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  #1  
Old 07-25-2016, 12:17 PM
Sjp3003 Sjp3003 is offline
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Default Foolhardy Tropical TBird Project

As mentioned in my introduction two weeks ago, my name is Steve and I live in the Dominican Republic. A longtime motorcycling friend, Luis, let me know that one of his former cars, a 1966 Landau TBird had become an abandoned project car, disassembled and covered by a plastic tarp in the backyard of shade tree mechanic. The current owner lost interest in the project and it was for sale for $3,260.

Given that it will take a number of months to actually enjoy the car (assuming we can pull off this restoration in the tropics) I will be documenting this journey here to provide updates and seek advice as we hit unforeseen but sure-to-come roadblocks. So get your popcorn ready, here goes:

“Where can I see it?” I asked. Luis calmly responded “If you see it, you will not buy it.” Coming from anyone I didn’t know, that would have been enough to run, not walk, away from even considering the car. But I had known Luis for many years. He had had several classics on the island, was familiar with mechanics we could call upon to rescue this abandoned TBird and was confident this was doable at a reasonable cost approximating market prices in the US. ‘How about pictures?” I asked. Luis stonewalled, repeating his same monotone mantra: “If you see it, you will not buy it.”

“Ok, but was the car running? What shape is the motor in? Are all the pieces there?” I asked. ‘Well,” started Luis, “I sold it I5 years ago, and the current owner just had the motor rebuilt. It was running strong recently. It is a later generation Tbird engine. I know some pieces are missing from the car but I am not sure which ones yet.”

Sight unseen, I told Luis I’d buy the car. That was two weeks ago. Mentioning that same story to an office colleague, Daniel, he said he’d be in too. So we are now two foolhardy partners resuscitating this moribund ‘66 Bird.

We got the ID plate number for the car, 6Y87Z168893, and deciphered it via the TBird Registry:

6 = 1966
Y = Wixom, Michigan
87 = Thunderbird, 2 door Landau
Z = 390 4v V8 (gone but we know where it is)
168893 = Consecutive Unit Number

Last week I received a copy of the title via Luis, executed a purchase agreement with the seller and paid for the car. Our plan at that point was simple: (1) flatbed the car to a small town called Salcedo, in the middle of the country, to a shop where Luis was having his early 60’s Olds repainted. (2) Take stock of what’s missing from the car to order those bits as the project progressed. And (3) jointly figure out our objectives for this restoration.

The last part was easy: we decided to see what the original colors were to see if we would keep them, we wanted to make the car drivable to participate in local club events and weekend family drives and we knew we needed good AC given the local heat. It turned out the original color was sapphire blue, with a black top. We agreed we liked sapphire blue, but prefer a white top and it looks like that will be our color choice, with an aqua interior.

However, getting the car to Salcedo and taking stock of what’s missing proved to be more difficult. As soon as the deal was inked, Luis received several calls warning us to stay away from that shop (word travels fast among the small group of classic car buffs on the island). We learned the shop owner was taking on more work than he could process, and the arrival of another project car would lengthen delivery times for everyone. I received the first photos of our project. None of the actual car yet, just the pics of parts that had been removed and delivered to Luis’ office by the seller:
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Last edited by Sjp3003 : 07-25-2016 at 12:31 PM.
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Old 07-25-2016, 12:20 PM
Sjp3003 Sjp3003 is offline
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With the project in disarray, I found myself leaving on a family vacation to California that I’d planned months earlier. I set up a small whatsapp group to stay in touch with Luis and Daniel regarding the TBird and took off for the trip I am enjoying as I write this from Carmel by the Sea. Ironically tomorrow we will be driving through Monterrey and Pebble Beach where great classic car concourses are held, while our rustbucket project awaits further definition.

Just before leaving, a second option arose, a shop in Constanza, in the island’s central mountains. The shop owner offered to come to Santo Domingo last Friday, provided we foot his travel costs. We ok’d the cost and he travelled to Santo Domingo to see the car with Luis. His estimate was twice the amount calculated by the first shop, and he seemed quick to replace parts others would restore. No-go. So there we were on Friday, with the car paid for, no place to send it and no idea of what it would need.

Since Luis took him to see the car, we finally got pics of the car itself. These turned out to be a shocking case of “careful what you wish for” as you can see below. It is hard to believe this thing was actually running last year:
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Old 07-25-2016, 12:22 PM
Sjp3003 Sjp3003 is offline
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Another pic...
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Old 07-25-2016, 12:25 PM
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Luis called around to see what shops others would recommend and we came cross a shop right in Santo Domingo. A restorer named Angel Castro who set up a well equipped shop called Calavera after returning from the US. It looks great, the shop works until 11pm every night and some nice projects that started as rustbuckets have rolled out of his garage. Here are a few pictures of his shop:
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Last edited by Sjp3003 : 07-25-2016 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 07-25-2016, 12:25 PM
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Another shop pic...
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Old 07-25-2016, 12:28 PM
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So for now our immediate plan is to tow our TBird to Calavera this week and scope out the work when I get back next week. We look forward to this forum’s advice as we move forward with this project (hopefully no one says “Drop it immediately!” based on the pictures.)
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Old 07-25-2016, 12:37 PM
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Steve,

It may have been running last year but I doubt it was driving. It doesn't look like it's been on the road for many years. I don't know what you paid for the car or what your budget is but here in the states it would be barely considered a good parts car and not a candidate for restoration since their resale value is very low. It is of course your choice whether or not to restore it since you are paying for it. I'm giving you my honest opinion as someone who has bought, sold and restored dozens of Thunderbirds. If you are fully committed to rescuing it then we are here to help. Keep us posted.

John
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Old 07-25-2016, 12:41 PM
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For starters we are looking for a front bumper...any leads on actual bumpers or good sources would be appreciated.
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Old 07-25-2016, 12:48 PM
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Thanks John for the honest upfront advice. I have to say I have the same opinion after seeing the pictures. I have had older cars in the past in the US and this would be a non starter there.

The key differences here are that labor is much cheaper, and we have few older cars to pick from. Shipping a good find from the US is generally more expensive due to import taxes. We will know whether this makes sense when we draw up the budget at Calavera next week.
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Old 07-25-2016, 01:13 PM
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I'm glad to see that you will be coming up with a budget before you proceed. I've seen too many people blindly throw money at projects and find out too late that it is beyond their means and they wind up having nothing to show for what they've invested. There are numerous Thunderbird vendors here in the states that sell both new and used parts. They are located throughout the country. You will have to do your homework to find out the cheapest shipping method. You can find them in the Advertisements section.

John
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