£23,750. It all comes down to context, really. In my world, where my daily driver is worth probably a hundredth of that, that’s a whole hill of cash. In vehicular retail terms, though, twenty-four grand doesn’t yet see you out of KIA territory. You’re talking real low-end BMW and Mercedes fare for that kind of figure. For out-and-out look-at-me new-car credibility, £23,750 doesn’t earn you a whole bunch of bragging rights. So why not spend your 24 kiloquid on this? Parked amid the “for sale” area at the World Famous International Autojumble at Beaulieu this year, to say that this ’63 Thunderbird stood out is an understatement akin to the 1986 mutterings of Chenobyl safety officers that “we might be in a spot of bother here.” Yeah, OK, There’s quite a lot to dislike here, so lets get it over with. The wheels, let’s face it, have to go. And airbag suspension? Is it really necessary on a Thunderbird? Does the car absolutely have to sit right on the deck when it’s parked? Are lowriders still even a thing? Should they be? OK, maybe in Miami, but in Milton Keynes? Is Radioactive Kermit Metallic the best colour for a ’63 ‘Bird? And that’s it. The rest is, well, it’s fantastic. Tell me I’m wrong. It helps that this and the ’69 were my favourite Thunderbird years; I know my tastes differ from most right-minded people, I have no problem with that. But I spent several minutes circling this car, wanting to pick holes in it, and I failed. I’m not even going to bring up that the hood looks a little misaligned. I’ll blame that on the last clumsy oik who looked in there. I’ll defend this car to the hilt. I really like it. The gentleman selling it has given no clue as to what oily bits lurk beneath that see of green metalflake, so I’m going to make it up. Under the hood there are three engines, two twin-rotor Wankels for rolling around at trolling speeds, and a Pratt and Whitney PT6A which can be clutched in for higher cruising velocities. Brakes are ventilated carbon disc front and rear, gripped by 6 pot Brembo calipers actuated by air over oil. All pretty impressive for £23,750. The interior so often proves the undoing of a custom car; lapses in quality and material short-cuts tend to leap to your eye, but here I couldn’t find anything much to quibble over. It’s very clean, very sympathetic to the original, down to the period radio and lack of exposed additional gadgetry. Cocaine and Bile probably wouldn’t have been my first choice of colour scheme, but it certainly zings. Of course, my opinion is immaterial. I’m a little short of the asking right now, and it would look completely ridiculous parked outside my house if I did suddenly start crapping money. But what about you guys? Is this genuine American Custom (imported over to the UK eight years ago) as unequivocally glorious as I think, or am I about to receive a lesson in what’s cool and what ain’t, from the entire rest of the planet’s population? (All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2014)
Weekend at Beaulieu:- 4 Sale:- T'Bird? Word.
RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.