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                                    Growing up in the car world

     My first memorable experience with cars started when I went with my grandfather and dad to pick up his new 1946 Plymouth. Because of his occupation he would trade cars every three years and on his last car I persuaded him to buy a 78 Thunderbird. My parents had four children and dad said he would buy each of us a transportation car our senior year. In 1956 dad and I were at our local Ford dealer and there was a 55 T-Bird being serviced. It was the first one I'd seen up close and it was beautiful. I knew I had my sights set too high because he had a 49 Plymouth in mind. I vetoed that and settled for a 50 Ford sedan.
 
    My parents lived with my grandparents on their farm and I didn't like school that much so after graduation I rented 40 acres from a neighbor and started farming.  A common saying in those days was if you were too dumb to go to college you could always farm, and that's what I did. I would plant in the spring and harvest in the fall but it was necessary to work in a factory during the winter. For the employer, farm boys would get priority because they knew how to work. I did this for several years because I needed extra money to invest in machinery. I also traded the 50 Ford for a 55 Victoria hardtop.

     A few of my female classmates went to college but most of the boys got factory jobs and they were always trading cars. In the summer of 59 one of them called and ask if I wanted to go along, they were going to the big city car hunting. I had a nice car and was investing any extra money in farm machinery but thought it would be interesting to see if there were any baby birds there. As were cruised down the main streets we would stop at the dealers to check out new and used cars and at one of the lots there were two white 57's. As we looked the cars over my thoughts went back to my senior year in high school and the black 55. The next day I took the 55 Vicky down to trade on one of the birds. The salesman said he was surprised to see me because he thought we were just tire kickers and didn't have the money to buy this type of car. Both cars were priced at $3000 with no power options. One was an E car with both tops but the finish looked well used. When I pulled into the lot the hood was up and two mechanics were working on the carbs to get it to run. The other car had the hardtop only and looked and sounded great. For $300 more they would install the soft top from the E car but I was already over my budget. Which car would you buy? I left a deposit on the D car and told the salesman I would go to the bank and come back in a few days with the balance to pick it up. At that time in Ohio there was a law that a car could not be purchased by a minor (under 21) without parental consent. The salesman followed me  60 miles to have this document signed. The driver on this shopping trip was serious about buying a car but of the four classmates who went I was the only one who did.

This was my daily driver
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The patrol would stop me just to look at the car

     I did a lot of city lapping and some street racing while tearing out two transmissions. The T-Bird was fun to drive and great on dates, no seat belts. In some of the neighboring communities there would be weekly round and square dancing and I would attend these activities to meet girls. At one of these events four girls showed up together and one really caught my eye. I danced with her a few times, knew her first name but didn't want to push my luck and ask her for a date or telephone number. I was going to play it cool and ask her next week when she came back. I was there the next four weeks and she never showed up. I was distressed and needed a plan. Another one of the four girls appeared and being a shy guy I didn't want to quiz her about someone else so I asked her out to get more information. During the date she told me she was a senior and invited me to her graduation. After the ceremony it's the custom to go to each others graduation party and the first place she wanted to go  was to my mystery girl's party. When we arrived I realized what a break this was. Everyone was excited and this wasn't the time to hit on another girl, but I now knew where she lived. My date wanted to join the other girls making the rounds to the various parties, but there was one girl who needed a ride home and my date ask me if I would be a gentleman and take her home. I really didn't care because I'd met my goal so I said yes.

     My mystery girl's name was Shirley and the next evening I was knocking on her door asking for a date. She said yes and we had our first date in my 57 Thunderbird, we also shared our first kiss and after a summer of fun together I proposed in this car. And after over fifty years my mystery girl, my car and I are still together. The three of us get along good together but upon occasion she would tell our friends the story about how I got dumped at graduation time. Last year I finally explained in detail the rest of the story. During that summer I had a couple weeks of military training to perform so I left her use the car. When I got back the car had just came out of the repair shop and she told me later she had it airborne. By 1970 there was 90,000 miles on the car and needed body and mechanical repairs.

Two of the girls at the dance.They are twins
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The mystery girl is on the left

                             Journey to the second car

    I was excited about restoring the car and joined CTCI. After high school some of my winter jobs were spray painting cranes and caterpillars. I also used my farm mechanical skills to build a 31 coupe so I decided to restore the car myself.

I put a 31 coupe body on a 39 Mercury frame
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It was powered with a 283 Chevy engine

     In disassembling the car I discovered it had some body damage and had been repainted before I purchased it in 59. In after thought I made a bad decision and should have purchased the E car instead. In 79 my wife and I went to NY. for the T for 2 regional convention and had my first experience judging under carriages. After viewing how nice the cars looked I decided to go further and remove the body. In 1980 I went to the national convention in Cleveland and learned how rare the E cars were. I went home and looked at the disarray of parts I had accumulated and decided there was no way I was going to get this car back together again. My only hope was to buy another car to use as a guide to put the first one back together. I had thought about painting the car red and an E car would be nice so I began watching the ads. In the Aug. issue of hemming's there was an add that matched my search, so I went to the bank for another loan and a letter of credit. We loaded the kids in the wagon and drove to Michigan to look at the car. It was what I expected from our phone conversation and after checking the title with the data plate, the frame serial number and the TARTA factory invoice copy I put a down payment on the car. He agreed to drive the car to Ohio and the transaction was completed.  

My wife and son back from a test drive
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It was nice to be driving a Thunderbird again

     I purchased the car in 1980 from Heinz Gronomeyer,  a TARTA member in the 70's. If anyone had known this person or has any information about whom the previous owners might be contact me using the web site contact address or CTCI. The invoice and data plate states an E engine, 3 speed OD with no power options and hardtop only. The interior and exterior are red inside and out with a $2800 price tag and a Michigan dealer destination. The car was a 3 + driver and we enjoyed driving and showing it at local shows but it was finally stored beside my other pile of parts. I now had two cars to restore but because of a large family and other interest there was no progress until I retired in 2004. I re-modeled one of the barns for a restoration shop and using the red car as a guide started restoring the white car. When the car was 75% restored I took lots of pictures of the red car and using the white car and the pictures as a guide restored both to completion in 2013. The restoration of the white car was started in the mid 70's and after many starts and re-dos, it must have the record for the longest restoration ever.

The frame and drive train at the Dayton convention
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The judges dry run gave me lots of pointers

     My passion is not in showing the car as much as restoring and driving them. I'm right at home in my shop with the radio playing good music and the challenge and satisfaction of restoring them. I changed the upholstery in the D car to two tone blue and put a matching soft top on it. On the E car I put more empresses on having the right part numbers, but built the car to drive and the restoration to stay fresh longer. I powder coated all the small parts including the entire engine except the valve covers, the damper pulley and the electrical parts. I used stainless steel bolts, stainless exhaust system and DuPont's Imron urethane paint with no clear coat. When I purchased the car the overdrive was activated with a two speed shift knob switch as illustrated in the Mar.-April EarlyBird magazine and also rear axle torsion bars. I felt in it's early years the car was a race car of some sort so I put these bolt on Items back on. The entire restoration is on this web site.

Our filling station display
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     My wife and daughter took the D car to it's first car show ever in Aug. of 2013 and they had a great time. The last time she drove it was in the 60's. I had the E car at a 600+ car show in May. I plan on driving these cars as much as possible to let other people enjoy them as much as we do. I've put the entire restoration on this web site to keep me motivated and inspire others to start or complete their cars. I've started on my next project which is a 56fordvicky. I can't emphasize enough how important the Thunderbird club and forum were in the success of these projects. Many thanks for all the input I received.

                         Paul in Ohio                                                     CTCI # 18031