A little more than a year and a half ago, we commissioned a bunch of talented automotive illustrators to redesign some of the most famous rods and customs, using completely different cars as their starting points. After the concept drawings were published in the February 2006 issue, we wondered if we'd catch any flak for daring to mess with time-honored classics. We didn't. Not only did everybody seem to like the drawings, one reader is going a step further. Michael Feinstein has taken artist Eric Black's illustration of a '58-60 Thunderbird built to resemble Bob Hirohata's famous '51 Mercury, and is turning it into a real car.
Michael has always been a fan of "Squarebirds." "These cars were factory-built customs in 1958," he said. He built the Time Machine '60 Thunderbird that made the rounds five or six years ago, and recently owned Larry Watson's famous custom '58. No wonder Eric's illustration got his attention. "I thought it was a real vision to be able to carry over that look into a completely different car without having it look forced," Michael told us.
Eric drew several more concepts of the car for Michael, some of which are published here. In his description of the original drawing in R&C, Eric explained that he tried to maintain most of the stock lines, only changing a few for the sake of proportion. Because of that, his drawings for Michael aren't a huge departure from the original, and the artist's modifications can be duplicated by a builder.
The T-bird that will become The Idol (named in honor of Hirohata's iconic Barris-built Merc) is a '60 from T-birds by Nick in Panorama City, California. Michael said he would have preferred a '58 because of its coil-sprung rear suspension, but unrestored cars are tough to find. The leaf springs on the '60 will probably be replaced with a four-link and airbags.
Michael is planning on an updated drivetrain for the car. "It's not going to be a custom rod-definitely a custom, but we aren't going to be a slave to old mechanicals. I've been a proponent of nostalgia and doing things the way they were done before from a period point of view, but this is a slight deviation."
The body has been sent to metalman Alan Potter, who will repair and modify the quarter-panels. Once that is done, the car will go to Hollywood Hot Rods for the complicated top chop and other body modifications.
"We use drawings for most of the full builds we do in order to get a better sense of what's happening," said Troy Ladd from Hollywood Hot Rods. "Eric's drawings are incredible. They're like blueprints as well as illustrations, and we're going to work from them as much as we can. There is some pretty ambitious bodywork on that car, but it's fun to expand a little bit and do some truly unique things."