1955 Ford Thunderbird Roadster Pro Tourer
(Featured on 18th June 2011)
Sellers original description:
Thunderbird fans, save your angry E-mails? no real 1955 Ford Thunderbirds were harmed in the construction of this killer, take-no-prisoners Pro-Touring T-Bird. Instead, you get a car with 50 additional years of technology packed into that great-looking vintage shape, complete with a 514 cubic inch V8, a 6-speed manual transmission, and a very capable coil-over suspension that will eat any original T-Bird's lunch six days a week and twice on Sunday. Built from Regal Roadsters components, it features a tubular space frame, a steel reinforced fiberglass body, and power accessories like A/C and power windows, this is the T-Bird you want to own if your other car is, say, a Top Fuel dragster.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with the early T-Bird shape, and all that is gorgeous about that Ford sheet-metal was recaptured in composite for this red roadster. Of course, a few liberties were taken, including shaved door handles and a molded-in front bumper, but that only enhances the predatory look of this piece. Where the stock Thunderbird is polite and refined, this one screams speed and performance. According to the receipts, an awful lot of time was spent on the construction of this car, adding up to tens of thousands of dollars, and a good deal of that must have been spent on the bodywork. If you haven't seen the quality of the fiberglass work coming out of some of the body manufacturers today, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Regal Roadsters has laid up a gorgeous and well-finished product that rivals any of the original steel in terms of straightness and fit, and then someone spent a ton of time making it extra nice. There are no waves, no ripples, no signs of the fiberglass substrate visible anywhere. In fact, I was at Hershey a few weeks ago and saw original, restored 'Birds that were far, far worse in terms of fit and finish. Gaps are excellent and everything lines up extremely well, from the original-looking scooped hood to the flush-fitting deck lid. And once it was all smooth and straight, 2-stage urethane in flaming Regal Red was laid down over every square inch, including the bumpers and wrap-around windshield frame, leaving you with an eye-popping roadster that is anything but subtle.
Fortunately, all the little details that make Thunderbirds so special are intact on this one, from the hooded headlights, to the aforementioned hood scoop, to the updated taillights that recall the originals but give them a 21st century twist. The grille is a custom stainless steel piece, polished so it shines like chrome, and the removable hardtop sports chrome trim rings around the famous porthole windows, just like the original. And without the trim along the sides and the simulated louvers on the front fenders, you can see that dramatic crease that slashes down the front fender, then stretches back to the taillight?something that is often overlooked on original cars and which I think looks beautiful without all the ornamentation. Headlights are cool crystal clear units with blue dot centers while the taillights are smoked for a custom look. The wrap-around windshield, along with all the other glass, is brand-new.
If this were a real '55 T-Bird, you'd find a 292 cubic inch Y-block V8 under the hood, cranking out maybe 200 horsepower?adequate for 1955, but not likely to make your heart race when you nail the throttle. Instead, when you pop the hood on this one, you'll find a breathtaking 514 cubic inch Ford big block V8, a bored and stroked 460 fresh out of the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog. But they weren't content to just drop it in as it came out of the crate. Instead, the craftsmen who built this car went crazy with the retro theme and did some really spectacular work. First off, you'll notice those Hilborn-style velocity stacks on top of the engine, part of a modern EFI system that gives vintage looks with modern-day performance. No more tuning carburetors, all you need to do is get in, turn the key, and this one fires up instantly, idles perfectly, and pulls like a freight train with no hitches or flat spots in the power curve. Right below the intake, you'll find a pair of gorgeous valve covers, custom built for this application with a vintage Thunderbird logo airbrushed on the faces. A compact polished billet aluminum accessory drive system includes power steering and air conditioning, and features a single serpentine belt just like a modern car, and it's all polished to a show finish. Hoses and lines are all braided stainless and there's a polished aluminum radiator up front that's cooled by a matching red electric fan. A Wilwood billet master cylinder on the firewall feeds the 4-wheel disc brakes, and even the overflow tanks and reservoirs for all the fluids are polished. If you didn't say, "Wow!" when you first saw the photos of this engine, you should probably turn in your Car Guy card right now. This is some EXTREMELY impressive work.
But this car is more than just a trick engine. Look underneath and you'll find a full tube frame chassis, finished in more Regal Red with polished accents. Heck, even the bellhousing is painted red, and off it hangs a bulletproof Richmond 6-speed manual transmission (no wimpy automatic need apply). Front suspension consists of upper and lower A-arms (chrome plated, of course), with adjustable coil-over shocks and a modern rack-and-pinion system. Out back, there's a beefy 4-link, again with polished and chrome plated links and coil-over shocks, and a beautifully finished Ford 9-inch rear. There's a vented and cross-drilled brake rotor at each corner, clamped by Wilwood calipers. Dig the gorgeous hand-made exhaust system, which has been fully polished so it matches the rest of the eye candy under the car. Wheels are perfectly-sized polished aluminum Budnik 5-spoke units wearing Yokohama Advan 245/45ZR17 front and 315/35ZR17 rear tires.
The wow factor doesn't end there. Inside you'll find a completely custom-built interior that is a modern interpretation of the already gorgeous 1955 Thunderbird's cockpit. Done in gray leather, the seats are deep buckets that are every bit as comfortable as the originals but with a console separating them for a more contemporary feel than the original bench. The door panels are spectacular recreations of the originals, including the cool engine-turned inserts that stretch into the dashboard and frame the instrument panel. And speaking of the instrument panel, it sure looks like an original dash, but the gauges are incredibly cool custom pieces that feature carbon fiber faces with Regal Red inserts and Thunderbird markings?where they had these made, I can't imagine, but they're very, very cool. A custom console has been constructed to house the shifter for the 6-speed, while HVAC controls are in the dash in the usual location. The billet aluminum steering wheel is wrapped in matching gray leather and feels great in your hands?not too fat, not too small, but just right for this vintage-looking driver's seat. The workmanship is beautifully done?just look at how straight the stitching is on the dash pad and stretching into the door panels! The trunk is beautifully finished as well, with matching carpets and side panels. I continue to be blown away by the details throughout this car?there's absolutely nothing in this car that wasn't done to the highest standards. Very impressive.
On a hand-built car like this, documentation is everything, and we have a big pile of it. First there are the receipts for all the parts that went into the build, and they're from names you know?Wilwood, McLeod, Richmond, and Competition Cams. Speaking of Competition Cams, there are also cam cards, so you know exactly what's INSIDE the engine, as well as how it was detailed and what was bolted on. We also have the manual for the construction of the Regal Roadster Thunderbird chassis. If you need to know what went into the build, it's all here.
I'll admit that I rolled my eyes when I heard a Thunderbird replica was coming in to Best of Show?after all, originals are so common that I didn't see any reason to try to build your own. But then I saw this car and kept peeling back the many layers of detail that went into it, and I have to say that I am EXTREMELY impressed. Now that I've seen it in person, I think there's no other way this car could have been built, because there's just no way you could get all these systems operational at this level using an original chassis. And as a guy who likes original cars to stay, well, original, I'm as pleased as you surely are that a real Thunderbird was not modified to build it. So if you're looking for something a little different with a lot of horsepower and enough eyeball appeal to bring home a trophy at virtually any show you attend, I can't think of many cars that do it better than this one. Fully sorted, beautifully finished, and an absolute blast to drive, this red roadster truly does deserve to wear the Thunderbird name. Just wait 'till you hear it, then you'll understand.