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My 1959 Thunderbird convertible

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  • My 1959 Thunderbird convertible

    Iíve been looking for a builder for a few years now, not a total wreck, but one I could pick away at and make my own. Iím well into my 50s now and I donít want another 5 year total effort rotisserie restoration in my life, instead, I wanted a running, driving car that I didnít necessarily need to tear down to the last nut and bolt.
    So I found this 59. I watched it for months, saw the dealers low ball the car, saw the dreamers kick the tires, and when the price hit what I wanted, I grabbed it.

    Now, she needs much. Sheís a local car her whole life, but she unfortunately received the dreaded $500.00 Maaco roller job. The painter even had a bit of extra paint so he made sure he used the extra on wiring looms, relays, and other goodies that donít need paint.
    A C-6 and a very healthy 390 were installed, with the C-6 receiving a fabled trans mount. The original 352 and Cruiseo came with her, along with the original trans mount.
    The old girl needs a complete interior, paint strip and body fixes, along with all brightwork. Plus a new top and a good dashboard detailing and brightening up.
    Yep, sheís in need of a full resto, but Iím going to approach it simply.
    Thereís some clearance issues with the power steering ram and the oil pan, so Iíll pull the powertrain, clean and detail the engine, rebuild and bolt in the original Cruiseomatic, and go through the front end and update the brakes.
    With the powetrain out, the interior will be pulled the rest of the way, so Iíll pull the brightwork and deal with the bit of rust and the body issues.
    I buff my own stainless, and then Iíll get the chrome work done. And WHY do people go out and ruin a perfect deck lid by drilling for that rear antenna?
    This will be a nice break from my normal massive rotisserie jobs. Yes, she could stand it, but I want a driver. A nice, reliable, trouble free car.

    Last edited by Y-Blokkah; February 4th, 2019, 11:30 PM.

  • #2


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      • #4
        OK, hereís a big issue. Power steering ram is nailing the oil pan when the wheels are deflected hard over. Very, very, VERY uncool. Engine mounts look new, so Iíll do some research on oil pans, but my gut says thereís a geometry problem with the rear mount. Hmmmm.

        Last edited by Y-Blokkah; February 5th, 2019, 12:40 AM.


        • #5
          The engine is healthy, but filthy. Plenty of elbow grease and cleanup will make a huge difference here. Just some good, old fashioned restoration work will fix this and make it good as new.

          The wiring harnesses are a mess and in need of replacement.

          Last edited by Y-Blokkah; February 5th, 2019, 12:37 AM.


          • #6
            WHY do people absolutely insist on slathering undercoat over the entire structure? This really irritates me.

            If they were trying to hide this, it took me 5 minutes to find it. Drivers side middle of the floor pan. Odd spot...

            And the only spot I found any rot in the body. So far. Drivers side, right in front of the rear wheel.


            • #7
              I completely expect to find much sin under here.

              Quicky paintjob = poor prep. I donít think this is rust. I think itís most likely contamination under the paint. I hope Iím right, but if not, no biggie.


              • #8
                About the only thing I can say regarding the interior is that itís all there. Except for what crumbled away.


                • #9
                  Pot metal here in in need of some love. No biggie as we need to pull them apart to clean and install new rubber weatherstrips.


                  • #10
                    So, thatís my new ride, and itís by far the best condition car Iíve ever started with.


                    • #11
                      It's certainly a lot better than most convertibles I've had. The rear antenna was a factory option. It looks like an original Ford antenna to me. So was heavy undercoating. It makes welding very interesting.

                      John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

                      Thunderbird Registry #36223



                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jopizz View Post
                        It's certainly a lot better than most convertibles I've had. The rear antenna was a factory option. It looks like an original Ford antenna to me. So was heavy undercoating. It makes welding very interesting.

                        Yeah, this isnít anywhere near my first rodeo with 50s Fords. All the other ones I could undo some body bolts and lift the body off the frame to repair it. You canít do that here, so that part of it is all new.
                        New paint got me suspicious. The pics I saw looked ok, no rust on the outside, but from what I gather, thatís not exactly uncommon. Sheís a North Texas Dallas area car through and through, so that should mean we wonít be fighting rust as badly as other areas do.

                        I donít get the power steering nailing the pan. Iíve got to look closely. Check the oil land for depth, and then check the homemade trans mount. Should be a simple enough fix.

                        How do yíall feel about the repro seat upholstery offered by places like Larryís? My upholsterer isnít sold, saying theyíre usually lightweight vinyl and easily tears. He wants me to get new seat foam and allow him to sew up some covers. Not original as in no heat press, but he says much more durable.


                        • #13
                          Well, I guess Iíll be getting a wire brush. Time to tackle the undercoat. Off it comes around the problem areas. Crap, what a miserable job.

                          I own my own transmission shop so at least I have a well equipped shop.


                          • #14
                            Ernie, I will give you the information that my custom interior guy gave me when he did my interior... He has been in the business for many years and has done more OEM or custom interiors than he can remember. I ordered my seat cushions through one of our major suppliers at the time. I wanted to order OEM seat covers but they did not have them in a yellow and white color. After he looked at my OEM black & white seat covers he said he could make me much better quality yellow and white covers from scratch with material he already had in stock and save me a lot of money by doing so. And that would allow me to do the customization of the interior that I wanted to do. So I let him do that. After I got the foam seat cushions he told me that he could have saved me some money on those by making them himself. Especially after finding out that what I had bought had to be trimmed down to make them fit. A set of Front and Back seat foams will cost ya $479.95 plus shipping from the Bird Nest. Over the years, others have posted on here that their interior guys have told them the same thing. Some who have gone with OEM seat covers have had problems with them, like the colors not matching, or fitting properly. What you might want to do is write down these figures and ask him what he would charge you to make the seat foams and the covers in comparison. I can tell you that the Bird Nest sells Front and Back seat covers for $530.95 plus shipping for 1958-1966 Tbirds.

                            Ray Clark - Squarebirds Administrator
                            The Terminator.....
                            Contact me via Private Message for my email address, or Call (Cell) 210-875-1411



                            • #15
                              Good deal, thanks for the info. Itís exactly what he told me. He said I need to source the door panels though.
                              Iíll check the Birds Nest today.

                              Iím feeling pretty good about the Bird so far, but of course, whereís the big hit going to come from? Usually the body, but fingers crossed. Always a bit of a gamble.