View Full Version : My New Thunderbird Project Trio - Fresh Off The Farm

Bill Morgan
08-11-2015, 12:29 AM
Hello all! At age 65, I‘m a lifetime Ford fan and no stranger to classic car resurrection and restoration. I was directed to squarebirds.org by a Google search to show how to open the hood on a ’60 Thunderbird with an apparently ineffective release cable and was so impressed with the site I decided to become a member.

I now am the new owner of a trio of Thunderbirds, two ‘60s and a ’62 Landau, from the estate of a man killed in a farm accident. He was a very poor custodian for the ‘Birds, buying each in nice and readily driveable condition, then leaving them parked, exposed to West Texas weather, for years.

By coincidence, one of the ’60 cars was quite familiar to me. The owner prior to the careless farmer was the brother of one of my closest friends, and I had lusted for the car when he offered it for sale. However, at that point in life, about 13 years ago, I couldn’t justify spending a significant amount of money on a non-essential vehicle.

Now, I’m going to, in words and pictures, bring you along with me as I rescue the three from the sands of the farm, assess the restoration feasibility for each, and attempt to return them to driver status. Ultimately, I plan to keep one of the ‘60s and sell the other ’60 and the ’62 to finance the refurbishment of the keeper.

(By the way, I got that hood open, and I’ll later be generating a post, complete with photos, clarifying the mechanics of the process.)

Here are the T-birds as I found them. The white ’60 and white/red ’62 were parked out in a very weedy open area with no real road leading to them. The black ’60 had been stored in a metal building, but a tornado blew that structure apart, notably damaging the right rear quarter of the car. The farmer then relocated it underneath a metal shed where it was sheltered from sunlight and hail but still open to driving rains and dust storms.

Given the predominance of agricultural operations in this region, dust blows to some extent any time the wind is noticeable, and a still day is rare here on the High Plains. Blow sand drifted up around and underneath the cars until reaching the rocker panels. All sorts of critters – rabbits, ground squirrels, skunks, badgers, and, of course, rats tunneled homes underneath.

The cherry on this untasty pie is that the farm also is home to diamondback rattlesnakes, some seen to be five feet long. I considered a short 12 gauge shotgun an indispensable part of my equipage at all times.

My next post will show engine bays and interiors as seen at the time of recovery.

bird 60
08-11-2015, 12:45 AM
Good find Bill. My guess is that you'll be keeping the White '60.

Hope you get some good $s when you part with the other two to help with the resto.

Chris.....From OZ.

08-11-2015, 03:22 AM
Hi Bill, when you can, you should check to see if the 3 Birds are registered in the Thunderbird Registry. If they are, that might give you some additional history on these cars. You can find the Data Plate with the VIN # and the Data information on the car located on the drivers side pillar when you open the door. When you close the door, it hides that data plate. You can go to the Tbird Registry at http://www.tbirdregistry.com and enter the VIN # one at a time and see if it has a Registry number. If not, you might want to add it to the Registry. John Rotella runs it and he has made it his mission in life to find and register every parted out, crushed, or live Tbird he can.

Once you have found the Data Plate take pix of them and you can send them to me and I can decode them for you. They tell you what they had on them when they left the factory and when they were "born". Good luck with them!

Joe Johnston
08-11-2015, 08:02 AM
Great save(s)! Any restoration that requires a 12 gauge in the toolbox should be interesting!

08-11-2015, 11:21 AM
Glad to hear Google pointed you in the right direction. Great bunch of folks here that are extremely helpful.

X2 with Joe - you're the first person I've heard of that used a shotgun to restore their car :D

Looks like the white one has tinted windows so should have AC. Maybe tan leather? I vote you keep it too. Looking forward to the progress.

Humm - wonder why I'm interested in the white one?



Bill Morgan
08-11-2015, 12:50 PM
Glad to hear Google pointed you in the right direction. Great bunch of folks here that are extremely helpful.

X2 with Joe - you're the first person I've heard of that used a shotgun to restore their car :D

Looks like the white one has tinted windows so should have AC. Maybe tan leather? I vote you keep it too. Looking forward to the progress.


I hope to be able to contribute to the site's knowledge base. I've been chasing and working on classic cars for 50 years.

BTW, I also had my trusty .40 Glock with me, but the shotgun eliminated the need for precision.

You are correct about the white car having factory AC. The interior, however, is aqua with white inserts. Other options include power steering, automatic, power windows, and console radio.

The black car has an automatic, power steering, and a console radio.

The '62 is loaded out - power steering, power brakes, automatic, power windows, power seats, AC. It may have others, but I don't yet have it at my place for a thorough inspection....I've been waiting for the afternoons, my most productive time, to drop below 98 degrees. I can tell you if sweating caused one to lose weight, I should be about 110 pounds, but I seem to remain at 175.

The white car certainly looks to be the keeper, more options and less bodywork, although the engine may be toast. The dipstick came up dry and rusty except for a little sludge on the tip. Oh, well, I've been looking for a use for the Z-code 390 I have in a '62 Mercury parts car.

Hi Bill, when you can, you should check to see if the 3 Birds are registered in the Thunderbird Registry....Once you have found the Data Plate take pix of them and you can send them to me and I can decode them for you.

I checked the registry as soon as I had VINs and found none of the three included, so I immediately registered them, along with a '65 Thunderbird the old man kept in the garage of his house. The widow gave that car, in excellent condition other than very minor mouse damage, to a grandson to restore in honor of his grandfather.

Thanks for your generous offer, but I also immediately decoded the data plates. I have an extensive library of resource material, as well as a couple hundred bookmarked sites chock full of technical and historical data.

08-11-2015, 01:39 PM
Know what you mean on the temps - been 98+ here for most of the month of July - we were on a pace to break a record for heat set back in '54 but looks like it's finally cooled off a bit. Won't be great but at least not above 95.

My '60 has the black and white interior. Dad and Mom bought it new so it's an old family friend.

Replaced my engine about a year ago - unfortunately I didn't find a Z code 390 - that would have been real lucky - but did find an already rebuilt 352 cheaper than I could rebuild mine - actually cheaper than I could buy the kit to rebuild mine. Added a little bling and the 312 valve cover treatment just because I like it. Have the original engine sitting in the shop to rebuild one of these days.


Adding AC at the moment. Converted to front disc brakes about 10-12 years ago before there was a good bracket available that makes it easy (scarebird) - I used Granada spindles which have worked fine.

Lots of good info around here on replacement part quality and choice etc. Give us a shout on what you need and see if someone has already searched out the best replacement. For example I just replaced my shocks a few months back with some heavy duty Land Rover shocks (rear) that one of the Administrators found for us and couldn't be happier with the new ride.

Can't wait to see the rest of the pics - sounds like fun. You'll have to make a snake skin steering wheel cover or something like that to remember your fun time picking up the cars.


Bill Morgan
08-12-2015, 01:10 PM
Quick update...couldn't wait.

The black 'Bird is now running and has functional brakes.

I had a good feeling about it before I started the resurrection process. The oil was clean and right on the full mark. The radiator still contained clean green antifreeze. Plugs, points, rotor, and cap appeared new. The engine demonstrated compression when rotated with a breaker bar.

So, after two days pickling in Marvel Mystery Oil, an oil change, a scuff with a points file (yep, I still have one...two, in fact), a new set of plug wires and two vacuum hoses replacing the rodent-gnawed old ones, and a shot of gasoline down the carb, I was rewarded with hearing the old 352 fire right up and run on all eight. BTW, yes, I did disconnect the fuel-tank-to-carburetor hose first. I never attempt to start an engine on old fuel. I'll now drop the tank, clean it, replace the feed hoses, and emplace new fuel filters, and it should be good to go.

The brakes were a snap, requiring nothing more than fresh fluid and bleeding. No signs of leakage at any point. I pulled the drums first and found them nicely turned and covering new brake shoes.

The only inoperative components I found were non-functional brake lights (that'll be the sender), dash lights and right turn signal.

Before long I may just wash and buff it and take it to Sonic for cruise night, which will be the first time it's been driven in 13 years.

I also now am optimistic about the white 'Bird's engine. The initial indication of no oil was the fault of the dipstick. Somewhere down the line the shield had come loose and some bozo welded it back on...in the wrong place and with such a thick weld that it was held even farther away from a proper seat.

I borrowed the dipstick from the black car, checked the white car's engine again and found it, after all, to be full of oil appearing very clean with no indication of sludge or water. I already have scored an original Ford replacement dipstick.

Later today, after I finally retrieve the '62 Landau, I'll check the white car engine for rotation, and I'll be off to Chapter 2 on that one.

More photos coming later today.....

08-12-2015, 02:12 PM
Bill, great reporting and you are making great progress! I am amazed at how well you are doing on identifying and fixing things as you go! The problem with the dash lights could be that rheostat in the headlight switch needing cleaning. The Technical Resource Library has information on taking that switch out, and going through it to fix that. That was interesting what you found out regarding the dip stick on the white car! Good luck with getting the '62 home!

Bill Morgan
08-13-2015, 12:05 AM
Pictures of the interior and engine of the black car, as found, and tornado damage to the right rear quarter panel.

For reasons unclear, the rats found the center section of the rear seat cushion especially tasty. The springs are in fine shape so new foam will fix that problem.

The photo of the engine bay doesn't depict the full extent of the rat nest. Rat pellets filled every depression on the intake manifold and the accumulated plant material was packed all the way down to the oil pan.

Also not clear, in the interior shots, are what must have been nearly five pounds of rat pellets filling the seats and floorboards.

All the mess has been cleared and follow-up pictures will come in a few days.

Bill Morgan
08-13-2015, 12:16 AM
Interior shots of the white 'Bird taken today after a quick blast of the air gun. I believe new headliner and carpet would bring the interior to driver level.

The rat fouling of this engine was nowhere as extensive at that in the black car. Although the engine bay had dirt accumulated everywhere, the rats confined their excretory activity to the intake manifold. I did have to dig the stuff out with a screwdriver with the nozzle of a running shop vac an inch away.

I now have verified that this engine also can be rotated with a breaker bar and socket, so I will not be surprised if it, too, answers the starter's call after the Mystery Oil treatment and new plug wires.

Unless I later find significant rust damage underneath the car, I expect to keep this white one and sell the other two.

Bill Morgan
08-13-2015, 12:39 AM
Finally, shots of the '62 from a couple of days ago after I got it out of weeds and ready to load. Note the old analog bagged cellphone left on the front passenger seat and the missing fender skirts leaned against the back seat.

The coupe now reposes on a trailer in my back 1/2-acre lot.

No engine shots yet due to an ineffective hood release and shortage of time to work around it.

Bill Morgan
08-13-2015, 01:58 PM
When I signed on to the site I was unsure of which section in which to post these stories.

Since I'm driving none of them and won't be for some time, I'm going to cease posting in this section.

If, during my work on these cars, I encounter or generate information useful to site members, I will post it in the appropriate technical section.

Dan Leavens
08-14-2015, 09:27 AM
Bill looks like you are going to have some fun bringing these girls back:rolleyes: If you need assistance in knowing what section to post in I am sure Ray Clark ( Yellowrose ) will steer you in the right direction.

08-14-2015, 10:11 AM
It's amazing that all three of your cars still have the fender skirts. Usually they are long gone when cars are left out in the open.


Dan Leavens
08-15-2015, 09:25 AM
John I agree with you. Perhaps they are still on as most don't know how they come off properly:eek: