Allen and Kathleen Hale brave icy February conditions to show off their `survivor' '57 Thunderbird, which has been in Allen's family since 1962. He says he's not only tough enough to drive it year-round, but to take the teasing he gets about driving a `Mary Kay' or `Barbie' car.
The Thunderbird has been repainted only once in its 57-year lifespan, back to its original color. And no, it's not `pink,' it's Dusk Rose, a factory Ford color. Although the top is seldom used, it's painted the same hue.
Inside, the Thunderbird shows the tuck-and-roll padded dash that Ralph Hale had installed when it served as his daily driver. The leather upholstery he installed at the same time as the dash has now been replaced by nicely matched white pleated vinyl.
The original 312 cubic inch Thunderbird V-8 engine still resides in the engine bay. Hale has made performance upgrades only, including an Edelbrock carburetor, an electronic ignition conversion and reworked lower compression heads and hardened valve seats to handle today's unleaded fuels.
The Thunderbird is equipped with power steering, so plans call for a smaller steering wheel to be installed eventually, to increase occupant space in the snug confines of the two-seater. The factory gauges and radio remain in place.
It there was any question this car is still a regular driver, a peek inside the trunk clears that up. Hale said the deceptively large trunk could accomodate up to four teenagers intent on sneaking into a drive-in movie theater.
Bumper bullets, an understated egg-crate grille and another T-Bird emblem made Ford's '57 personal sports car instantly identifiable. The first three years of production came only in two-seater models, earning the cars the nickname of `Baby Birds' when compared to later, larger models.