Rescuing a 1966 Ford Thunderbird has been a pleasant surprise

Brian Reid brought his 1966 T-bird back to life after it had been sitting for 35 years. Courtesy Brian Reid

Two things I like are my Fords and having something to do. In fall 2012, when my ’67 Galaxie convertible was finished, I had nothing to do.

Eventually someone told me about a ’63 Thunderbird that had been in a garage for a long time. I like those, so I got the phone number and called. The lady said it was her father-in-law’s car and that it had been sitting for 35 years. When I asked her to confirm the year, she said it was a ’66. I thanked her and hung up.

Blah, yuck. I didn’t want a ’66. But my wife reminded me it was only 30 minutes away—and that there was a Coffee Time nearby, so we could look at the T-bird and then get some of the cherry crullers I like so much. I was sold.

When we arrived to look at the car, she opened the garage door and I thought: I can do something with that. The engine and brakes were seized, and the vinyl top was dried and split so much you could pull pieces off. It had some rust issues, too, but we struck a deal. I couldn’t wait to get started.

I filled the cylinders with diesel fuel and transmission fluid and let them sit for a month. Using a large chain wrench, I was able to pull the engine over with little effort. The first time I got it to fire was an awesome feeling—but you’ve never seen so much smoke in your life. The neighbors thought my garage was on fire.

I got the Thunderbird on the road by summer 2014, and I have been repairing it bit by bit. It now has a new vinyl top, fresh carpet, and a new trunk liner. The car still has rattles, some rust, and a few leaks, but like I always say: If a Ford’s not leaking oil, it’s out of oil.

In the meantime, we keep driving it, working on it, and enjoying our Flair bird.

1966 Ford Thunderbird owner brian reid
Courtesy Brian Reid

This article first appeared in Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. Click here to subscribe and join the club.

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    Kudos on the project! I enjoy the honesty and reality in the story. It shows that you know what you got yourself into and appreciate the results you are getting. Keep chipping away at the “to do” list, and also keep enjoying driving it. Frankly, stories like this are TONS more relatable to guys like me than reading about Kevin Hart’s latest check-writing escapade!

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