’66 Thunderbird: A family affair
Bonnie Beyer loves her 1966 Ford Thunderbird Town Hard Top.
Beyer likes to say she has three children: her two daughters, and her Thunderbird. It’s still a beautiful baby and it still lives with her, although her two daughters are grown and moved out of the house.
The Thunderbird’s original sticker price was $5,028 new, off the lot in Fremont. The original color was called “silver mink,” a kind of pale metallic silver-pinkish shade that is no longer available. Beyer still has the original sales contract, her service receipts, and a stash of paperwork testifying to her long relationship with the automobile.
This was a family car, bought when families had one car. Her children were still small.
The Thunderbird took them on camping trips; during one, they knocked a hole in the gas tank, placed a pot under the car to catch the dripping gas overnight, then poured it back into the car and limped home to Fremont for repairs.
Other adventures took them to DisneyLand, Lake Tahoe, and Reno. Her Thunderbird has carried her family through varied and emotional adventures. Like most car lovers, Beyer has strong feelings and associations relating to her “baby.”
When her daughters attended high school, she let them drive the Thunderbird. By then, it had become a secondary car and a member of the family. She told her daughters that if they wrecked the Thunderbird, to call her, tell her where the car was, and that she would talk to them in, perhaps, “40 years.”
With 68,400 original miles, Beyer’s Thunderbird engine has not yet been rebuilt. The only major mechanical changes have involved retooling the engine to run on unleaded gas. Beyer still uses high octane unleaded. The Thunderbird also has an electronic ignition, a replacement for the older carburetor-points style starter system.
With a powerful 390 cubic-inch V8, the coupe is fully automatic: power windows, power seats, air conditioning, power steering, power interior door locks, and an original AM/FM radio.
While the front seats have been reupholstered, the back seat is still original, and displays a fine tuck and roll design coupled with chrome trim that was a hallmark of early Thunderbird interiors. The beautifully chromed dashboard area is a testament to elegance.
Beyer chose the current color after trying others. She chose it because it would get her noticed. It’s not that she craves attention; it’s that she has seen changes in local driver behaviors over the years.
She’s concerned about an increase in aggressive, tailgating behaviors, drivers who cut across the midline, and drivers who don’t seem to understand how to drive defensively.
Beyer says she drives slower than she used to and is more vigilant and defensive in her own driving habits now.
She still loves to drive her Thunderbird. It’s a comfortable ride, easy to handle, heavy and engineered for speed. The car is not a show car; Beyer describes it as a “family member.”
When people have asked if she’ll sell it, she answers with the question, “Would you sell your child?”
The Union is looking for restored, customized or collector’s vehicles. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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