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Most car guys have one huge memory of the 1956 Thunderbird: a scene in the movie ‘American Graffiti” when Suzanne Somers pulls up in a ’56 T-Bird beside a young Richard Dreyfuss and sets his hormones on overload.


The 1956 Thunderbird bucked the trend in the 50s because it was a two-seater with no practical application to the average household in North America.


It was unable to haul enough kids, or groceries to feed the large herd of young baby boomers, during the 50s and thus it was an impractical car for most families.


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The T-Bird was never really designed for family use and that was its appeal for single people with disposable income in the 50s.


We discovered a beautiful 1956 Thunderbird at a car show and found out it had a huge connection with one family. Its current owners are Laren and Mary Ellen Moloy and they can trace the car’s history back to Laren’s dad, the previous owner of the T-Bird.


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Laren’s late father was the kind of guy who “liked buying them, but not maintaining them”; in Laren’s words. He mentioned how his dad was so casual that he would leave the windows open on a car during a rainstorm.


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The T-Bird was one of his dad’s favorites, even in the purple and white paint scheme on it when Laren’s father purchased the car. His father bought the car and it was not really used much for the first eight years, even though he loved the car.


We heard about the car from another person at the show and were interested in the story because the T-Bird had an old newspaper display from the late 70s with a front page story that featured the car.


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Laren and his high school buddies used the car as a prop for their 50s retro look for a school event and stole the show with the T-Bird in the mix. The story featured the T-Bird in the photo and cemented Laren’s bond with the car.


Laren and Mary Ellen also recall the car from their courting days, so the T-Bird will always have a place in their world.


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Laren’s father passed away and he wanted to restore the Thunderbird back to its original glory in honor of his father. The car reminded him of his dad in a big way.


The information on the VIN plate provided the original paint and interior combination.



Laren was happy to learn the T-Bird had its original 312 engine from the information and began the lengthy restoration.


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The process was both lengthy and expensive, but the Thunderbird was important to both Laren and Mary Ellen.


They brought the car back to its original glory, including its 50s steering and drum brakes. The final product is a stunning tribute to the 50s style of the T-Bird and Laren’s late father.


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The T-Bird is not simply a museum piece and Laren noted that “you gotta exercise ‘em”.


Time behind the wheel of this beauty brings back a flood of happy memories for Laren and Mary Ellen- and none of them involve Suzanne Somers.


Jim Sutherland

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