It has been a long time since my last update and that is largely because motivation stalled out after some repeated issues with the transmission and I’ve been busy with other priorities.
Katie and I have had a great last couple of years. We are now in the best physical shape we’ve ever been with daily spin class or high-intensity interval training. This has been a fun experience for both of us to find something we enjoy together. Also, this year I got to check one item off the bucket list: attending the Pebble Beach Concours (known by the experts as just simply “Pebble”). It was an amazing experience!
While I was taking some time away from working on Grace she celebrated her 60th birthday in December. To celebrate I decided it was time to get back to the project and have this be the year that I can say she’s finally finished.
When I left off last I finally had the opportunity to get Grace to come to life after longer than 40 years off the road. The rebuilt engine is running quite well and I was even able to find an original rebuilt carburetor with the correct list number on the air horn. With a rebuilt engine and transmission I was excited to hit the road. Unfortunately after just about 2 miles the transmission was not staying in 2nd gear and then eventually started making a horrible sound. After tearing it apart I found the bronze syncronizer rings were trashed. So, I replaced the rings and shoehorned the transmission back into Grace. For those that have R&R’s a transmission in a 55-57 Tbird you know how this is an arduous process. I ran into the same scenario again after about 5 miles so it has sat in the garage since as I just don’t have the energy to tear it apart again.
So, I decided to work on some other projects. I reupholstered the original bench seat by tearing it all the way down to the springs, repainting the frame, installing new canvas, new foam, and finally new upholstery. Tbird seats are much more complex than my previous experience with classic Mustangs. Honestly, its worth every penny to take it to professional to redo the seat. If you are a little crazy like me, here are a few photos of the process. The second photo is a replacement rubber strip I riveted onto the seat frame for the tacks to insert into. The factory cardboard ones were not salvageable and the new pieces held really well. I think it was only around $5 for 8 feet from an eBay seller.
The other area that I found needed some help was the hood fitment. Grace had been in an accident early in her life and the driver side hood hinge was bent causing the hood not to fit well. I bit the bullet and sprung for a new (original used) one from Prestige Thunderbird. A little Flame Red paint and it is ready for install.
The hood catch mounts also needed to be painted so I did those at the same time and there were factory divots in the hood where they were “fitted” from the factory. I reinstalled in the same place and will use these to help guide the fitment of the hood once I get the new hinge installed. I chose not to paint the catches themselves since with one close they would lose all their paint. I think they still look nice and detailed. Also, I was able to paint the backside of the hood and this was my first look at a large area of the Flame Red paint. I got the single-stage urethane from TCP Global and the color is perfect and it lays really nice and is easy to spray. I’m really pleased with the quality for the price.
In the below photo you can see how the driver side hood hinge is bent back slightly. Although it may seem like its not off by a lot, it is enough to make the hood sit about 3/4” too high and about 1/2” too far forward. I’m praying the new hinge corrects this issue and I won’t have much work to fit the nose to the hood.
Cruising without tunes was not an option so I installed a Retrosound radio in Grace that includes an AUX input so I can stream Spotify. Also, the radio is AM/FM and the quality is very nice for the ~$200 cost. I installed a factory antenna and a dual speaker in the original location which actually sounds quite nice, much better than the original. The kit comes with knobs that are reminiscent of a 65-66 Mustang but I found that the original discs and knobs from the Tbird radio fit without issue. It doesn’t look like it doesn’t belong but has all the modern goodies…I’m a happy camper.
Lastly, what’s a Baby Bird without wide whitewalls? I really wanted to upgrade to radial tires so I opted with Coker Classic radials and for the 10 miles or so I’ve driven Grace they are quiet and ride 100 times better than old bias ply tires. Since Grace is a C-Code base model ‘Bird (albeit one with Power Steering, Power Brakes, Radio, Backup Lights, Both Tops) I thought it would be fitting to go with the dog dish poverty hub caps. I found a pretty nice set on eBay and still need to paint the centers but I believe I will do so with Flame Red in place of the factory white. I stole the idea from my friend Rick Steiner and installed trim rings which add the right touch of class that a Tbird deserves but still gives me the look I want.
I finally gave in and admitted I was at the point where I need help to get past this phase. The transmission issue has sucked any motivation from me and I have time scheduled to bring Grace into Prestige Thunderbird in Santa Fe Springs to get the transmission sorted, the rear end seals replaced, and a front end alignment. With these project complete, Grace will be roadworthy and I can enjoy her on the weekends as I finish up some final body prep and install the rest of the interior. I’m excited to get moving on the Tbird project again and I anxious to get cruising down PCH top-down this summer!