April 2021

Searching for Classic Car Mechanics


Many members have approached me asking who works and maintains my classic cars. Almost every case, I maintain and repair my own cars. My grandfather, who was a mechanic, mentored me as a teenager on setting points, timing, and spark plug gaps. Brakes, water pumps, and other facets of auto repair and maintaince were learned from the school of hard knocks. Enough of my background.


Members of our club should look to fellow members to ask questions and advice. I have answered many questions concerning problems and maintenance on our classic cars. On occasion, I have worked on members cars on a limited basis because of time constraints.


When looking for a mechanic to work on your classic car, one must remember nearly all mechanics were not born when your car was manufactured. Many don’t know of the primitive systems of our cars. Many shops are not geared to working on older cars, and don’t want their lifts and shop space occupied while waiting on parts, which can be a hassle and time consuming for classic T-birds and other makes of cars. In having my engine rebuilt in my 58 T-bird, and my transmission rebuilt in my 64 T-bird, I experienced shoddy workmanship and many items I had to adjust and fix when my cars were returned. I now have a shop with a lift and have removed my own engines and transmissions and taken them to trusted shops for rebuilding.


I have spoken to members who have experienced arrogance and long wait times to have their cars worked on. In the future, we will have to rely on word of mouth to find mechanics to work on our vintage cars. I know of an old time mechanic that is good at rebuilding Old Holley tea pot carburetors and all ford carburetors. He lives north of Kendallville, IN. For engine, transmission, and rear end rebuilding, I remove these items and have them rebuilt by reputable small shops. Half of all costs of rebuilding these items is removal and replacement.


Soon we will be driving our T-birds. Before waking our cars up, check all fluids, tires, exhaust systems, and all belts and hoses. These are chores that everyone can do. Happy Motoring!


Respectively Submitted,

Larry L. Sneary

Car News

First Generation 1955-1957

The Ford Thunderbird was introduced in February 1953 as a response to Chevrolet's new sports car, the Corvette, which was publicly unveiled in prototype form just a month before.

Second Generation 1958-1960

Although the 1955–57 Thunderbird was a success, Ford executives—particularly Robert McNamara—were concerned that the car's position as a two-seater limited its sales potential. As a result, the car was redesigned as a four-seater for 1958.

Third Generation 1961-1963

The Thunderbird was redesigned for 1961 with styling that gave the car a unique bullet-like body side appearance.

Fourth Generation 1964-1966

For 1964 the Thunderbird was restyled in favor of a more squared-off appearance, which was mostly evident when viewing the car from the side or rear.

Fifth Generation 1967-1971

1In 1967, a larger Thunderbird with luxury appointments more in line with a Lincoln was built. 

Sixth Generation 1972-1976

The sixth generation of the Thunderbird debuted in the fall of 1971 as a 1972 model.  It was the largest Thunderbird ever produced.

Seventh Generation 1977-1979

For the 1977 model year, the Thunderbird was shifted to the smaller chassis, but it still looked large.

Eighth Generation 1980-1982

Reflecting a further industry-wide adoption of smaller vehicle designs in the interest of improved fuel efficiency and emissions compliance, the Thunderbird was redesigned for 1980.

Ninth Generation 1983-1988

In response to the lackluster reception of the eighth-generation 1980–1982 Thunderbird, Ford executed a significant redesign for 1983.

Tenth Generation 1989-1997

On December 26, 1988, a completely redesigned Thunderbird was introduced as a 1989 model along with the similar Mercury Cougar.

Eleventh Generation 2002-2005

After a five year hiatus, Ford introduced the 2002 Thunderbird. Returning to the original formula for the Thunderbird, the latest version had a two-passenger convertible/removable hardtop configuration like the first-generation Thunderbird and styling strongly recalling the original.

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64-66 Thunderbird Spotlight


Following the previous three generations, the 64 Thunderbird was due for a restyle for the next three years. The personal luxury coupe was solely Ford’s market until the 63 Buick Riviera was introduced, other pretenders, the Buick Wildcat, Old’s Starfire, Pontiac Grand Prix, and to a lesser degree the Chevrolet Impala SS. Ford also had the Galaxy 500 XL introduced midyear 62. Chrysler did not have a real personal luxury coupe until the 64 Imperial Crown Coupe, a luxurious car that was far more expensive than the previously mentioned automobiles. As a result the 61-63 T-Bird never sold as well as the 58-60 addition, and are scarcer then the Square Bird or Flare Bird.


The 64 restyle went back to the more square look of the 58-60 Tbird with flares on the quarter panels, a beautiful front end restyle, and elimination of round tail lights. Unitized construction was still used and three body styles were available; the hard top, the Landau, and the convertible. The sports roadster was no more, although wire wheels ($415.00) and a new tonneau cover ($269.00) were available. The tire size was 15” unless wire wheels were used, the tire size was 14”. Standard equipment included: cruise-o-matic, power steering, power brakes, bonded mirror, hydraulic wipers, a radio, and swing away steering wheel. Welcome addition, was a full set of gauges, and a silent-flow ventilation system on hardtops. All 1964 Fords were awarded the motor trend “Car of the Year Award”. Based prices were a $4486.00 for the hardtop, $4599.00 for the Landau, and $4953.00 for the convertible. The one and only power plant for 1964 was a 390 with 300 horsepower. Owning a 64 convertible with the 390, I can attest that there is more than adequate power, especially with some port and valve work on the cylinder heads. There were 60,522 hardtops, 22, 715 Landaus, and 9198 convertibles produced, for a total of 92, 465 cars. This almost equaled banner year 1960, only short 378 cars. It is clear that this 1964-66 restyle was a winner regardless of competition. 1965 was a year of refinement with few alterations to the 64 restyle. The one year front fenders are a favorite of mine. Power plants and standard equipment were the same as 1964. A few noteworthy features for 1965 were sequential turn signals, these were slated for 1964, but were not approved by the federal highway administration until 1965. Another welcome addition was disc brakes, these four piston Kelsey- Hayes disc brakes greatly improved the braking of thunderbirds. Coming back from a car show a few years ago, I was following club

President Roger Noll in his 66 convertible. He came upon a sudden red light, I thought he would go through, however, he braked and came to a quick, smooth straight stop. Disc brakes were a welcome and safe addition from 1965 onward. Model lineup was the same as 1964, except in late March the Limited Edition Special Landau made its appearance. The exterior paint was a color called Ember-glow which was the carpet color and interior trim. Special wheel disc had Ember-glow trim on them. The vinyl roof, steering wheel, and vinyl interior were parchment. The owners name was engraved on the limited edition numbered name plate on the console. All of this for less than $50.00 over the cost of a Landau. A few of these special editions were made in Wimbledon White. Our club treasurer, Rick Eichler, has an excellent example of this model. Two options deleted this year, were the wire wheels, which would not clear the rear disc brakes and the tonneau cover, although they would fit the 65-66 convertibles. One new option was power vent windows, I found a master control power winder master switch with these intact, and they will interchange with my 64 Thunderbird. There were 74,972 Thunderbirds produced for 1965, down from the 64 total of 92, 465.


The 1966 thunderbird was very similar to the previous two years with the addition of two models; the Town Hardtop and Town Landau. The 66 model had a more wedge shaped look and a redesigned hood scoop that made this a one year only hood. The tail light was full width with the backup lights in the center t-bird emblem. In my opinion these were the nicest looking tail lights of the three years. The 390 saw a boost in horsepower to 315 this year, along with the first power option since the first m-code 390 of 62-63. For ($64.00) the optional 428 could be had. A FE engine similar to the 390, the 428 produced 345 horsepower. Another new option was a stereo tape deck ($128.00), giving up to 80 minutes of music per cartridge. Four speakers were used in this setup. This was the last year for convertibles, until 2002, fender skirts, and vent windows.


A miracle occurred for 66 thunderbirds, prices actually went down from 64-65. Hardtop ($4395), town hardtop ($4452), town Landau ($4552), and the convertible ($4845). Production was 69,176 for the year. There were 13,389 hardtops, rare 15,633 town hardtops, 35,105 town landaus, and 5049 convertibles, about half of the production of my 64 convertible at 9, 111. It seems quite a few of the 66 convertibles have survived, as I have seen many over the years. All and all, this series is more refined than the previous series with better ride, handling, and braking. I have driven my 64 T-bird many miles and attest to this fact.


Happy new year to all and we will be awaking our thunderbirds soon!

Respectively submitted,

Larry Sneary

*Best of Old Cars Weekly; Volume 4, 19

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