Goodbye Wixom

Today marks the final day of the factory in which my T’bird was born. Ford’s Wixom MI assembly plant will close today after more than 50 years of assembling some of Ford’s finest cars including Thunderbirds, Lincoln Continentals, Lincoln Mark IV’s and Lincoln Town Cars.
Some facts:

  • Groundbreaking in 1955.
  • 4.7 million square feet of space
  • 15 miles of conveyor
  • Peak employment was 1973 with over 5,400 workers
  • Peak output was in 1988 with over 280,000 Lincoln Town Cars and Continentals

The Thunderbird was built at Wixom from 1958 (the first Squarebird style, like mine, and the first 4 seat Thunderbird) until 1976.
92,798 Thunderbirds began life at Wixom for the 1960 model year. According to the data plate, my car rolled off the line on July 26th, 1960.

Squarebird Ranchero

What happens when one mixes a 1958 Thunderbird and a 1977 Chevy Blazer 4×4? This goofiness.
What this crazy world really needs is a 450 horsepower, Chevy powered, four wheel drive, Ford Thunderbird pickup truck, right?
According to the auction, “If you want to stand out among the crowd in a one of a kind creation that looks great & sounds great, this is it.” Hard to argue with that. Also, it’s good to know that the 4WD actually still works. Nothing worse that taking your vintage Thunderbird out on the Rubicon only to get stranded in some mud pit or on a boulder by non-working 4WD.
Oh, and it can also be used as a tow vehicle. In fact, “The previous owner had a lawn service so he pulled a trailer with mowers in it.” Imagine that.

Reader Ride of the Day

Check it out, Autoblog, one of the most popular car blogs around, chose my Thunderbird as the Reader Ride of the Day for Thursday. The deal is you upload some photos of your car to Flickr and add three of them to their RR of the Day photo pool. They chose a car a day from their readers to highlight.
Make sure you check back to the RR of the Day Category over the weekend so you can vote for my car as RR of the Week. 🙂

1960 Ford Ad

While I’ve got nothing to say, check out this ad for the 1960 Fords. My T’bird is in there. OK, it’s a white hardtop instead of a black convertible, but you get the idea.
This commercial is amazing. I mean can you imagine a 3 minute commercial now? And with full orchestration and soprano singers with rhyming lyrics. Whoopee!
I especially like the inspred lyrics they came up with for the Falcon. How many times did they say ‘new Ford Falcon’?

T’bird Links

Since I’ve begun posting stuff about my Thunderbird, I decided to add a category of links to Thunderbird sites to my blogroll. These are sites with info or message boards, not parts vendors.
The Thunderbird Cybernest is the host of several Yahoo Groups dedicated to the various iterations of the Thunderbird. I get a lot of info and help from the folks on the Squarebirds list. is a site dedicaated to the 3 years of Thunderbirds like mine, 1958-1960. It has a bunch of technical info and an active message board.
The Thunderbird Registry is a project by LOVEFords to try to document where as many Thunderbirds as possible are today. As of this writing they’ve registered 27,685 Thunderbirds. Mine is Registry Number 20,128.
Probably not of interest to most of you, but oh well.

Before and After

They’re he-ere! After 11 weeks of waiting (6-8, eh Boyd?) my wheels finally arrived on Thursday. The tires came in yesterday afternoon and I had them put on this morning. They really transform the look of the car. I’ve long felt, like many car guys, that the wheels make the car. The old gal went from just ‘neat old car’ to ‘cool car’. They give it a nice, aggressive look.
Now I just have to get them cleaned up. They got all smudged during the installation and the tires need a good coat of tire shine on them. And since they’re polished bare aluminum, I’ll want to get a coat of aluminum wheel wax on them pretty soon too so they don’t oxidize. I’ll do the insides too.
Then there’s the new rear seat cover to put on, the new top to install and the suspension kit and new shocks that I just bought. And while I’m at it on the suspension, I’m going to paint the brake drums so they look better between those shiny spokes.
Then, after I go the wheels on and the old wheels and covers out of the trunk, one of the rear deck cylinders decided to spring a leak. It actually started leaking at the tire shop. So now the top won’t go down. Probably will be fixed with adding fluid, but it’s still annoying. It’s always something with these old cars.

Decisions, Decisions

I’ve been working on a side project for a friend and it’s almost payday. The money is going into the old ‘Bird and in the next week I’m signing up for some aluminum rims for the old gal. I’ve nailed down the sizes and narrowed my choices to the two picturess at the right, both from Boyd Codington.
Here are the sizes:
17″ x 8″
4″ Backspace
18″ x 9″
4.5″ Backspace
The first one is the Smoothie II’s that Boyd has made for a while. They are pretty easy to get (about a week or two) and not too expensive.
The second one is called “Junkyard Dog” and is brand new. I don’t have pricing on them yet, but they will take 8 weeks to get according to Boyd.
I’m partial to the JYD (bottom) because it’s a little more aggressive with its ‘dished’ look rather than the ‘domed’ look of the Smoothie II. But if it’s significantly more money in addition to being more time, I’ll probably go with the Smoothie II.
Any thoughts?

T’bird Help

This post is mostly for folks from the Squarebirds group at Yahoo groups, but I know I have at least one gear head reader that might be able to help.
I bought a new Fuel pump for the old ‘bird, to try to get it back on the road. I spent a good part of Saturday morning taking the old one out and running to the parts store. The new pump I bought at NAPA and was only listed as for the 1958. Mine’s a 1960, but the T’bird parts places lists one pump for all, so I thought I’d be OK.
The image at the right is of the two pumps side by side (Cick the image for a larger version). As you might be able to tell, the inlet and outlet are different between the two. On the old one, the inlet is the one on the left (with the fitting in it) and the outlet is on the right. On the new one, the ports aren’t labeled like the old one’s are and they are in different places. There is a port at roughly the same place as the outlet on the old one, but the other is to the right not the left and is on the other side of the lower gasket you can see in the picture (the pumps are upsidedown). Both ports are on the same side of that gasket in the old one.
What I’m wondering is which one is which? Should I take this back to NAPA and get one from somewhere else?

Time to Get The Old ‘Bird Out

This weekend is supposed to be 70+ degrees and sunny both days. What a change from last weekend’s driving snow. Being the first real spring weekend, it was time to get the old T’bird out again. That’s my 1960 Thunderbird convertible at the right, ready to take on spring. Well, not quite ready actually. Last fall when I discovered I had a fuel leak that I knew I’d have to take care of before driving it this year. So today I decided to see if it was going to be an easy fix.
After about 60 seconds of engine cranking and accelerator pumping, she roared to life. I was able to pull her out into the driveway but that’s it. The left rear tire (against the wall all winter) had gone completely flat. I wanted to get out and check that fuel leak anyway. Well, this wasn’t gong to be a simple loose fitting. There was gas dribbling rather profusely from all around the fuel pump. So much for top down fun this weekend. I got air in the tire and put her back in the garage to await a replacement pump. Thankfully, it only leaks when running so there’s no danger of burning the house down (I had checked that last fall.)
This is going to be a big year for the old ‘Bird. I’ve got some play money from doing a small design project for a friend that my company wasn’t interested in. Part of that money bought the laptop that I’m typing this on. The rest is going to some 18″ Boyd Codington Smoothy II wheels for the T’bird. You might be able to tell from that picture, but she’s riding on undersize second hand blackwalls (that don’t hold air well). These cars originally came (most of them anyway) with a 2 1/4″ wide whitewall. The small 14″ wheels and the undersize blackwalls have just made the car look wimpy. Not any more. The 18″ diameter polished rims will almost match the diameter of the original wide whites. They’re a nice meaty five spoke wheel that ought to give the ‘Bird the stance it should have.
So I’ve got some measuring to do to see wheel back space I need and how wide I can go and still use the skirts in the back. I also want to make sure I don’t have any rubbing in the front when I turn the wheel. I’m also planning to go through the front suspension while I’m at it and replace the shocks. So I poked my head underneath today just to see what I’m up against and I found a surprise.

This magnetic ‘key locker’ was tucked up underneath the right front wheel near the bumper. It was wrapped in electrical tape to keep the water out and there was a sponge inside with the keys soaked in something like Navel Jelly. Someone was trying to keep these keys from rusting. I got this car from my grandfather in 2000. He bought it in California in 1978. Based on the care put into stashing this key locker, I’d bet it wasn’t my grandfather who put it there. Nothing against grandpa, but he wasn’t that kind of a detail oriented guy. If that’s the case, then that means this key locker has been under there for nearly 30 years. Inside was three keys, including one of the original Ford logo keys, not very warn. Pretty cool.

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