Saturday, July 23, 2011

My '57 Thunderbird sports car

'57 Thunderbird Union Park, Des Moines, IA

'57 Thunderbird Rear-End

When I had the '57 Ford paid off in 1960, I traded the then black '57 for an all white '57 Thunderbird automatic.  The FORD Thunderbird had received the design award in 1957 for excellence from Motor Trend magazine and it was by far the best looking car made that year.

Thunderbird in an Iowa Winter 1960

My Thunderbird only had the removable hard top with the little round port hole in it. So when it rained, as it often does in Iowa, I had to go home wake my mother up, get her out of bed in the middle of the night wearing only her night gown, maybe a robe, go out to the garage and have her help me lift the hard top on the Thunderbird.

'57 Thunderbird Hard-Top with Port Hole

I later bought a red leather tonneau cover that snapped on and zipped down the middle. That would help a little during a rain if the car was parked, but when you were driving alone you still got your head wet.  And who wants to be alone anyway?

I converted the '57 Thunderbird to a 3 speed standard shift on the floor. I had a mysterious problem when I did. After only three weeks it always would not want to shift into third gear. Something was at a bind in the drive train and didn't quite line up correctly. Eventually I got tired of putting transmissions in the Thunderbird every three weeks primarily because it was a major job, as you had to pull the motor every time to get at the transmission. That's just a little Thunderbird design Quirk.

'57 Thunderbird was a Wonderful Photography Prop, with another girl on it

 So I took it to a professional mechanic with a commercial repair shop so that if it didn't work again, I could complain and probably have it done over for free. The mechanic got tired of fixing the Thunderbird transmission too. So tired that the last time I picked it up from the mechanic he said: There, It's working again, now park it and trade it off. I don't want to see that car moving ever again.  He knew I was looking to trade it off anyway. I promised to park it curbside. At some point I had had the Thunderbird painted '57 Studebaker metallic gold. I traded that for the metallic gray '61corvette with a two white on blue racing stripes down it, already factory completion prepared. Only this time with a real canvas convertible top, much to my Mother's delight. LOL

I later saw the Gold Thunderbird on a trailer heading of town one night, with an new unsuspecting owner. (Oh well).

There was a well known legend in Des Moines in those days about the Sports Car Tax.

You could always count on getting stopped and harassed by the police every time you were out with a nice looking girl, in your nice looking sports-car with the top down on a nice pleasant evening. The cops were probably envious cause they had to work while you were out enjoying yourself with a fancy car and a pretty girl. The Cops had to show you and your date who's boss and impress you both with their authority. They'd pull you over and check your license, registration, proof of insurance, look the car over, check for broken-out tail lights or other violations. All the while checking your lady out from the corner of their eye, acting like they were looking down at their clipboards. Sometimes giving you a ticket if they could find anything wrong, and they loved to find something wrong, or just giving you a warning and then their OK to proceed on your way. It was like a established routine, you could always count on it happening just like clockwork.

That harassment went along with sports car ownership.

It was called "The Sports Car Tax".


The Thunderbird was such a pretty car that I photographed arty pictures of it alone as seen above and I used that car as a photo-prop while photographing almost every girl I met at the time.

Miss Des Moines in parade '60

WOW, how ironic ? I just realized the Thunderbird was parked on the same hill on the same street that I raced the Soapbox derby years earlier. Huh?

A' 57 Thunderbird---My '61 Corvette

The comparison between a black Thunderbird just like mine that I found parked one day and my new car a competition prepared  '61 Corvette.