Millennial bought a classic (55)

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yummy
Posts: 16
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 7:51 pm

Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by yummy »

Hello from Northern California, I just bought my first classic car. I got a heck of a deal on the car, while it's not a perfect example, it's perfect for the first time classic car owner (me).

1955, 292 auto with soft & hardtop
1955 thunderbird.png
While I want to keep things original, I do think it's prudent to do the 1) 12v conversion and 2) improve the suspension. I am open to hearing which kits and parts supplies to use, and especially which to avoid. I'd love to hear what people have done and any guidance.

Daddio
Posts: 38
Joined: Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:51 pm

Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by Daddio »

Congrats on your purchase yummy. It's good to see a younger person get into the hobby.
Mike
1956 TBird
1959 Cadillac Biarritz
Massey Ferguson 165
2005 Lincoln LS
2014 GMC Yukon

ICON 1956
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Location: Mokena, Illinois
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by ICON 1956 »

Welcome and Congrats on your first classic. I strongly urge you join the VTCI and CTCI . The knowledge you will get is worth knowing your car's performance. Since you have a 55 I would make sure that the engine is sound no leaks , Check all the fluids. Then check the tires for wear.These would be the most important things to check. As the suspension goes I would first drive the car to feel how it handles on the road. Remember the cars back then drove differently than the cars of today. After your test drive you can make a "punch" list on what to change/improve on the suspension. Your question that you would like to keep the car as original here is a few of the suppliers that support this forum .
1. Concours Parts 800-722-0009 www.concoursparts.com
2. Larry's Thunderbird 800-854-0393 www.larrystbird.com
3. Mac's 877-579-5722 www.macsautoparts.com
4. Thunderbird Headquarters 800-227-2174 www.tbirdhq.com
These are some of the suppliers that have supplies and parts for 55-57 thunderbirds, Welcome to the forum and please chime in with any questions that you have. There are a bunch of members that will answer any how silly your questions might be. We love to have the "younger generation" take interest in these classic cars of yesteryear.
Last edited by ICON 1956 on Mon Jan 27, 2020 10:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
1956 Thunderbird Sage Green
1997 Heritage Springer with Motorvation matching side Car Red/Birch White
VTCI Member # 12309

Daddio
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by Daddio »

Hopefully someone who has a '55 and updated it to a 12v system can respond ... my '56 has 12v neg ground.
But it seems to me there's a lot of electrics that may need replacing ... battery, generator, regulator, coil, starter, headlights, tail / brake lights, PS motor, PW motor, gauges, fuel sender, water temp sender, horn. Granted, most of these devices will 'work' on 12v, but for how long?
The only valid reason for a 12v update > IMO < is to improve starting. Does car not start readily? If it does, is the update justified?
Just food for thought ... I'm a bit of an originality freak.
Mike
1956 TBird
1959 Cadillac Biarritz
Massey Ferguson 165
2005 Lincoln LS
2014 GMC Yukon

DynoDan’55
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Joined: Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:34 pm

Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by DynoDan’55 »

The only real reason to convert to 12V is the addition of a lot of modern/aftermarket accessories (lights/stereo/ignition/etc.) that won’t function on 6V/PG. I’ve been driving my mostly orig. 6V ‘55 for over 20 years, and it always starts fine. BUT, you will need to upgrade the battery & cables, and keep the motor well tuned. 12V conversion is often a bandaid for other issues.

yummy
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Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 7:51 pm

Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by yummy »

Thanks for so far, great to hear different perspectives.
Last edited by yummy on Sun Jan 26, 2020 10:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

yummy
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Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 7:51 pm

Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by yummy »

Added a video of the startup (below)
https://youtu.be/p_CRmaT_vV8

CSPIDY
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by CSPIDY »

Remember that 6 volt systems require larger cables for the battery. Battery cables made for 12 volt systems won’t work on a 6 volt. I have a model A ford that is 6 volt. It works well, starts and runs great.I will not switch to 12 volt unless some day I want to add modern conveniences. As said before that would be the only reason to upgrade. Good luck with your cherished piece of history. Do as you see fit and you will enjoy it.
57 D code Colonial White
1928 Model A Tudor
2k MR2 Spyder
61 Willys Pickup (project)

Wise man once told me, "you don't know what you don't know"

West Newton, PA

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Florida_Phil
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by Florida_Phil »

Welcome to the hobby. Unless you are considering a Concours restoration, converting to a 12 volt electrical system is a worthwhile upgrade. It's much easier than most people think. As stated above, this will allow you to utilize modern electronics. One of the best upgrades is an alternator. If you are going to upgrade to an electric cooling fan, electronic ignition or modern radio, an alternator will make your life a lot easier. A stock 1955 TBird does not drive anything like a modern car. Upgrades will make your car easier to live with on today's roads. My 55 TBird is not a garage queen, it's driven. I kept all the original parts for the next owner. As long as you don't do anything irreversible, I don't see a problem.

Image

DynoDan’55
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by DynoDan’55 »

Driving (and maintaining) an antique car in original condition is the closest any will likely ever come to the ‘time machine’ experience. It’s a challenge few are up to though. For the old guys who remember, it’s largely ‘nostalgia. The younger generations will need other incentives.
If it was possible to travel BACK in time (Eisenstein said maybe forward) would you want to take your smartphone? Many wouldn’t. But what about your immunization antibodies against the diseases that ravaged earlier populations? I can do without anti-lock brakes & airbags, but not without radial tires. We all have to decide where our limits are, and the romantic value of reliving history.

apines
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by apines »

As the owner of a '55 that's was converted to 12V (sort of) by a previous owner, I lean "no" on 6V to 12V conversion unless you can justify it. I can only think of three reasons why 12V would be preferred, maybe some others can chime in with more:
1) better starting
2) easier to add modern 12V accessories like a radio
3) easier to jump start

From your video it seems to start up just fine, so that doesn't seem like a good reason. If you're adding an aftermarket radio that can be a problem given both the lower voltage and the fact that it's positive ground. Even with a 6V-to-12V DC-to-DC converter you'd have an issue with the radio's case being opposite the polarity of the vehicle's ground. As for jumping, I don't know how the guys who have 6V cars deal with a dead battery out on the road.

My warning would be that the list of things which need to be updated when you convert is more extensive than most people realize. For example, the temp and gas gauges are 6V -- if you convert to 12V you need to either replace them with 12V gauges from a '56 (the only year that used 12V gauges) or add a 6V regulator. If you don't make either change then the readings will be meaninglessly high. The heater blower and the power seat and window motors (if you have them) will run way faster than intended which can cause problems like causing the windows to slam into their limits. And of course you'll need to replace all of the lamps, which is probably the easiest part.

There's a link about the process at Gil's Garage:
https://www.ctci.org/battery-for-6v-to-12v-conversion/

Most of the articles over there are great but I really take exception to this one. It's super-casual about all the problems that you'll run into.

On the plus side the 6V horn running on 12V can raise the dead.

Clearly mine is the minority option here but I thought it was worth sharing my reasoning on it. I'm still sorting out the issues the previous owner glossed over on mine and have seriously considered converting it back.

-Andrew
current:
1955 Ford Thunderbird
1966 Ford Thunderbird Q-code convertible with Highway Pilot
past:
1974 Triumph TR6
1968 Ford Galaxie convertible
1974 VW Super Beetle
1981 Checker Marathon
VTCI membership #12807

yummy
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Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 7:51 pm

Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by yummy »

I'm definitely trying to keep things simple.

My goal is to drive the hell out of this car, modifications will improve that function. You're right, it will be like slipping into a time machine and I don't want to deviate too far from that experience. I'd like to keep the cabin / body as period-correct as possible. As for suspension improvements, bilstein on all corners + heavy duty front & rear sway bars sounds like the best bang for the buck (has radial tires).

The previous owner recommended only doing the 12v conversion and enjoy the car. I would like the convenience of speakers, but a portable bluetooth speaker would suffice for now.

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Florida_Phil
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by Florida_Phil »

I understand those that wish to keep their cars original. I find this commendable. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In my opinion, the 55 TBird was the most aesthetically pure of all the little birds. I don't personally care for the '56 continental kit or the big bumper '57s with fins. Obviously, my opinions are not shared by everyone.

If you are going to drive your TBird on a regular basis, why do you wish to put up with hard starting and sluggish performance? The 1955-56 Load-A-Matic distributor was a disaster. Swapping in a later mechanical advance distributor is a performance upgrade you can feel immediately. The same goes for the T-pot 4 barrel carburetor. Many old Fords have been burned to the ground when one of those "toilet bowl" carbs decided to throw a tantrum.

It's true, the 6 volt horns in my car are extremely loud. My car still has it's drum brakes, so I need a loud horn. My 6 volt starter cranks faster too. The engine in my car came out of a 1957 Ford "E" code sedan. It's power and the sound it makes is sweet music. The 1955 Tbird had more than a few shortcomings. Ford recognized them and fixed them all one by one.

Whatever your personal preference, respect the car for the classic it is. Please don't cut it up. The world has lost too many classics to the "RestoMod" craze.

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mike3121
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by mike3121 »

Yummy, you got a deal on this car because the majority of your generation aren't interested in cars much, not like past generations. Classic T-Birds are real bargains now. I got one in near perfect condition with recent overhaul of engine & trans for $21,000.

In early December I bought a Colonial white 1957, with HT no PS or PB and a perfect bright red interior. It showed 37,206 miles. Except for an obvious engine/trans rebuild and replacement of hoses and such in the engine compartment it looked stock. The restoration shop, after looking it over, thought the mileage was correct. No rust anywhere but needing brakes, new exhaust, front-end rebuild and much of the rubber weather stripping replaced. It's been in the shop getting upgrades to make it a dependable driver. Power 4 wheel disc brakes, COSCO Enhanced handling kit, new radio, convertible top since it didn't come with one and, electric wipers plus LED license plate light.
D Code 1957 T-Bird, White w/red Int.
1930 Chrysler Series 70 Roadster. Two tone green.

Jim G
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Re: Millennial bought a classic (55)

Post by Jim G »

Sounds like you got a 57 Beauty! And it will only get better with everything you do to it! I wish the one I’m getting here was a 57 but my wife likes the 56- and with some $$$$ it will be great too. Gotta keep Momma happy!

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