The good Thunderbird.  Few people have ever campaigned an ’83 Thunderbird like this
guy.  This car was the one that soldiered through those wacky teenage years.  It was a gift
when I turned sixteen from my parents.  I’m glad I still have it, it is a mechanical time warp
to sit behind the wheel and look out over the dash.  On Christmas 1995, Mom and Dad put
a great big bow on this one and wrapped up the keys in a box, letting me think I had
inherited the ’87 Taurus wagon as my new ride.  Imagine my surprise when I walked into
the garage and saw this.. this Ford.  It was love at first sight.  How many kids get a 2 door
V8 as their first car?  I learned real quick that I could source anything I wanted for this car
from the junkyard.  The very first part I pulled was a factory radio that still had a working
tape deck.  With a cassette adaptor, I used my portable CD player and blasted STP, Pearl
Jam, or whatever 9.45 was playing at the time.  
1983 Ford Thunderbird
Three weeks in, I was rushing home from sweeping the barn with Uncle Ronnie and lost
control of it on a dirt road while trying to make it in time to meet a girl.  I centered it up and
buried a tree up to the water pump.  My parents were not pleased.  I limped it back to the
barn.  Over the next month, I crawled the local salvage yards and bought all the parts with
Dad that we would need to put it back together, the bumper, radiator support, header panel,
grille, hood, radiator, condenser, water pump.  We spray painted the parts white in primer.  
I kept the car this was for a while and drove it during my junior and senior years in high
school.  I did all kinds of awesome things to it, like cut the muffler off and I painted the
valve covers and air cleaner.  In the fall of 1997, I was leaving a parking lot when a truck
backed out.  I hit the bumper and again, ruined the front end.  This time, we made an
insurance claim, but the insurance swiftly totaled the car.  Dad was hot, he said we had more
in the tires than the insurance company was offering us for it, so we kept it.  Back at the
barn, the repair went quickly as we had done this before.  I tried as hard as I could to get a
Turbo Coupe hood, but it wasn’t happening.  I drove it multi colored for a while, the
windows down, no A/C.  
Mom and Dad allowed me to get it painted that Spring.  The Thunderbird had been
discontinued by Ford, and I was eaten up with Thunderbirds – so I decided to have it
painted the Performance White Tri-Coat Pearl Metallic that came on the ’97 ‘Birds.  In
Alvarado, I had some guys strip it down, tape up the glass, and they shot the car, a paint
job that is on it today.  I didn’t get the turbo coupe hood, but I got a bumper and added the
fog lights to the front.  I drove the car like this for a month or so until I was coming home
one night after July 4th fireworks.  The Johnson County roads were wet from a light rain,
and as I came through a canopy of trees near midnight, two vehicles were pulled over and
people blocked the road, shooting fireworks in the street.  I tried to slow down, but just
swerved and hit the parked truck.  There was very little damage, but the car would again
need a hood, bumper, header panel.  I took it back to the painters with the new stuff and by
August of ‘98, it was one color again.  At some point in the fall of '98 I had a little shop in
Kennedale install a two exit Flowmaster with a maze of pipe that aped true dual exhaust.  I
began taking this car everywhere, kept it immaculately clean, and even managed to show it
at a couple of car shows.  In September of ’99, I wanted a new car and I purchased the ’88
GT.  I kept the Thunderbird as a spare car and let Val drive it up in Denton for a month or
so.  For the next few years, I drove the T-Bird off and on as the Mustang was up and down
with various engine or transmission problems.  When I sold the ’88 GT in September of ’02,
I bought a new set of tires for the T-bird and put the chrome ponies on it.  Pual and I found
a 3.73 rear disc rear end in South Dallas and installed it in the spring of '03.  With the largest
upgrade I'd ever done it it complete, I continued to drive the T-bird nearly every day until it
turned over 210,000 miles in March of ’05.  
After I got the ’89 Mustang running, I still used the Tbird as a daily driver, but it was
getting tired.  The AOD required a lot of heating up and it slipped terribly, the result of a
cheap rebuild in Spring of ’03.   I purchased a ’95 Camaro and put the Thunderbird away.  
The interior had had it – the transmission had had it.  I parked it in the garage at my
apartment and pulled out the broken dash, the old carpet and seats.  It came time to move,
and the car was a basket case that I hadn’t finished yet in April ’07.  Paul came to the rescue
and we got it to his place and finished the 5-speed swap in the T-bird. With no dash but
running strong, free of the bad transmission, I took it back the apartment and began
installing the interior in the shade of the car port at the apartment, taking it for drives every
now and then.  The car was registered, but I hadn’t gotten a safety inspection in years.  I
simply removed the inspection and left the current registration on the car.  I was furious
when I came home one night and found the car was gone, towed away to a dark tow yard off
Randol Mill in Fort Worth.  Jon and I went and I found the T-bird in an unlit section of the
yard, and it had rolled up against the fence, down in a ditch.  I turned the key and she
started right up and I drove it out of the ditch and away from that automotive cemetery.  I
took it to my shop in Bedford  and had the dual exhaust finished by finally relocating the
fuel pump.  I brought it to its new home in spring of 2012 and returned to Burleson in it.  I
start it every now and again and let it run, but the old 302 is tired, and to be honest, it’s not
very much fun to drive other than the wave of nostalgia it creates.  It needs a new motor in
the worst way.  I suppose one day I’ll do it, but I’ve got a million other projects in the
meantime, the least of which is being a father to a newborn.  I’d still like to keep it and one
day, I’ll add to this story of how I took my boy for a ride in his Dad’s first car.