Monday, January 5, 2015

Beauty is in the eye of the (original) beholder

I was riding the bike out somewhere in the vicinity of Midwood in deepest Brooklyn when this red sleepy-eyed beast caught my eye. I love these cars!
What we have here is a 1978 Ford Thunderbird in Dark Red. We can tell it's a '78 because the stylized bird over each headlight cover wasn't there in '77, and the grill was made up of larger squares in '79.
This car has everything I want in an N.Y.C. Hooptie; cool car from a different era, plenty of scrapes, knocks, and evidence of urban use, mismatched wheels and tires, and sheer presence.
This does of course hail from the very darkest of automotive decades, so it's underpowered and overweight. However, this is actually an intermediate car compared to the truly colossal T-Birds of '76 and earlier. The older cars were 10 inches longer and a full 900 lbs heavier than this generation! It seems impossible that this is only a mid-size car when it's far and away the largest thing parked within several blocks, but there it is.
It's not often that I encounter the owner of a car when I'm shooting it, but in this case he was working on a car across the street from this one when I walked up. He paused when I got off my bike and walked up to the red car so I asked if it was his. He said it was and was totally unsurprised when I asked if I could take some pictures for my old car blog. Bob told me he was the original owner and that the car had a mere 60,000 miles on it from new. Most people might see this as a frumpy wreck on the street but not Bob. Like a husband glancing over at his wife of 40 years all he saw was the same pretty young girl that first caught his eye.
Bob went on to explain the unfortunate rear-ending that this T-Bird had been through happened earlier this year when an out of control driver came zig-zagging down the street scraping other cars. The out of control driver never let off the gas, finally launching off of a speed bump into the car parked behind this one, totaling it. This damage came from the totaled car being shoved into this one.
It is a shame that the taillight housing got smashed up because it really makes the rear of this ride look pretty cool when it's intact.
The huge late-'70s era bumper that I usually love to hate did an admirable job of protecting this ride though. When it was new this bumper was opposed to be able to absorb a 5mph crash with no discernible damage. This T-Bird weighs in at over 4,000lbs! Think of how fast a car would have to be going to push another parked car into this one to do this much damage.
She's still a cool old cruiser even in this condition. If you look through the back window to see where the back seat is you get an idea of just how much trunk space this is packing.
There's the owner Bob putting the wheel back on his other red car.
The little opera windows between the front and back windows are ridiculous hallmarks of the personal luxury era. That little window is set into a structural support that acts as a built-in roll bar. If you look closely you can see the lines of it going over the roof. If this car was ordered with a vinyl top it would have been installed in 2 sections; from the top of the windshield back to the raised roof section at the back of the front side window, and from the top of the back window to the rear raised roof section. The body color would still continue over the roof! These rides were available with T-Tops as well which look great on such a big ride.
That Club is doing it's job! Yes the car was full of parts but at least that's better than garbage. 1980s cassette deck is holding it down for those infrequent cruise nights to Coney Island.
From this angle it looks pretty good! This car's been rolling these mean streets since 1978, parked on this very block the entire time according to Bob, so she's actually holding up very well.
Of course the hood ornament is long gone. It was probably gone in late '78 when crime in the city was worse than it is now (still nothing compared to the brutality of the late '80s/early '90s).
This is my favorite year for Thunderbirds from the 1970s. I've always loved drawing this car due to it's collection of sharp angles. The headlight covers give the impression of a squinting old man trying to read the paper, and the front bumper juts out like the prow of a ship. One detail I had no knowledge of before this day was about to be demonstrated for me by Bob. See that break in the side of the chrome grill near the bottom?
The grill of this 'Bird is hinged at the top so that it will push out of the way in a small front-end collision as opposed to being destroyed! I had no idea and was downright giddy in my auto-geekdom to be shown this forgotten footnote of Thunderbird history. The '70 and '71 T-Bird had a ridiculously pointy grill that almost always got damaged during regular city parking, so maybe this was a solution harkening back to those days? More likely the front bumper couldn't quite make the 5mph crash test due to cracking grills so they put in a little-known quick fix. Regardless I'd like to thank Bob for showing off his fair lady to me!

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