New to me 1955 TBird and a Lost member of Thunderbird Forum

This car was owned by a gentleman that had it for 45 years, on this forum his handle was @fordrodsteven. His wife joked that it had more miles on it without an engine than with. It went to California, then to the Carolinas, to a family members house to his house. His dream was to restore this car upon his retirement. He worked at and retired from G.E. at 60 years young. Three years later he built a beautiful shop, new car lift, a rotisserie for the body and various tools etc to make his dream come alive. In (I believe late) July of 2019 he was
diagnosed with cancer after having lost some weight and not having the urge to eat. His life unfortunately was not to be long after that. He declined in health rapidly and ended up only living 2 months after his diagnosis. Our paths crossed when I saw a blurb on Facebook as he was trying to sell various items.
I didn't know any of the story until I met him on Sept. 19th 2019, although he was frail and in a wheelchair he perked up when telling me his ideas for the car and parts he accumulated.
Two days later I sent an offer. He counter offered but I had no more $ to give.... I'd have given him triple his asking price if I had it, but... You know how that goes. Plus I had a 1931 Model A I was elbows deep into.
9 days later I received a message from a family member. Steve had accepted my offer but had forwarded the message to the wrong person. With a heavy heart I accepted the families (Steve's posthumous) offer .
And that's where the story begins....? Ends....? Continues...? Depends on which character in the story you are.
I have done a couple of GM cars but am not tied to one brand. This is a car I think I will keep... the story and the car are just too dear to me. I will need to lean on members here and will be a frequent thread/post searcher because I didn't take the car apart and I'm not in Ford engineering's head yet like I was with the GM cars having owned a few while growing up and wrenching.
I am going to severely mess up posting, ask redundant questions etc. But I will get through this project. I told him I could do it while looking it over. It is in dire need of metal work all over and has a 302/C4 tranny mocked up in the frame, not one screw, clip, bolt, shim is in place so it isn't a teardown/rebuild situation unfortunately. It's a kind of "see what I got" situation. He also mentioned some different touches he wanted that I don't oppose so I will incorporate them into the car.

First things first, shake out what's here and get my garage space back. Took 2 loads of truck and trailer to get all of the items.

Thanks for having me.
-Kevin
 

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First order of business is to get the body back off. The underside of the body and inner panels hadn't been fully repaired. This will give me a chance to pull the motor and tranny and get one of these (2) frames out of here. The '55 frame has some rot under a rear rail, a '56 donor frame is on standby that he already painted, just needs rear end put on.
I think I will then weld repair the '55 frame and try to sell it to help fund the project. What would a frame be worth?
 

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biddle

Forum Moderator
Staff member
Thank you for sharing this! As you can see on his profile- @fordrodsteven was a very active member and supporter of our site. His knowledge and wisdom will certainly be missed but not forgotten! He last posted on the forum 2 days after you met him. :-(
 
You know there`s numbers on the frame,right? Don`t know about your state but that would cause big problems here in Kansas as the cars are titled by the frame numbers. Just a heads up. Great story by the way!!
 

Douglemmo

Well-Known Member
Good luck. My suggestion would to join CTCI and buy the restoration manual, Ford shop manual plus all of the other manuals available.
You can do it but it is going to take some planning as you do not have the advantage of having taken it apart.
 
You know there`s numbers on the frame,right? Don`t know about your state but that would cause big problems here in Kansas as the cars are titled by the frame numbers. Just a heads up. Great story by the way!!
Thank you for the heads up. It's worth pondering. I can just weld repair this one there is only one bad area. In NH you do not need a title after a vehicle is 20 years old.... That being said. It is worth more with one. Something to think about. I also have read the frames are not identical? The '56 may have a little more meat on it?
 
Hi Kevin,

I actually knew Steve and the car . I helped him put it on a rotisserie a year ago and unfortunately was one of a few of his local Thunderbird Club members.
I really admired “Fordrod” . He was a very sharp guy. He had his ideas for the car all figured out and didn’t seem a bit fazed by the project ahead of him.
He was always quick to help everyone else with their Thunderbird questions even while he had his own massive project 55.
I miss him and wish his wife Pat and his family all the best.

Let me know if I can try to answer any questions you may have. I’m sure more of his Massachusetts Thunderbird Club members that may not be in this forum would be willing to also help.
JDJ
 
Hi Kevin,

I actually knew Steve and the car . I helped him put it on a rotisserie a year ago and unfortunately was one of a few of his local Thunderbird Club members.
I really admired “Fordrod” . He was a very sharp guy. He had his ideas for the car all figured out and didn’t seem a bit fazed by the project ahead of him.
He was always quick to help everyone else with their Thunderbird questions even while he had his own massive project 55.
I miss him and wish his wife Pat and his family all the best.

Let me know if I can try to answer any questions you may have. I’m sure more of his Massachusetts Thunderbird Club members that may not be in this forum would be willing to also help.
JDJ
I only met him for 1/2 hour and he struck me because I saw in what he was doing myself in the reflection.
I've built the shop, I've done a couple cars, I have things I want to do. And to see a man having to sell what are now just "things" to take burden off of his family. Very stark.

I appreciate the kind words. I will need help at some point, even if just photos of certain assemblies of the car etc. Google and sites like this are great but there are always holes. Lots of manuals are on the way, and that's coupled with getting this 302/C4 combo driveshaft/pinion angle mocked in the car properly.

What's your opinion on the frame? I only see one bad spot on the original frame. Steve said his car club friends advised against repairing it and that's why he acquired the '56 frame. I see no reason to weld repair this frame and keep it with the original VIN #'s as mentioned above. (I can weld allot better than Steve, Lol)
Either way I will have an extra frame I can parlay into project $. What is the going rate for a nice T-bird frame in the Northeast?
 
Kevin,
I didn’t finish the sentence on helping Steve put his 55 Thunderbird body on the rotisserie. ....”Unfortunately I was one of a few members that took the body back off the rotisserie and onto the frame” is how that sentence should have ended.
I don’t remember how bad a shape the 55 frame was in. I do believe the 56 frame was in nice shape and yes they were “beefed up to accommodate the extra weight of the continental kit on the rear of the car. Hopefully someone can help you with the value of the 55 frame. I recommend you look into the CTCI ( Classic Thunderbird Club International) website and also the CTONE (Classic Thunderbird Of New England) club for help. Also NEVT club in New Hampshire.

I live in Southern Maine and would someday like to see your progress with your “new Thunderbird “. 207-409-0700

JDJ
 

55birdman

Active Member
This car was owned by a gentleman that had it for 45 years, on this forum his handle was @fordrodsteven. His wife joked that it had more miles on it without an engine than with. It went to California, then to the Carolinas, to a family members house to his house. His dream was to restore this car upon his retirement. He worked at and retired from G.E. at 60 years young. Three years later he built a beautiful shop, new car lift, a rotisserie for the body and various tools etc to make his dream come alive. In (I believe late) July of 2019 he was
diagnosed with cancer after having lost some weight and not having the urge to eat. His life unfortunately was not to be long after that. He declined in health rapidly and ended up only living 2 months after his diagnosis. Our paths crossed when I saw a blurb on Facebook as he was trying to sell various items.
I didn't know any of the story until I met him on Sept. 19th 2019, although he was frail and in a wheelchair he perked up when telling me his ideas for the car and parts he accumulated.
Two days later I sent an offer. He counter offered but I had no more $ to give.... I'd have given him triple his asking price if I had it, but... You know how that goes. Plus I had a 1931 Model A I was elbows deep into.
9 days later I received a message from a family member. Steve had accepted my offer but had forwarded the message to the wrong person. With a heavy heart I accepted the families (Steve's posthumous) offer .
And that's where the story begins....? Ends....? Continues...? Depends on which character in the story you are.
I have done a couple of GM cars but am not tied to one brand. This is a car I think I will keep... the story and the car are just too dear to me. I will need to lean on members here and will be a frequent thread/post searcher because I didn't take the car apart and I'm not in Ford engineering's head yet like I was with the GM cars having owned a few while growing up and wrenching.
I am going to severely mess up posting, ask redundant questions etc. But I will get through this project. I told him I could do it while looking it over. It is in dire need of metal work all over and has a 302/C4 tranny mocked up in the frame, not one screw, clip, bolt, shim is in place so it isn't a teardown/rebuild situation unfortunately. It's a kind of "see what I got" situation. He also mentioned some different touches he wanted that I don't oppose so I will incorporate them into the car.

First things first, shake out what's here and get my garage space back. Took 2 loads of truck and trailer to get all of the items.

Thanks for having me.
-Kevin

I do remember comments from "fordrodsteven" and maybe even responses to my questions.
I'm in the 5th year of my 55 restoration but like yours it wont be all original.
Please dont hesitate to ask for help from the forum.
 
First snag. Flipped the original frame over and was going to weld repair. But the rear end suspension would need to be pulled. So I dragged the '56 frame out and started looking it over. It sure is a much beefier frame and a really nice one at that. So ... I have to pull the rear anyway so I'll just swap and get the other frame as a temp. Roller .... Wrong..... 1956 leaf springs are apparently longer, Lol. Anyone know where I can pick up some cheap?
 

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Pulled the mocked up 302 Windsor motor and tranny from the T-Bird. Pulled a valve cover, didn' look great. Will have to do more investigating to see if it's worth working with or trying to source a different one. Either way started stripping off unnecessary smog stuff etc.
 

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Got allot (in a sense) done today.
So since I went with the new frame the motor mounts needed to be yanked and replaced in the new frame. They aren't gorgeous but they'll work. I'll box them in a bit later to dress them up. It was windy so I opted to stick weld. These cheap little Everlast welders are amazing. Had mine for a couple years now and for the $ it GTAW and SMAW welds amazing and can switch between 110v or 220v. Swapped over some steering components (that's a whole nother issue,Lol. Does anyone have a line on manual steering components? Center draglink etc. is what i need)
Got lucky? And only had one hole I needed to drill and tap. Boight a portable garage to start housing the overflow and am starting a scrap metal pile for the junk dealer. Got everything put away by dark and even had time to sweep a bit.
 

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This car was owned by a gentleman that had it for 45 years, on this forum his handle was @fordrodsteven. His wife joked that it had more miles on it without an engine than with. It went to California, then to the Carolinas, to a family members house to his house. His dream was to restore this car upon his retirement. He worked at and retired from G.E. at 60 years young. Three years later he built a beautiful shop, new car lift, a rotisserie for the body and various tools etc to make his dream come alive. In (I believe late) July of 2019 he was
diagnosed with cancer after having lost some weight and not having the urge to eat. His life unfortunately was not to be long after that. He declined in health rapidly and ended up only living 2 months after his diagnosis. Our paths crossed when I saw a blurb on Facebook as he was trying to sell various items.
I didn't know any of the story until I met him on Sept. 19th 2019, although he was frail and in a wheelchair he perked up when telling me his ideas for the car and parts he accumulated.
Two days later I sent an offer. He counter offered but I had no more $ to give.... I'd have given him triple his asking price if I had it, but... You know how that goes. Plus I had a 1931 Model A I was elbows deep into.
9 days later I received a message from a family member. Steve had accepted my offer but had forwarded the message to the wrong person. With a heavy heart I accepted the families (Steve's posthumous) offer .
And that's where the story begins....? Ends....? Continues...? Depends on which character in the story you are.
I have done a couple of GM cars but am not tied to one brand. This is a car I think I will keep... the story and the car are just too dear to me. I will need to lean on members here and will be a frequent thread/post searcher because I didn't take the car apart and I'm not in Ford engineering's head yet like I was with the GM cars having owned a few while growing up and wrenching.
I am going to severely mess up posting, ask redundant questions etc. But I will get through this project. I told him I could do it while looking it over. It is in dire need of metal work all over and has a 302/C4 tranny mocked up in the frame, not one screw, clip, bolt, shim is in place so it isn't a teardown/rebuild situation unfortunately. It's a kind of "see what I got" situation. He also mentioned some different touches he wanted that I don't oppose so I will incorporate them into the car.

First things first, shake out what's here and get my garage space back. Took 2 loads of truck and trailer to get all of the items.

Thanks for having me.
-Kevin
I got parts for bird
 
Plan "B" for the engine is here. Block dates to an '89. Looks great inside so far just needs some love. Came out of a running truck supposedly and the price was more than right.
I'm thinking a quick strip down, rebuild the carb, re-gasket all the easy stuff, leave the heads alone. New water pump, fuel pump to be safe and then move from there. Don't want to get too married to this motor til I learn more about it. Any Ford guys want to chime in I think the AOD flexplate and torque converter from an '80 Tbird should bolt right up to this? I think it has the same 50oz. Imbalance plate? I'll need to do some more reading. Anyway, happy to hopefully have a heart for the car that should keep the budget down.
 

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Got a jump on the motor today. Broke down some of it that I thought might bite me in the butt later sealing wise. I only snapped (5) bolts off...(thanks New England salt) was able to get all out but one, she got drilled and tapped.
Water pump on the '89 block didn't look/sound so good so I put on the one from the '80 block. It fit with the exception of one bolt the newer ones had. I think it will be fine. I'm just going to roll the dice on the water pump, fuel pump, etc. I have to keep this low budget. Couple rattle cans of paint and put the intake/valve covers back on. Next up will be rebuilding the 4 barrel Holley the newer 302 engine came with, she needs it. Good thing is it doesn't look like anyone has cracked it open yet.
 

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