Monday, September 16, 2019

Automotif CL...

I spotted quite a sight in the Meijer parking lot today; this was definitely not your ordinary grocery-getter. I was glad I had the Fuji X-E1 and Zeiss 32mm f/1.8 along, because this deserved better than a quick cell phone snap.

It's a 1955 Ford Thunderbird, the first year of production, when they were fairly close-coupled two-seaters intended as a counter for GM's Corvette. As if to underscore the intended target, Ford shortened the wheelbase on their standard chassis to the same 102" as the Chevrolet 2-seater.

The '53 and '54 Corvettes had only come equipped with the "Blue Flame" inline-six, and so the T-bird's 292cid, 193* bhp V8 was intended to give it a leg up, but 1955 saw Chevy drop their own 265 cubic inch V8 in the 'Vette, where it put out a claimed 195* bhp. From the beginning, the Thunderbird was more of a tourer than the sportier Corvette, and it was only a two seater for the first few model years.

This "Thunderbird Blue" example, with a "Turquoise & White" interior, appeared to be unrestored.

In the late '70s my dad briefly had an immaculate, low-mileage, unrestored black '55 T-Bird. When he wasn't fiddling with it, it was stored in the garage with the hardtop removed†, covered in blankets to keep the dust off.

Other than one or maybe two rides around the neighborhood, I mostly remember the cockpit as the absolute best place in Hide & Go Seek, because none of my siblings or cousins expected anyone to hide in the DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH DAD'S T-BIRD.

Here's something that caught me off guard today when I was thrown into a reverie by the sight of this classic: When I was watching dad work on that oh-so-old Fifties vintage auto, with its quirky old six-volt electrical system and all, it was only twenty-three years old or so.

It wouldn't have qualified for Indiana vintage plates yet, unlike the Ford I took out for a spin to take in the sunset today...

*This was "SAE gross horsepower", which was measured in a climate-controlled dynamometer chamber with the engine out of the car, all power-draining accessories removed, and probably the air cleaner and exhaust manifolds replaced with velocity stacks and straight pipes. And then the numbers would be further massaged by marketing. It's not super-science, but you won't go far wrong by assuming that the actual SAE net bhp is somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of that number. In other words, don't drag race a Prius in your stock '55 T-Bird.

The 1955 Thunderbird came standard with a lift-off fiberglass hardtop. A convertible top was an option, one that neither the pictured car nor my dad's had.