New-to-me '55

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apines
Posts: 28
Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:05 pm

New-to-me '55

Post by apines » Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:01 am

Hi, all,
I've been lurking in the 64-66 forum for several years soaking up as much of the collected wisdom as I can about my '66 Q-code convertible but now it's time for me to sneak over here. I just picked up a black '55 with Ford-o-matic! I think I got a pretty fair deal on it from the nicest of folks. It had been dad's car since 1985 (still has a window sticker from '85, that's staying!). He passed away a couple of years ago and they decided to let it go. I've owned a number of vintage cars over the years but this is the first that's older than me (a life's goal met). Unlike my '66 the rust is minimal. It has a lot of issues in need of sorting and I'm sure I'll be searching through the archives but for now I just wanted to say hi.

None of the gauges work. Tach, speedo, and gas gauge all park at zero while the temp gauge shoots up to hot as soon as you turn on the car. I'm assuming the temp gauge issue is due to an incomplete 6V-to-12V conversion (it has a 12V battery so clearly that project was started). The seller said it doesn't charge right which makes me think it still has a 6V generator (I haven't checked yet). My primary skill is electrical so I ought to be able to figure all of that out.

The steering pulls to the right. The engine surges a bit when you apply the brakes (vacuum issue?). The brakes themselves need the most attention; it requires a lot of pressure to stop (like "both feet on the pedal" pressure). Also, it has no seatbelts. And the bias-ply whitewalls are past the end of their service life. I got it home safely (41 miles) but it's not moving out of the driveway until the brakes are put to right, seatbelts are installed, and it has a new set of radials.

It'll definitely need a bit of body work and a repaint but the rust seems minor. The passenger-side rocker panel is rotted out where it meets underneath but I didn't see too much else. I'm really hoping I didn't miss something significant.

Anyway, thanks for such an awesome forum, and thanks in advance for all the useful info I'm sure to find here. And if you know anyone near Chicago who might be interested in the '74 TR6 seen in the background let me know ::wink:

-Andrew


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tnswt12
Posts: 43
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:31 am

Re: New-to-me '55

Post by tnswt12 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:42 am

Welcome! You seem to be comfortable with the price and condition of your new Thunderbird! It's a beautiful car and the black is an awesome color, by me.

I don't know much about most of your issues, but I can throw my 2-cents worth in by saying I recently purchased a '57. It also had tires past the expiration date and I contacted Coker Tire, Chattanooga and purchased their American Classic Radial Tire. I can't say enough about them, but to say a few things is that they have the bias-tire-look pie crust shoulder tread which gives the tire the look of vintage bias. The tire man that installed them for me thought they were bias tires until I told him differently. The radial tires ride and handle like a dream compared to the old bias tires. The tires were pricey, but all things seem to be now. I assume they produce a 15-inch version for use in your situation.

Oh, another thing, You may possibly have to seek a shop that can true your new tires and balance the wheels on the car. That is the only way I was able to get a showroom ride because of the condition of my 60-something year old rims.

Good luck with your '55 restoration and don't hold back with your wisdom regarding all things electrical in an automobile in this forum. It's one subject that I'm scared to death of and know little about.

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Florida_Phil
Posts: 102
Joined: Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:17 am

Re: New-to-me '55

Post by Florida_Phil » Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:46 am

Welcome. Your 55 bird is a lot like mine. I bought it last year and have been dealing with some of the same issues. My car also had a 12 volt conversion, but they left the positive ground. I sorted that out early on. I've rebuilt the entire front suspension and brakes. I drove the car for a while. I have the motor and transmission out now for a rebuild. My car is Raven Black with red and white interior. It has a three speed manual transmission with O/D. I also swapped on a set of 57 "G" heads, intake, carb and distributor. An aluminum radiator and fan fixed my overheating issue. Good luck with your restoration.

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ICON 1961
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Location: Mokena, Illinois
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Re: New-to-me '55

Post by ICON 1961 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:46 pm

Welcome Andrew, I too had a 1961 Thunderbird. I have been a member for a few years. I have learned a lot about these beautiful cars. I just found my 1956 Sage Green Thunderbird which I was on the hunt for 2 years. I was luckey to find this car which was totally restored by Jewel Meets in Brillion Wisconsin. He had done a fantastic restoration on this car. I live in the south suburbs of Chicago. Hope to meet up with you soon...Good Luck on your beautiful 55 bird.
1956 Thunderbird Sage Green
1997 Heritage Springer with Motorvation matching side Car Red/Birch White
2015 Tri Glide Harley Davidson Trike
VTCI Member # 12309

apines
Posts: 28
Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:05 pm

Re: New-to-me '55

Post by apines » Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:03 pm

Thanks for the Coker tire recommendation. I have Coker redlines on the TR6 and they’re great. The Coker wide whitewalls are $199 each (ouch) but given the mileage it’s likely to get they’ll rot before the tread wears out.

Phil, your ‘55 is beautiful! I hope to get mine to that level someday.

Icon, I go to the Monday Night Carshow most weeks at Old Orchard. Let me know where you show and maybe we can meet up.

-Andrew
1955 Ford Thunderbird
1966 Ford Thunderbird Q-code convertible with Highway Pilot
1974 Triumph TR6 (but not for much longer)
2003 LML/Stella scooter

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Florida_Phil
Posts: 102
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Re: New-to-me '55

Post by Florida_Phil » Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:21 am

My car is a driver. It's done in 60s hot rod fashion and it's a lot of fun to drive. It's a ton of work, but I enjoy every minute of it. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. :lol:

ICON 1961
Posts: 666
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Location: Mokena, Illinois
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Re: New-to-me '55

Post by ICON 1961 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:46 am

Icon, I go to the Monday Night Carshow most weeks at Old Orchard. Let me know where you show and maybe we can meet up.

On Thursday night I go to Frankfort, they have cruse night at the Granary tower parking lot and the East side parking lot. If you came you need to get there by 3:00 pm the spaces fill up fast. There are restaurants right there , It's a very quiet setting. Also Tinley Park has their cruse night on Tuesday on Oak Park Ave between 171 st to the Metra station.
1956 Thunderbird Sage Green
1997 Heritage Springer with Motorvation matching side Car Red/Birch White
2015 Tri Glide Harley Davidson Trike
VTCI Member # 12309

Mel56
Posts: 33
Joined: Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:44 pm

Re: New-to-me '55

Post by Mel56 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:37 am

Nice car, Andrew.

My wife picked up a 55 that needs a lot of work. We recently converted to 12volts. Car starts every time now. And yes we too have the surging from applying the brakes and yes, we do need to rebuild the booster. Tires are too old and will also need to replaced before she does some serious driving (more than around the block). Her bird will also need body/paint but for now, it's just a driver.

Reading your post reminded us of her car. Pretty similar. Good luck on your project.
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apines
Posts: 28
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Re: New-to-me '55

Post by apines » Mon Jul 16, 2018 3:41 pm

That's a nice color, Mel. Mine didn't come with the hard top but I don't think I'll miss it much. Good to know I'm not alone (and on the right track) about the surging when the brake pedal's depressed.

I dug into previous posts here about tires and now I'm more confused than when I started. I'm happy with the Cokers on my TR6 but it sounds like other folks have had better results with Diamondbacks. Decisions, decisions.

-Andrew
1955 Ford Thunderbird
1966 Ford Thunderbird Q-code convertible with Highway Pilot
1974 Triumph TR6 (but not for much longer)
2003 LML/Stella scooter

Firstandtenth
Posts: 46
Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:00 am

Re: New-to-me '55

Post by Firstandtenth » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:12 pm

Congrats on the first generation purchase - my favorite birds. I purchased a set of the bias-look radials for my 57 last spring. Unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to try them out yet. Poor health and lots of "little things" to do on the car have kept me from getting it on the road for the summer. 60+ year old cars can certainly keep you busy when it comes to finding things that need "fixin", but I wouldn't trade it for anything. My tenth generation Super Coupe just can't give me the same feeling as I get when working on the "old" bird. It's a blast to drive - but complicated to work on! With the 57 it is simple - except when that 60+ year old bolt breaks off!

Enjoy your new project/ride.
1957 Raven Black E-code, manual (second owner)
1990 Super Coupe, auto. (original owner)

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paul2748
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Location: Northeastern New Jersey

Re: New-to-me '55

Post by paul2748 » Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:07 pm

If you haven't already, I would recommend joining a local TBird club. I know there is one in Chicago. Go to CTCI.org for information. They can be a great place for TBird infor, repair people and more.
1956 Fiesta Red 312
1954 Ford Victoria 312
1948 Ford Convertible Street Rod 302

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