Saturday, March 7, 2009


AT ABOUT 8:17 P.M. ON SATURDAY, JAN. 17™, the gleaming Black 1955 Ford Thunderbird came to rest on stage at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale, AZ.

The much-anticipated arrival of Lot 1295 was its history as being the "1st Production 1955", bearing S/N 100005! The 'Bird was "discovered" by the late George Watts, who upon noting the S/N - on his 2nd visit to a shop in Santa Ana, CA - decided to acquire the wreck for the asking price of... $500! (This did include a host of new parts.)

The (surprisingly low) opening bid: $75,000. Succeeding bids of $85K, $125K $150K and $160K followed quickly, reaching $170K less than a minute later!

George Watts gathered the many new parts for his "find" and began the long period of research and restoration required to return this special T-Bird to its original condition. The effort was not only time consuming, but quite costly - even 40 + years ago.

BIDDING- $185K and $200K at 8:19

Naturally, George was inspired to ascertain the Production Number of his "005," and an inquiry to the Ford Motor Company yielded a response declaring that his was ths first production 1955 Thunderbird. The Ford correspondence was sent to George (via Air Mail) on February 8, 1966.

BIDDING- $210K, $225K, $235K, $250K @ 8:20

The "blood-line" established by the Ford letter held sway until 1974 when Jeff Barnes located a '55 relic in a field in Pennsylvania. This (modified) 'Bird bore S/N 100004 with the Build Date indicated as August 25,1954. Speculation abounded: could this be a counterfeit or was it in actuality the "oldest" 1955 Thunderbird?

BIDDING- $275K, $300K, $325K, $350K, $375K, $400K, $450K, $475K & $500K at 8:22.

As George's daughter, Leslie Paino, intoned her emotional ties to the very special 'Bird -prior the start of bidding - B-J staff displayed the (framed) Ford certification letter to the bidders. This critical document was obviously the driving force in the minds of the last two aggressive bidders!

BIDDING- $525K (Phone) 8:22.30, $550K at 8:23

The "005" T-Bird bidding was now reaching a commanding dollar amount; could the high bid reach the one-million mark as some had predicted?

BIDDING- $575,000 at 8:23.30

Auction floor personnel now cajoled the two remaining bidders to even higher numbers, stressing the rarity of this particular Thunderbird.......

FINAL BID- $600,000 at 8:24

NOTE: The buyer's outlay, with the 10% fee totaled: $660,000!

* At one time, George Watts was the proud owner of the one-millionth Thunderbird as well as the "001"'Bird! -Ed.

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