My name is Kevin Lee, and I'm a caraholic. I've talked about my car-buying disease here before, and I've heard admitting it is the first step to recovery. Didn't seem to work the last time, and I doubt it will this time either. I just picked up another two, making the grand total 16, if I'm remembering them all.
The last two are different though. The first one is a '69 Ranchero, for which I traded a few things I had laying around that weren't doing me any good. I reasoned with myself and the new wife that we needed a truck to haul stuff for the house remodel. Problem is, the truck is very straight, very black, and too nice to serve as a working truck. The few times I have hauled anything in it, I had to put blankets down in the bed to protect it-not very practical, so it will most likely be up for sale soon.
The second one is the one pictured here. After buying a few other projects that have still not gone beyond my rapidly filling driveway, I came to the conclusion that I was biting off more than I could chew. I didn't have the kind of time presently to devote to getting them done, so I was going to have to look for another alternative. This, combined with the fact that my wife's leased daily-driver was being turned back in, put me in the market for something else. I convinced her that she could take over my daily-driver and I would buy a nice, somewhat-finished classic. I must be a sweet talker because she agreed (although reluctantly, and for how long, I'm not sure).
At this point, the chances of me getting a car's body in shape and then getting it painted are pretty slim, so the main thing I was looking for was a really nice original car or a restored one. I figured the interior wasn't as important because I could redo that with interior kits available; but I don't have access to a spray booth, and, although my neighbors like me, they probably wouldn't appreciate me spraying anything in the driveway.
Thanks to the Internet, the search for such things is just a few clicks away. I found what I was looking for about 400 miles north, and I figured I'd go take a look at it after several e-mails back and forth with the seller. I was reluctant, as this was the farthest I'd ever traveled to look at a used car; I've been plenty disappointed driving five miles to see a misrepresented heap that looked good in photos.
The seller told me he'd pick me up at the nearest airport (about an hour away), but I decided I'd rather rent a car since the hourlong trip back to the airport might be a little uncomfortable if it went badly. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded. Don, the seller, turned out to be a good guy going well beyond making sure the car was ready for a 400-mile trip to SoCal. I bought it and threw caution to the wind as I hit the road at about 6 p.m. and drove solo back toward L.A.
The 42,000-mile original Thunderbird didn't miss a beat and hardly a gas station, as I quickly remembered what it was like driving a big-block-powered classic. I swear I could watch the gas gauge move as it made its way from F back to E.
The fight now becomes ignoring the temptation to start modifying it too much. I've already lowered the back a bit by fixing the rear shackles (the springs were hanging below the shackles instead of above them-a common mistake). The front now needs to come down a few inches, but, for the time being, I think I might just pull the coils and cut a loop or two off until I rebuild the suspension and maybe install some new Jamco springs. New wheels will make a big difference; I'm still going back and forth on Chrysler wires, chrome reverses, or Radir five-spokes. Another carb might make it a little more fuel-efficient. Then maybe I'll panel-paint it or 'flake the roof-uh-oh, there I go starting to lose control again.
I can say this: Driving an old car every day may cost a lot more in gas, but the thumbs-up and conversations it starts are worth it. And I'd say it's a pretty good deal when you consider the buy-in was about the price of a 5-year-old Honda Civic. For those of you who might be looking for a way into the hobby but are turned off by some of the prices, there are still a lot of nice '50s and '60s cars out there that can be bought for less than the cost of a pair of N.O.S. Deuce front fenders.