Bird Sematary, East Texas Style: 1959 Thunderbird

When I saw Tom’s article on the ’74 Thunderbird I was reminded of why I quit liking Thunderbirds in general, and of the last one that I really did like. It wasn’t the ’57. Ford thought they had a better idea when they stuffed a back seat in the ’58 model. That may have been a good decision, but that would be an individual call.

There are a couple of ’59 T-Birds here locally that I looked at some time ago, but I couldn’t find the passion to generate an article. Some things are just better left alone. Tom’s article featuring that bloated baby Lincoln prompted me to look again.

For youngsters from my era who liked the Vettes and the 1955-57 ‘Birds, 1958 was the start of the Thunderbird’s bloat. That can’t be good, can it? Well, some years just wore the bloat better than others. You probably have your favorites, but mine were the 1958-1960 models.

I had a friend when I was in Submarines that drove a 1958 model. He called it the Thunderchicken. He would like to thank all you taxpayers that paid for the facilities at the shipyard that he used to rebuild that engine. I took many a trip from Connecticut to Maine in that car. I promise you, it was a comfortable travel car with as much luxury as I cared to have. Of course when you are comparing it to my 66 VW, anything is comfortable. The standard engine was the 352 V8. It wasn’t going to set any new land speed records, but it kept up with traffic and would cruise at any sane speed you might choose.

Sometimes we have grand plans for restoring these things. Sometimes these plans are delusional. You can almost see the lobotomy scars. This beauty started as part of one of those plans..

 When I used to commute I would see these cars every day. They have been setting in the same place for more than 15 years. When I first saw them, there was a third one roosting with them. I talked to the guy who owns them and he told me their story and how he had gotten a good package deal. He said he had sold one and actually seen it running around. I did not tell him that looking at them reminded me of seeing the wreckage of the Titanic or walking around in one of the mothball fleets. He is probably already upset that he was unable to sell them in 15 years.

When you park a car outside long enough it starts to deteriorate. Even in Texas where there aren’t many Tin Worms, if you ignore something long enough the Tin Worms will colonize.

I’m sure that the engine (a 352) was removed with the best of intentions. I’m sure the owner had the best of intentions, with visions of a rejuvenated Squarebird with new paint, interior and a rebuilt engine. I can see how far it got before those intentions dissolved. Not long enough to even remove the straps. I think it’s now worth about $8 per 100 lbs.

Well, I may be a fan of old cars but here is the dirty little secret that applies to most of us. I didn’t put my money where my (old car restoring) mouth is. I may own a ’57 Chevy but this silver Nissan (below) is what I drive (at 30-35 mpg). I wonder what my grandkids will be doing by the time they are my age. I expect this cube will have been long melted down. On the other hand there may be no gas and all of these may have been converted to barbeque pits. In the meantime, these Squarebirds will probably be roosting here for the foreseeable future.