Sunday, June 9, 2013

Art Hahl's '57 Tbird


MY QUEST FOR A TWO-PASSENGER Thunderbird started sometime shortly after their introduction in 1954. Being a bit young at the time, it took till the summer of 1962 for me to finalize the quest! Enter my '57 Thunderbird, Red with a White Hardtop, Red interior, 312 c.i.d., 3-speed transmission, no power anything; it was purchased at Grossinger Pontiac, 3838 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL.

This was my second car, a daily driver. At that time, I was always reading car magazines, hanging out at Speed Shops, Ray Eriksen's, Von Esser E & R, or McDonald's on Cicero,

In the fall, I read an article about a 406 Tri-Power engine in a 1957 T-Bird; there were 3 pages of pictures, but very little information . It happened in Brooklyn, N.Y., so I wrote a letter to request some information -- no reply.

About that time I heard word of a '62 Galaxie wreck at Illinois Auto on State St. and Archer in Chicago, One quick trip there produced [1] a 406 cubic inch engine, [2] a 3-speed O.D. transmission, [3] a 4:11 Equa-Loc rear end. So, with only 9,000 miles on the engine, I purchased the entire lot for $700.00. January 1963: My good friend, Gary Pierice, and I proceeded to remove the 312 and trans, study pictures and remove obstructions in the engine compartment. Next, came reversing the oil-pan sump and pick-up, also, establishing a remote oil filter set up. The engine and trans were shoehorned into place using the present transmission mounts. Steel plates were contoured to accept the stock engine mounts. The right side exhaust manifold provided to be no problem, but the left side was split between cylinders 5 and 6 to accommodate the steering box,

The engine fit is very close to stock, but a totaled '56 'Bird "donated" hood was used to lengthen the scoop to cover the Tri-Power air-cleaner.

Then, it was a trip to the welding shop to secure the engine-plate; next to Iggy's Muffler Shop for a new exhaust system.

By the end of February, I was back on-the-road with one go-fast Thunderbird! During the rest of the year, I had a few small problems: The biggest was the clutch linkage.

January 1964: The letter from Uncle Sam arrived and the Thunderbird went on blocks; engine oiled, valves seated and gasoline drained.

February 1967: After the BIG snowstorm, it was back home, the 'Bird can fly again! Now, it was time to make it look as good as it ran. It needed quarter-panels, wheel-wells, rocker-panels, bumpers, dash-pad, seat and door-panels, carpeting and a new windshield - all at normal prices - provided by my friendly Ford Dealer, Johnson Ford at 2830 Cicero. Next, it was off to the body shop for a "face-lift," it was a small shop (4-cars) at Halsted & Belmont with the 'Bird to be worked on as "fill-in" time. Time passed slowly, but another '57 'Bird landed on the scene - it was Thunderbird Bronze with a Tan convertible top, White interior with power everything - a California car.

'Bird One was now ready - Highland Green, with a Dark Tan interior. Re-assembly was proceeding, but at a very slow pace, as some speed bumps came along: marriage, house and children. I decided to sell the #2 'Bird, in view of the gas shortage, my job change and picking up small pieces. The #1 'Bird was now parked (undercover) in a corner of the basement.

Time passed to the spring of 1996 and we had a house fire; the 'Bird was not damaged, except for smoke marks on the paint. The house is eventually fixed, and the 'Bird is repainted, but is still not being driven. The original bumpers were re-chromed in 2001 and the engine was pulled in 2005 to be converted for no-lead gas (hardened valve-seats).

In 2009, things really came together; new carpets, headliner, door-panels, padded dash, electric wipers, replacement heater box and hoses. It was late in the year, so I did not fire it up till the spring of 2010.

What we now have is my "personal" car -color, interior, engine and trans, but still looking like a 1957 Thunderbird (my way); all Ford.

Art Hahl

No comments: