Wednesday, June 25, 2008

48 in 08 - June update 2

It is hard to believe that we are only 30 days away from beginning the journey of a lifetime -- cruising the highways and byways to all 48 contiguous state capitals of this beautiful country. This means we have to get focused on many mundane details like what clothes to pack, what repair parts to carry, how many bushels of money to take for gasoline, and much more.

It also means time is drawing short for you and CTCI members to help a good cause. If you want 48 in 08 apparel and window decals in time for the tour, now is the time to order. Proceeds from these items, after deducting costs, will be contributed to the Historic Automotive Restoration Program at McPherson College.

You can participate in the 48 in 08 mileage contest called "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" during the convention, on tour, or by mail.

For ordering details and contest participation, please visit or simply google 48in08. Click on Newsletter - June for details regarding the contest. Click on Apparel for details regarding caps, tees and polo shirts. Click on Window Decals for details regarding the static-cling window decals.

We will meet many of you at the CTCI Convention in Portland or on the road through your state, or both. Proper 48 in 08 attire is not mandatory, but it would be nice and is for a good cause. Plus, it all looks pretty neat, too.

Hope to see you all on the tour!

Doc Dockter
CTCI # 33331
Cell 650-759-4302

48 in 08 Tour information at

48 in 08 - June update 1

So much has been happening the last few weeks for the 48 in 08 tour, we're sending a second June Update. Please note and share the following information.

The website has been updated several times since June 1st. Please check the website regularly for the latest news. New and addition information since June 1st include:
- An updated Schedule
- Hotels list now includes almost all overnights
- Plans in Sacramento
- Photo of SCVT chapter classic T-Birds with their 48 in 08 car door decals
- McPherson car window decals
- and, By the time I get to Phoenix - The Contest.
Yes, we're having a contest called "By the time I get to Phoenix....."!
Contestants must guess the number of miles Betsy Bird travels from the California Capitol to the Arizona Capitol. Entries are $1 each or 6 entries for $5. ALL of the proceeds will be donated to the McPherson College Historic Automobile Restoration Program. Be sure to enter during the Portland Convention or when you meet us on the tour.

Registration Forms are due by June 30th. If you are driving a portion of the 48 in 08 tour, please mail your Registration Form to Doc by June 30th. There is no fee to register and the information on the form will help us contact you before we meet on the tour.

One last item: We would like to take a photo during the convention of the 48 in 08 participants. If you will be in Portland, please let us know.

Lucy Clark, CTCI # 26656, 714-630-4066
Doc Dockter, CTCI # 33331, Cell 650-759-4302

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Editor's Notebook - May 2008

WITH SPRING TEMPERATURES HAVING (FINALLY) ARRIVED, we look forward seeing the classic T-Birds escape their long winter hibernation! In fact, four intrepid members drove their 'Birds to the CTCC Tech-Session on April 19th! See pages 7 and 8 for the story and pics. In addition to the members listed, we had Prospective Member, Don Roerkottl, joining our group. We hope to extend our official WELCOME to Don in the June issue.

photo caption: Bill Werth's camera, with Mary Keil at the controls, captures the majority of the CTCC members who attended the club's annual Spring Tech Session on April 19th. A few members had already departed at the time when this photo was taken.

The Spring Tour caravan heads out for Dearborn, Michigan on Friday, May 2nd. Good weather is on tap!

The cover photo this month features an "action shot" of a 1956 T-Bird taking off at the Daytona Beach Time Trials. Unfortunately, the Thunderbird Anthology CD doesn't include any information pertaining to the photographs included in the collection. The CD does include a number of reference sections, including listings of Specifications, Standard equipment and (Special) "extra-cost" items. Stay tuned for more pics/info. On page 6, we present what appears to be an official Ford photo of a (stock) 1956 and listings of Factory Options and Additional Cost Options. Again, this is one of the items from the CD referenced above.

Following a yearlong effort to trace the origins of the Thunderbird Club of America (TCOA), I believe the information that appears on page 9 offers the answer to the question.

A recent note from Great Race headquarters indicates that the 2008 New York to Paris event has been POSTPONED! In what has to be considered a monumental task to obtain clearances for passage of the vehicles through a number of foreign countries, the Chinese have refused permits for entrants and staff...

Note: Our membership is: 113, as we Welcome Back Chris Oie (Pg. 4). Add the name to your '08 Roster. The Back-Cover -Tech Session - Group Photo was taken by Mary Keil, using Bill Werth's Digital camera! Other Tech-Session Photo Credits: PAGE 7 - Bill Werth. PAGE 8 - Top Row: Editor; Bottom Row: Bill Werth (Left Col.) and Ed. (Right Col.)

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION - In what must have been an attack of Mad Cow disease (loyal fans of the outrageous TV series, Boston Legal, will understand!), I allowed the March and April issues to carry the incorrect Volume number. If you file your copies of BIRD-NEWS, please change your issues to read: Volume 47.

-- Bert Eisenhour, Ed. Bird-News

Battle Dress

This month in May, we (again) feature the 1956 Ford Thunderbird, albeit in "Battle Dress!"

The photo is one of thirty included in The Thunderbird Anthology CD. NOTE: The Continental Kit, rearbumper and wheel-covers have been removed (to reduce weight). Also, the windshield has been replaced with a small windscreen. The headlights are taped over, as is a large portion of the grille area. The tonneau cover further adds to the streamlining measures. The man at the left has just removed the "timing-hose" - after the front wheels crossed it to start the official course timing mechanism. Although not specified, this is obviously a Daytona Time Trials photo. (A front-view of this 'Bird will be featured in the June issue!)

Spring Tech Session 2008

Sat. April 19th -- THE TRIP TO THE KEIL'S NEW HOME IN JOHNSBURG began at 8 a.m. when my 'Limo Driver' Bill Werth picked me up to start our (rainy) 1-hour trip north.

photo caption: Len Keil at work on his 1957 fuse wiring.

Arriving on-location at 9 o'clock, we found a vast spread of pastries, etc., set-up in the spacious garage by Mary Keil. We learned that Jim Wilson was en route in his '57, but had suffered a freak failure of his accelerator linkage! Ken was on his way to the scene, but found the damage to be severe, precluding any chance of roadside repair... The seemingly endless supply of edibles and coffee helped us fill-in the time as we awaited Ken's return to start the T-Bird Tech-Session at 10:30 a.m.

PROJECT: Install a small, non-obtrusive, 30 amp. fuse-holder to protect the under-dash wiring loom on 'Birds fitted with electronic ignition systems. This safety measure eliminates the possibility of shorting out the wiring, should the ignition key remain in the "ON" position with the engine not running. The damage can occur in a matter of minutes, as the coil-resistor (P/N 12250) overheats. The Bussman assembly, BP/HHG-RP, sells for a mere $2.99, thus making this minor deviation from 'pure stock' well worth the effort and cost - since the end-result is protection of the entire wiring system! Ken pointed out that this installation serves a dual-purpose, since removal of the fuse prevents anyone from starting the engine!

A number of members were involved in the project, as indicated in some of the event photos. With several T-Birds parked in the driveway, the Keil hacienda became a point-of-interest for several neighbors! Mary Keil made the 'Iuncheon-run,' and she returned at 12:30 with some very tasty, monster Subway sandwiches, a welcome treat for our band of hungry T-Birders. Other items were included in the session, e.g., the timing on Bob Sroka's '57 was checked and adjusted. Ken reiterated his recommendation that the best solution to the question as to best oil for the T-Bird engines is: Shell - Rotella T (at $8.95 per gallon). This product overcomes some of the hazards to camshaft life compared to other oils that have reduced zinc content.

All-in-all, a very valuable session for us. Thanks to Mary (aided by Sandi Kraatz) for the food projects and Len, for making his spotless garage available!

Shade-Tree Mechanics: Dan Anderson, Steve Davajon, Bert Eisenhower, Pete Ekstrom, Jim Elijah, Gordon Gluff, Joel Greenberg, Len Keil, Joe Kraatz, Pete Kramer, Paul Mounts, Ron Pavlov, Lloyd Schellin, Gary Smithe, Ken Smizinski, Bob Sirocco, Paul Ureche, Len Vinyard, Bob Wenderski, Bill Werth, Joe Wintz, Tom Wolfe and Joe Zambian. A special note of appreciation for Ken's Tech info.

1956 T-Bird Price and Options

1956 Factory Options
Total Produced
Convertible 16,631

Standard Equipment
292-cid Y-block V-8 engine
Automatic choke
12-volt electrical system
Dual exhausts
There-speed manual transmission
Hotchkiss drive: ball-joint front suspension
5-leaf spring rear suspension
Five 6.70 x 15 tubeless tires
All vinyl interiors with harmonizing looped-rayon carpeting
17-in diameter deep-center Lifeguard steering wheel with 2-in. adjustment
Lifeguard double-grip door latches
Lifeguard rear view mirror
Astra-Dial control panel with illuminated control knobs
Parcel compartment with locking-type push-button latch
4-way illuminated starter-ignition switch
Parcel courtesy light with integral switch and automatic door switch
Dual horns
Half-circle steering wheel horn ring
Glass-fibre hardtop

Additional Cost Options
Full-flow oil filler
4-way power sea $65
Swift Sure power brakes $34
Master-Guide power steering $64
Power-lift windows $70
I-rest tinted safety glass
Fordomatic Drive $215
Overdrive $146
White sidewall tires
Fuel and vacuum pump unit
MagicAire heater $84
Radio $107
Rear fender shields
Full wheel covers
Simulated tire wheel covers
Engine dress-up kit
Auto-Wipe windshield washers
Turn signals
Lifeguard seat belts (March 1956)
Lifeguard padded sun visors
Lifeguard instrument panel padding (March 1956) $22-$32
Thunderbird 312-cid four-barrel V-8
Thunderbird 312-cid dual four-barrel V-8
Convertible fabric top alone $75
Both tops $290
Tonneau cover

Thunderbird Club Of America - Revisited

After publishing the photos of two (2) Thunderbird Club grille-badges in the December 2007 issue of BIRD-NEWS, I received a few responses from CTCI members from across the country. None, however, provided a convincing link to the origins and history of this particular organization. So, my research (search) continued - an effort that closely resembled an "archaeological dig" - and finally led to what I consider to be the definitive answer to my quest.
The Program Book for the 7th CTCI International Convention, "Dearborn Once More in '74" revealed the story on the formation of TCOA in June of 1956! As noted in the account, the TCOA group in Pasadena, CA became Chapter 2 of the organization that was headquartered in Dearborn, MI. Incidentally, some CTCI members did refer to Dearborn as the possible locale for the TCOA. Evidence supporting the 1974 account exists, due to the fact that I received the two (similar) badges from a California T-Bird owner - some 35 years ago! So, at long last, I consider the mystery as solved - CASE CLOSED. -- Editor


On June 1, 1956, eight Thunderbird car owners met In the Green Room of the Pasadena Athletic Club to form a car club. With Hal Edmonds as President and Ray Davis as Vice-President, they obtained the 2nd Chapter of the Thunderbird Club of America from the club national headquarters In Dearborn, Michigan (the Dearborn Chapter was No. 1). Shortly afterward, we were incorporated In the State of California as "Thunderbird Club of America, Southern California Chapter," a name we still officially carry.

Our first of many car rallies was held on June 21, 1956, and ended at the Palm Springs Tennis Club with a police escort. Our first annual Economy Run was held over Memorial Day weekend in 1957. That run took us to the Ford Proving Grounds in Yucca, Arizona, and was so popular that it was repeated in 1963. On many of these events, Bird owners from the local T-Bird clubs, the Bay Area clubs and CTCI members have been invited to participate. We have been to Monterey, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, Fresno, Las Vegas, San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico.

After the trip to Estes Park, Colorado, in June 1965 by some of our members, we applied for and were granted Chapter No. 15 of CTCI. After six months of operation, our TCOA Chapter has a membership of 37 cars, and at the end of the first year a membership of 70 cars. (We count the car as representing a membership - 1 car, 1 vote.)

When a group gets too large, It is difficult to please all, so we have had occasions when a small group became unhappy and broke off into a "splinter group." We have managed to survive these breakoffs and continue to operate at TCOA. We are, however, trying to keep our membership of a size that will permit us to become more than 'mere acquaintances' (there are 9 of our present membership that have been TCOA members for 10 or more years.)

Because TCOA was formed when our cars were new and there was no procurement or repair problems, our purpose was directed more toward the enjoyment of our Thunderbirds through social activities and recreation. However, as time goes on, their preservation and care has been stressed more and more. We have made many good and lasting friendships over the years, and as time goes on, hope to make more.

Thunderbird ownership is more than owning a car!

Martha Nicoll
Advisor Counsel
R. L. Bledsoe

Ford Model T turns 100

Thanks Bert, but I can't open .eml attachments, so ...
I took Mr. lacocca to the Nethercutt Museum last Wednesday for a pre-arranged VIP tour. Jack and Helen Nethercutt accompanied us on the cycle and treated us to a VIP lunch. Really nice day. I had been trying to get him to go for over a year and it finally worked into his schedule. He had never even heard of it!! He was totally impressed - who wouldn't be - and vows to return. I had them play the big Wurlitzer and he really enjoyed that too. Trying to arrange a photo shoot in the next several weeks with him and Shelby and my first car for a Mustang Monthly 45th Mustang Anniv issue for next year. Should be fun if I can get them together. They already agreed, just need to set up a time.

Summer's about here - car shows galore!

Editor's Comment: Bob Fria - a former CTCC member - is the proud owner of the first production 1965 Mustang Hardtop S/N: 100002.
Bob and his wife Joyce now live in California. We toured the magnificent Nethercutt Museum when visiting the Fria's in 2003. By sheer coincidence, Jim and Sally Schmidt from Gainesville, FL happened to be on the tour at the same time of our visit. Bob has met with Lee lacocca on several occasions - for photo shoots with Bob's "Number 1" Hardtop Pony car! Bob's Mustang was on display at Ford's 100th Anniversary in '03.

Tech Tip: Polarity of the Coil

As our Classic Thunderbirds get older and older, and the mechanics who grew up working on these cars become fewer and fewer, simple common repairs and procedures become overlooked or forgotten. This is the case with the installation of your car's coil. The coil is the cylindrical object which is mounted on the top of your engine. It has a short "spark plug" type wire attached to it which connects the coil to the center of your distributor. The coil has two other wires attached to it. These wires attach to positive and negative terminals on the coil. The order of placement of these wires on the terminals of the coil is what determines the coil's polarity. The coil is made to conduct current in one direction, from the battery to the distributor. If your wires are connected to the wrong terminals, your car may still function, but you will be conducting current backwards through the coil. This is not very good for your car or your coil.

Incorrect polarity of the coil is a common problem for original six volt system 1955 Thunderbirds. The six volt Thunderbird uses a "positive ground" as opposed to the 1956 and later Thunderbirds with use a "negative ground." What this means is that the positive terminal of your coil, marked with a "+" or the letters "POS", should be connected to the small wire which goes to your distributor. The negative terminal of your coil, marked with an "-" or the letters "NEG", should be connected to the small wire which goes to the "hot" or battery side of your starter relay.

On 1955 Thunderbirds which have been converted to a twelve volt operating system, and on al1 1956 and 1957 Thunderbirds, the correct polarity of the coil is obtained by attaching the wire from the positive terminal of your coil to the "hot" or battery side of your starter relay. There will also be another wire attached to the positive terminal of your coil which should be connected to your resistor. The wire from the negative terminal of your coil should go directly to your distributor. As most cars today operate on a "negative ground" principle, only a mechanic familiar with a "positive ground" system would know the proper polarity for a 1955 Thunderbird coil. For this reason, you should check to make sure your coil's connections are as they should be. I thank Ken Smizinski for this month's "Tech Tip".

source: CTCC Tech-Tip Manual 1993-1997

Tech Tip: Radial Tires

Many Thunderbird owners, myself included, love to drive our cars. Our cars, however, just don't seem to drive as well as our regular "day to day" cars. This is due to the fact that most of our Thunderbirds are equipped with bias ply tires. These tires have a tendency to "hold" or "find" the grooves in the road. As a result, lane changes can become a complicated and often unpredictable procedure. Radial tires, however, which have become standard issue in the auto industry of today, reduce or eliminate the handling problems associated with bias ply tires. These same radial tires have also proven to be safer and more durable than standard bias ply tires. So the question has always been, "why not put radial tires on my Thunderbird?"

The only simple explanation for the continued use of the bias ply tire is that the bias ply tire was the original type tire on our cars. If you are a purest, this is probably reason enough to continue using bias ply tires. Many people also stress that the Thunderbird's suspension was designed to be used with bias ply tires. This fact is true, but there have been no significant adverse effects associated with the use of radial tires on a car such as the Thunderbird which is only driven occasionally. You may have accelerated wear to original suspension components, but these same components most likely should be replaced due to age and existing wear. The existing suspension can accept radial tires and the improvements in handling and steering are, and I quote Mr. Ken Smizinski, "PHENOMENAL!!!". A Thunderbird equipped with radial tires can drive and handle like a new car. At speeds of sixty-five, the car will drive straight as an arrow. Lane changes become as uneventful as receiving this month's issue of "Chevy Magazine." In addition, you will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your Thunderbird is riding on the latest, safest, and best performing tires made today.

If you have decided that your car is in need of a new set of radial tires, the following information is for you. The 1955 and 1956 Thunderbird requires a radial tire size of P205/75R15. The 1957 Thunderbird radial tire size is P205/75R14. The largest "standard" radial white wall tire made is 1.3 inches wide. Firestone has such a tire. Get a low mileage radial tire if you don't drive your Thunderbird every day. As a result, the extra money you might spend on an extended mileage radial tire would only be wasted. Your tires will dry rot before you even get close to their mileage life expectancy. You can get a good quality radial tire for approximately $45.00 to $75.00 each.

If you want those "wide" white walls, there are specialty tire manufacturers who have just begun to make "wide" white wall radial tires. Antique Auto Accessories makes such a tire. Their number is 1-800-742-6777. The white wall is between 2 1/4" to 2 1/2" in width. This tire, however, is a remanufactured used radial tire. In other words, it is a retread tire. The tire, however, is made here in Chicago and you can pick them up. You can thus avoid any shipping charges. The price per tire is around $110.00. Coker Tire will begin production of new wide white wall radial tires sometime this summer. They will be available through any local Coker Tire distributor such as Sears, Just Tires, etc. Their phone number is 1-800-251-6336. The estimated cost per tire is $150 to $160.

source: CTCC Tech-Tip Manual 1993-1997

Tech Tip: Coil Resistor

For those of you out there who own a 1956 or 1957 Thunderbird, this tech tip is for you. The coil resistor is a small, and often overlooked, component of your car's ignition system. The coil resistor receives the voltage from your battery and converts it to a level acceptable to your coil. The 1955 Thunderbird's were equipped with a six volt electrical system and this lower voltage was allowed to flow directly to the coil. A coil resistor was thus not needed on the 1955 Thunderbird.

If your coil resistor is not functioning, you will know it! Your car will not start or it will stop running. As this part is often left on the car until it fails, you may have a coil resistor that is pushing forty. Though this may seem to be a young age to some of you, a little "preventative maintenance" should be in order. A replacement coil resistor can be purchased for about $5.00 from most of the Thunderbird parts suppliers. If you own a concours quality car and intend to show your car in either the Primary Original or Senior Primary Original category, you will need to find an original style coil resistor. An original coil resistor can still be purchased through your favorite Thunderbird parts supplier, but the cost will be substantially higher.

The coil resistor is a rectangular part measuring approximately one inch in width by about three inches in length. The center of the coil resistor is made up of a porcelain type material and is surrounded by a metal shield. The coil resistor is mounted next to your coil. It mounts to the bottom of your coil bracket which is attached to the top of your intake manifold and stands straight up. There are two wires which attach to the coil resistor terminals. The top terminal of the coil resistor is connected to the wire coming from the ignition switch. The wire will be coming out of the main wiring harness. The bottom terminal of the coil resistor is connected to the wire which goes to the battery side of the coil. If you put a new coil resistor on your car, be prepared for the first time you operate your car with the new resistor. Your coil resistor will smoke and become very hot. This is normal for the first few times you drive your car with a new coil resistor. After the porcelain coating has burned off, your resistor will stop smoking.

Source: CTCC Tech-Tip Manual 1993-1997