Chick Koszis bought this 1955 Ford Thunderbird in British Columbia, Canada and brought it home to southern California in 2005. It was all stock with the only exception being a lot of non-factory chrome plating in the engine compartment and a brass plaque glued to the dashboard indicating that the car was a participant in a car show in Norway in 1987. This car had obviously been around the block.
Ford Motor Company introduced the Thunderbird in the 1955 Model Year, and this particular car was the 874th off the assembly line. It came equipped with a 292 cubic inch V* engine and an automatic transmission. It was also pretty well optioned with power brakes, steering, windows, and seat. Pretty well equipped for 1955.
The TBird left the Koszis garage infrequently because when faced with a decision as to which car to drive, Chick normally hopped into his '32 Ford roadster and hit the road. Fate stepped in in January 2011 when Chick's '32 was stolen and not recovered. A plan was developed to build a new hot rod at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, and that story can be followed on the "1932 Koszis Roadster Redux" page in our Projects Folder. Chick needed a cool car to drive while his new roadster was being created. All was well, and he decided to make a couple of upgrades to get a bit away from the "stock" image of this TBird. Chick's just not a "stock"
car kinda guy. Aluminum alloy kidney bean-type wheels with blackwall tires would replace the Firestone wide whitewalls and stock Ford wheelcovers. The front and rear springs would be replaced with new lowered versions (about 2-inches). Bilstein shocks were added, and the front brakes were upgraded to modern discs. The entire front and rear suspensions were treated to a rebuild, as was the steering hydraulics. He also ditched the rear fender skirts in favor of a more sporty, open wheel look. The lowering with the new wheel and tire combination gave the car a whole new persona.
Chick was on his way with the new look TBird to the Sultans Car Club show in Seal Beach early one Sunday morning when Fate stepped in once more. A big SUV tried to occupy the same lane as he was traveling in, and mayhem ensued.
The right side of the TBird sustained substantial crunching, so bodywork was now going to be required whether Chick was ready or not.
A plan was formulated based on a mild custom theme and resurrected old time custom treatments that Chick remembered from his youth and the days when some car magazines came in a "little pages" format. Speaking of those old days, Chick was first introduced to the "little birds" in real life in 1957 when a neighbor came home from the local Ford dealership in a brand new, black '57 TBird. The taillights would be replaced with those from a 1960/61 Dodge Polara.
The round taillight bezels are the same diameter as the original TBird taillight rings. The profile from the side is very similar to that of the TBird headlight rims with a very pronounced 'eyebrow". Other custom tricks being included in this resurrection are: sinking (frenching) the radio antenna; and, removing some unnecessary trim and ornamentation (shaving). Also, the exhaust used to exit above the rear bumper in big, clunky bumper guards. In Chick's opinion, these detracted from the otherwise clean, slick lines of the TBird, so these tumors had to go.
The bumper guards were removed, patch panels fabricated and welded into the openings where the exhaust pipes used to exit the rear panel, and all bumper attaching bolts were shaved resulting in a clean appearance more in keeping with the TBird's trim appearance. Another custom touch that sets this Bird a bit apart is the replacement of the die cast and chromed fake louvers on the front fenders with real, no-kidding, you can see through them, louvers. It appeared that the TBird's original designers would have put real louvers in here, but the accountants at Ford won the battle of cost versus aesthetics.
Chick didn't have that constraint, so he said, "If they're meant to be louvers - make 'em louvers." Problem solved. The right executive decision made 50-some years later. We think this was the right decision, too. The original design of the hood includes a scoop with a die cast front fascia that cries for customizing. So, in keeping with the rest of the "eyebrow" elements on the car, the leading edge of the hood scoop was redone in sheetmetal.
This is going to be a very cool, mild custom when done. Watch as we go through the customizing process here at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff. After all, "Custom" is our middle name!