When the Thunderbird first came out in 1955 my Dad fell in love, and when the 1957 model was unveiled, he knew that was the car he wanted. But it was the 50's and he had a wife and two children which made a two seater out of the question, and having two cars was for people with lots more money than we had. My sister and I would join Dad when we were out on the road and one of us would spy a 'Baby Bird' and say, "There goes a Thunderbird!" My Mother became so annoyed at us that eventually we were only allowed to say, "There goes a...".
When I entered high school in 1967, he decided that the time was right to get his dream car. We found a college student low on funds who had a '57 that had been purchased new by his father and was willing to sell it for the princely sum of $1,600 (years later Dad was still complaining that he paid too much).
We began a project to get the car back to original condition. It had been fitted with Mustang bucket seats, a racing steering wheel, chrome reverse wheels and shackles to clear oversized tires in the rear. Fortunately, we received the original parts with the car. We had it repainted, the drivetrain overhauled and a new interior made. This became Dad's daily driver to work and on weekends to the golf course. In 1979 he was broadsided by a driver that ran a red light. Dad was knocked unconscience and didn't awake until he was in the hospital. The first words out of his mouth were, "How's the T-Bird?" Insurance paid for the repairs, but Dad wasn't happy with the work, and he paid another shop out of his pocket to re-do it to his satisfaction.
When he retired in 1992, the 'Bird remained in service, but only for trips to play golf. He passed away in 2007 and I took over ownership. As a final tribute to my Father, we carried his ashes in the T-Bird from the funeral service to his resting place.
For the next year I did the little things that had been ignored as Dad got older, like rebuilding the carburetor and ignition. When I changed the tires I noticed that the rear leaf springs were well past their prime and needed replacing. I decided that the car truly deserved a complete and professional restoration after all these years. Knowing that this was going to be a costly endeavor, I approached my wife, who's only comment was, "Where can we have it done?" I found a local restorer, Jim Verhey, and he and his crew at Reincarnation Auto began a two year process where we used original parts if available and reproductions when not.
My only regret is that Dad didn't get to see his beloved T-Bird 'as new'. It's primarily a weekend driver now...cruise nights, local car shows and the annual trip into the mountains for the turning of the Aspen leaves. But on sunny, warm days we'll take it out and enjoy the smiles and thumbs up we receive from other drivers. Eventually it will be passed on to another family member and I'm sure they will appreciate Dad's legacy as much as I do.