MAY 11, 2012: SLAPPING PAINT ON A “BULLET BIRD”: DOES THE 61-63 THUNDERBIRD REALLY NEED ANY MORE STYLE?

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There are many shows on TV that feature some kind of old car theme.

 

Most car guys will look in on these shows for one basic reason – the shows are about old iron.

 

Car guys are, by definition, junkies in the truest sense of the word so a TV car show is a methadone fix for gearheads.

 

Most of these shows are done on the cookie cutter plan.They have the standard artificial ‘deadline’ scenario drama and enhance it by sprinkling in a few hotheads as bit players.

 

It’s a brutally worn out premise but occasionally a show crosses the line as one unnamed show did when it “upgraded” two classic 62 Thunderbirds.

 

I understand the logic behind a retro-fit because new technology is phenomenal.Adding serious stopping power to a 5000 pound car in today’s world is light years past a “good idea” and well into “lifesaving idea”. That makes sense.

 

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So do sway bars, fuel injection systems and overdrive units that can bump up 4:11 rear ends into something far more realistic on the highway.

 

The TV show fell apart when they took on the legendary Bullet Bird. The 61 Ford Thunderbird told the whole industry that styling had clearly and effectively moved into the 1960s. The Birds were a big part of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade because JFK saw that the style in these  Fords reflected a new dawn in the United States. He loved the new Lincolns for the same reason – the man had a keen sense of style.

 

This is not a shot at the guys who did the customizing on the show because they had no part in the decision process. In fact, the first time they see the car is during the dramatic unveiling – it could be an ‘85 Caprice under the tarp…they don’t know.

 

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The problem is you don’t need to “customize” a Bullet Bird. This car was the epitome of style and class in the early 60s and it paved the way for the future in the 1960s. Customizing an early 60s ‘bird is like turning a graffiti artist loose on the Mona Lisa.

 

That didn’t stop the atrocities on this TV show.

 

They took these two vintage 1962 Thunderbirds and turned them into cars that should have been full of guys in Shriner’s hats. One had a custom eyebrow look that was supposed to make the T-bird look tougher. Instead it made me think of Homer Simpson in a pensive mood.

 

The other ‘bird fared a little better because it retained most of its original factory look but replacing the cutting edge 1962 T-bird interior with crude metal seats is a crime against the memory of a guy named Henry Ford. This is a classic 60s automobile, not an Abrams M1A1 tank.

 

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The end game is pretty simple in this show – build a show-winning ‘shock and awe’ custom ride that handles like a new Viper…in a very short period of time. This is an honorable premise that perpetuates the hobby but it comes with a huge price.

 

The carnage.

 

Jerry Sutherland

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