Sunday, March 21, 2010

Original Owners Story


In the Fall of 1954, while at my desk in the Chaplain's Office of the U. S. Army in Fort Carson, CO, I sat admiring a special brochure. This brochure, that my father had just sent me, was of the new Thunderbird. Wow, what a great car! As I admired this beauty, I started looking at it closely and decided the car needed a straight bodyline with skirts, like the 1951 Mercury. Fast forward to April 1957.

Photo Caption: 1957 E Model, 3-Speed Overdrive, Both Tops, Tonneau Cover, FoMoCo Spotlight, Power Seat, Engine Dress Up Kit, Signal Seek Radio, 110,000 miles

In April 1957, after special ordering and a two-month wait, I took delivery of my 1957 "E Model" Thunderbird. It was my only vehicle at the time, and I drove it every day. I was working in South Bend, IN, and living in Valparaiso, IN, so it was about 150 miles per day. About once a month, there was a weekend trip to Western New York to see my family. Thus, another 1,200 miles The T-Bird was an all-weather car, driven winter and summer. Indiana snow and salt did take its toll.

In 1962,1 put some special undercoating on it, added my "nationally known" Mercury Cruiser Skirts, and did a repaint. From 1958 to 1968,1 owned and operated a Mobil gas station (thus the Mobil red paint under the hood on the fan shroud and heater assembly). I am constantly asked why I have a trailer hitch. Well, I donl have a yacht to tow, but I was a U-Haul trailer dealer, also. Many evenings my wife, Sandy, and I would spend a summer evening traveling to the U-Haul factory in Hammond, IN, to pick up a factory-fresh trailer.

Sandy and I dated in the T-Bird, and in 1963, we took our honeymoon in it to the Florida Keys, up the East Coast to New Jersey, and back to Indiana (with the top down, of course)! Sandy remembers being wrapped up in an army blanket traveling through the Smoky Mountains. It was quite chilly in April, but I did not want to put the top up. What a way to treat your new bride!

In June of 1964,1 joined the Classic Thunderbird Club International. I found my cancelled check written to Roger Neiss, Editor, dated 6/13/64 for $10 (membership $5 a year, plus $5 "initiation fee"). My CTCI membership number is 299.

For quite a few years, the T-Bird was only driven occasionally during the summer. When our daughters started driving, they were allowed to drive the 'Bird so they would learn to handle a stick shift on the floor. They also drove our 1968 Mustang that Sandy's parents purchased new and that was a stick shift also. Our girts were trained right!

About 15 years ago, having retired and realizing we would finally have time to enjoy the 'Bird, Sandy and I joined the Classic Thunderbird Club of Chicagoland. When we learned of the Thunderbird 40th Celebration in Dearborn, it was the big signal to get the'Bird out of hibernation and prepare it in a roadworthy condition for the 500 mile trip. This was our first big event and trip with the Chicago Club. The members of this club have been so gracious and helpful to us over the years, and we really treasure their friendship. Our daughter, Kami, is also a member of this club. She still talks about our trip to Dearborn for the 40th event, with the three of us in the Bird traveling with the top down.

We take in most all road trips with our club, and I even enjoy taking the car out on dry, winter days. T-Bird and Mustang Club activities and car shows keep us on the go. As I talk to people about the car, I like to tell them - three more payments and it will be all mine!!!

My T-Bird is a "keeper" as is my wife, and I have luckily been able to keep them both all these years.
Joe Kraatz, CTCI #299

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