David Munro's Special-bodied MG-A
’57 Silver Thunderbird
June 30, 2015
Well, I now finally have a true classic car. When I joined the club, I was looking for a ’69 Mercury Cougar XR-7, which was the first new car that I ever bought. The quality of what I found on the market was not good. The next cars I looked at were ’65 and ’66 Mustangs, but as I was looking around, I remembered the first Wednesday lunch caravan, where we went down to the railroad museum. I rode with my newest friend in the club, Perry Anthony. He was driving a beautiful baby blue ’57 Thunderbird and everywhere we stopped, somebody would come see it or yell their approval while driving 50 mph down the street. I started to see some T-birds in the places that I was looking at Mustangs, so I drove one.
What a horrible experience, first you have to learn to get into the car, and then remember it won’t start in Park. But the really bad experience was that it only drove right when the choke was on. After it warmed up and no longer had the choke on, then it died every time you stepped on the brake. I tried a few more this past winter when we were in California, maybe thinking the dessert air would help. Same bad experience, except that now I learned how to keep the gas half way floored with the other foot on the brake.
When my friend Perry heard about this, he couldn’t take it that I was getting such a bad opinion of his beloved Thunderbird family, so he suggested that I visit Amos Minter in Dallas, so I could see the best T-birds in the world; also the most expensive. Well, I saw $2million worth of T-birds in one place and all were beautiful, but could I drive one. Amos let me drive a Gun Metal Grey with Red Interior and it drove really well and I was hooked. He even trained me on how to get in and out of a T-bird. However, I didn’t want to take a mortgage out on our house after having already paid it off, so I went to the internet to search less expensive T-birds.
Within a week, I found an ad for this T-bird located in North Carolina that looked great at a much more reasonable price. However, I was in California for another 6 weeks and didn’t want someone to buy it before I could even look at it. Don’t underestimate Perry Anthony’s network and his resolve to get a new member into the local Thunderbird club. He had a friend who lived within 20 miles of the car and was also a national level T-bird judge. His name was Mickey and he went to see “my” car and gave me a two page report on it after driving it. It had been reconditioned in 2011, but since the owner had only driven it with no tops, he had not reconditioned either the hard top or the canvas top. What’s worse, he had done a couple of things himself on the car including installing air conditioning (then never used it because the top was always off) and didn’t know that the air didn’t work because the Freon had leaked and he had not installed a new binary switch to engage the compressor. Also, he had purchased a new canvas, but to save money decided to install it himself, then couldn’t do it, because it was the wrong size. Anyway I saw my opportunity to negotiate a lower asking price, basically offering a few thousand below his asking price minus the cost to restore the hardtop and the canvas top. He countered at $1000 above that, as he could probably see how much I liked the car.
After making the purchase, I drove the car about 20 miles to Klassic Rides in Denver, NC. They had done the body restoration in 2011 and said they could match the paint for the hard top. This was in April. Their website posts pictures of each active project each week, so I could keep track of progress and call when there was no progress. Well they did a great job on the hard top, fixed the air conditioning, found a few additional things like the turn signals needed something and both tops needed weather-stripping kits because you could see through the top of the windshield by the driver’s head. By the end of May, we were planning their (free?) delivery to Knoxville, and the smaller sized pictures below were taken by Perry, as we had the car delivered to his warehouse in Greenback, where I am now renting space. Perry was almost more excited than I was. The two younger guys were the delivery service from Klassic Rides; they gave the car royal treatment in a covered trailer.
As I purchased the Silver Thunderbird, I learned of a very interesting back story on the car. In 2000, Tim McGraw (actor and country singer) bought this car for Jo Dee Messina as a gift to her in celebration of her song: “Silver Thunderbird”, which was successful enough to hit the charts. Tim had been co-producer of the album and Jo Dee’s manager. After I sent Perry Anthony a web site connection to play the song, he wrote back to me that the back story wasn’t worth paying any extra money for. He didn’t like the song:>)
After taking delivery on June 11, I was just in time for the car show at the Baptist church in Lenoir City, on the next Saturday. What fun driving to the car show with the other TV Vintage Car Club members. The Silver Thunderbird attracted some attention from a photographer and he has listed his pictures of the car show on his web site, listed below. Other club member’s cars are also shown.
The last picture below shows the new restored hardtop. The reflection of the light makes it look a bit like the paint doesn’t match, but they did a really great job. I haven’t even had time to get the canvas top up yet as it takes a PhD in Thunderbird to figure it out, plus I have the car back in the shop with Ernie King, to tighten up the play in the steering wheel. I’ll soon be driving it to a club event, but in the mean time, enjoy the pictures.
Some People Skydive
Some people skydive, some people climb Mt. Everest, while others may lie on their taxes or simply take a different route to work. We all do something to satisfy that need, to pacify that primal urge for excitement and adventure. We all cheat death in our own way; live to tell the tale, and enjoy the natural high such harrowing adventures yield. Me, I do this…
Pre-flight check: 4 tires with sufficient air…check, ample amount of fuel…check, two famously uncomfortable seats…check, five-point harnesses circa 1965…check, 514 cubic inches of sheer madness…oh yeah…check, sunglasses, rain gear, driving hat, and a change of shorts - just in case…check, check and check. Let’s roll.
I reach out with my left hand to find the small unassuming key that, with the slightest turn, unleashes untold furry. Don’t forget to breathe. Click, 40lbs of pressure in the fuel rail… here we go. In an instant, the peace and quiet is shattered and in its place is the rhythmic, unsettling rumble of 765 horses trying to idle in unison.
The smell of fuel fills the air, an intoxicating reminder of how absolutely intimidated I am by the violent tendencies of this motor. She takes perfectly good parts and annihilates them! Hardened steel axels…child’s play, twin disk ceramic race clutch…boring, not even the backbone of her motor is safe. She cracked a forged billet steal crank in half just for fun. And here I sit mere flesh and bone, boldly poised to control this beast. God help me.
As I depress the 100lb clutch, my right hand heaves the shift leaver into first gear. I roll into line behind six similar monsters, followed by two more. Nine of us creep our way down Main St. of a sleepy little New Mexican town, headed for the freedom of the back roads. Oh who am I kidding, we roll onto Main St with a roar, spitting fuel and fire, rattling windows and causing chaos and unrest in town, on our way to the freedom of the back roads.
Finally free of the restrictions civilized towns place on their motorists - like speed limits - a labyrinth of asphalt lay before us. Graceful patterns meandering around mountain sides and diving between canyon walls. Beautiful scenery the driver never really gets to see. The lead car downshifts with a thunder and darts out of sight. There’s our signal, “Drivers, this is why you are here. Unleash your beasts.”
The first turn is a beautifully banked sweeping right, followed by a nicely angled perfectly spaced left. Like a venomous serpent, we wind our way up the mountainside as though ravenous and in pursuit of prey. The twists and turns start coming faster and I’ve lost sight of the cars in front of me so I mash the accelerator into the straight to close the gap. I see the lead car crest a distant ridge, and stupidly unafraid, I take chase. I am nearly blinded by the wind striking my eyes as it rushes over the windshield and behind my sunglasses. Suddenly a sign catches my eye; it has an arrow bent into a peculiar curvy shape along with the numbers 3 and 5 on it. I am way too rapidly approaching a 35mph turn. I feel my body go cold, I take a deep breath, crush the clutch and force the transmission down two gears. Please hold, please hold, please hold. The sound of the tires as they grip and slip and grip again around the turn was all I could hear over the popping of unspent fuel exploding in the side pipes. As I accelerated out of the turn I realized something, 35mph was merely a suggestion, 73mph works just fine too.
Racing through the canyons is deafening. The walls rumble and echo the menacing tune of our motorcade. As those canyon walls fade away and the mountain tops level off, a straight roadway reveals itself. Every driver’s right foot suddenly gets heavier for the next 3 miles before a winding decent begins.
Funny thing about mountaintops though, strange weather brews and latches onto the terrain up there. This can be a good thing of course; however in this particular instance, it certainly is not. Rain the size and density of stones begins to fall. Just as the road starts to offer up those once exhilarating twists and turns, the rain erases the lanes. Death grip on the wheel, I ease this 2500lb brute into the first of many wet turns. There is no longer the alternating sound of slip then grip. The popping of the fuel in the side pipes is still there, along with the sizzle of water as it vaporizes on contact. However, most notable is this new sensation of floating. Turns out that hand grooved race slicks in the rain have the gripping power of a freshly waxed wakeboard. Nobody ever mentioned that to me.
Eventually all rain stops and the roads dry out, leaving only one question in any rational persons mind; “how fast do you think we can get back to the trailers?” As though God himself had fired the starting gun, we were off! The smell of fuel, hot rubber and asphalt again fill the air around me. I am completely terrified and totally mesmerized by the acceleration this car puts down in every gear, I am hooked!
At the end of the day, with the beast safely back in her cage, I realize I have an unusual sensation in my gut. It’s unlike any other feeling on earth. I have been to the gates of hell, looked deep into the reapers eyes, tickled his nose and said, “not today.” I have cheated death, and survived. I have indeed satisfied that primal need for adventure, excitement and all things awesome. I feel alive, and if only for five days out of every year, I am satisfied. I may never jump from a plane, or climb mighty Everest, but I will forever be a Cobra driver.
1953 F100 Pickup “Carbon Copy”
Owner: Mike Atkins
Started Build: Winter of 2008
Completed Build: Fall of 2009 (10 Months)
My first encounter with the F100 was while living in Ohio in 1998. My neighbor had purchased the truck from Arizona and was planning to build a Hot Rod from it one day. I tried to get him to sell me the truck for several years to no avail. He was always going to build it, he never did. I since moved to Michigan and that was the end of seeing the F100.
In 2008 my old neighbor called and asked if I was still interested in the F100, obviously I said yes. He had started the build but had gotten to a point where he lost interest and wanted to just get it out of his way. He had purchased a 1978 Lincoln Town car as a donor and installed the front clip onto the F100 with plans to use the entire running gear from the Lincoln. I bought everything from him and hauled it to Michigan. I began working on the truck in my home shop with some buddies within a couple months.
I stripped in down and sandblasted everything, modified the frame further by “C” notching the rear frame (which is still the original 1953 frame) and had it powder coated, extending the running boards and modified for exhaust exit, mounted the master and booster under side, purchased wider fiberglass fenders, hood and front and rear valance, fitted everything first by assembling the entire truck body to the frame. The seats are from a Chevy Venture Van.
At the body shop the bed was moved forward, third brake light leaded in, all body repairs made with sheet metal and lead and a thin skim coat of body filler where needed, such as dents in the roof etc. The truck is assembled with stainless steel hardware and satin black painted hardware where needed. The entire truck is painted with SEM Hot Rod Black. The wiring is routed through a single military connector at the firewall. I used new Ford Lincoln disc brakes all around, C6 Trans and the Lincoln 9” rear-end. I have installed a Paddle Shift system from Master Shift. The truck runs a 460 Ford engine build by Katech w/Vintage air and a March Front Runner System. The truck has all of the Lincoln suspension. It rides at the height you see it at, no air bags. The bed and engine compartment as real .020 thick Carbon Fiber inserts. The air cleaner is a 1963 Sea King engine housing. I have taken the truck on two Power Tours and drive it everywhere.
The F100 was chosen as car of the year by Eastwood Products in 2012.