For most, the day a custom project is finished once and for all is undoubtedly a day of pride and joy. For Austin, Texan Jennifer Laosa, it was probably filled more with bittersweet emotions than anything else. To understand just why that is, let us first start at the beginning of her ’66 T-bird.

Hers was actually “His & Hers”, but to be more truthful, it really started out as her husband Hunter’s ’Bird. His main goal at the outset was simply to get the ’66 up and running. But before that ever came to fruition, Hunter suddenly—and very unexpectedly—passed away. For most of us who take joy in a project’s completion, an occurrence like this wouldn’t have just sidelined it, it would’ve completely ended it, no question about it. Not Jennifer; despite her huge personal loss, she vowed not only to see the project through to completion, but also to seek professional help to do so properly.

Her choice for help? Austin Speed Shop, of course. And as her late husband had planned, she too wanted simply to make the ’Bird roadworthy. And that pretty much was the plan when Austin Speed Shop (let’s call ’em A.S.S. from here on out—why not, everyone else does!) first agreed to take on the project. But as things went on, imaginations began to run wild, and before long, Jennifer and the A.S.S. team agreed that nothing would be more fitting—and a better tribute to Hunter—than a complete mild-custom makeover for the ’66.

Knowing the budget to work with, the shop took it upon themselves to devote more time and effort to make this project more special for Jennifer—if it meant working overtime (or weekends) or donating parts to the cause, this was one cause that was worth going the extra mile . . . or two. After undergoing its Landau top undoing (yeah, that’s why this ’Bird looks a bit different!), which in itself was no easy task (note that the Landau bars were “recycled” and used on the door panels), and having the initial bodywork done, the car was shipped to Long Beach, California, for some color. Pete “Hot Dog” Finlan was given full artistic reign, the only parameters being to work within the palette of purple hues. Rolling on 15-inch Astro Supremes, the final result is nothing short of what you’d find cruising Bellflower Boulevard in the mid ’60s with a hot brunette behind the wheel—pretty much the same as you’d see today (except the street would more than likely be South Congress!).

To truly complement Hot Dog’s stunning paintwork, the shop’s in-house stitcher, Craig Willets, redid the entire interior in pearl white vinyl with both tuck ’n’ roll and square-pleated inserts. The dash and center console received mother-of-pearl inserts, which, along with contrasting black carpet and a load of chrome accents, suits the setting to a T. To finish it all off, A.S.S. installed a Custom Autosound retrofit head unit and a multitude of Kicker audio components.

Jennifer ended up with one beautiful ’Bird, and she is reminded of that on a regular basis with every compliment she gets! Though not what Hunter had in mind by a long shot, the finished product is indeed something he’d be very proud of—and we’re pretty sure if he’s where we think he’s at, he’s looking down with a big ol’ smile.

Rod & Custom Feature Car

Jennifer Laosa

Austin, Texas

1966 Ford Thunderbird