluid out into the vacumn line
  • 7
    Bob Beck Walnut Creek, Ca. May 26, 2013 at 17:40
    My second car was a '63 Bird that I bought from my Aunt Jeannie in 1973 when she sold cars for Riggs Olds in Redwood City. She sold it to me for $350 with 36k original miles on it. I sold it 2 years later and it haunted me for 8 years until I bought it back.(3 owners later) My son has that car now and has installed Edelbrock 428 aluminum heads, intake and carb, headers, 3" exhaust, and 4 wheel disk brakes! It's not Dads T-bird anymore. I just picked up a pair of convertibles, a '64 & a '65. The '64 will get the 390 beefed up and a full custom resto job done while the '65 is slated for a supercharged Cobra setup with a 6 speed stick if I can pull it off! It seems my son has started something.
  • 8
    john poulos jensen beach, fl. June 20, 2013 at 18:39
    Purchased in late 1964, this landau, white body black interior, loaded, was a wedding gift to my wife. Today, she still enjoys her pride and joy. I restored, frame -up, completed 2009. There is some truth to the saying; they don't build them like that any more....JP

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