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Friday, September 1, 2017

Space Car, Part 2

1962 Ford Thunderbird
I was thinking about buying an old Ford Thunderbird and fixing it up to go cruising in. But I don't go cruising. I go places, I don't just drive around. Traffic is too congested to make it a pleasant experience.

But I still like early 60's Thunderbirds. JFK had 50 bullet bird convertibles in his inaugural parade. I guess that's cool, I mean usually they use big black limousines, don't they? The T-Birds looked cool, and they were built with the latest technology available, but it's all old now. The best that can be said for them is that they used unibody construction. I would say they were one of the first, but the whole industry was in a transition period back then. Most cars these days use unibody construction. The only one I can think of that is still body-on-frame is the Cadillac Escalade and that's only because it's basically a truck.

When I think about fixing up one of these old Thunderbirds, I like to imagine all the cool stuff that I could install that could make it better car, a car that you would actually want to use instead of something that constantly needed attention.

Ford Thunderbird 390 Engine
What happened to the diagonal braces?
The first things to replace are:
  • the carburetor with electronic fuel injection, 
  • the fan belts with a serpentine belt 
  • the front drum brakes with disks, and
  • the 3-speed automatic transmission with a 4-speed.
All that could probably be done for around ten grand, and if you started with a decent car at a decent price, it might be a worthwhile project.

But then you get into even more exotic projects, like replacing the front suspension with something that will let it drive like a modern car, or hopping up the engine so it will deliver 400 HP instead of the 300 it came with originally. Many of the cars that are out there have way less than 100,000 miles, so you might be able to simply work on the top end and leave the bottom end, including the entire short block alone. I wonder if you would even notice the power difference. Driving around town at 25 MPH you aren't going to need the extra oomph. About the only place you can use all your power these days in on an expressway on-ramp. Still, that can be fun.

But now we're talking even more money, possibly another ten grand. Now this project is starting to look like buying a new car. Of course, new cars don't look as cool as those Space Cars from the 50's. If you don't agree, that's okay, you're wrong and I can live with that.

1961 Ford Thunderbird dashboard
One of the coolest things about the old 'birds was the fancy (fanciful?) instrument panel. If I were going to do this project the dashboard would need some major updates, like flat panel display screen for your GPS and your backup camera. Integrating something like that and making it look good would take finesse. And while we are working on the dash, can we do something about the A/C? From what I've seen, the A/C vents look like an afterthought.

It might be best to simply do a brand new dash. I am sure there are talented designers out there who could come up with something really spacey. I could do the mechanical/functional part, but making it look integrated and cool, hmmm, I dunno. I would need some inspiration I think.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you want a more modern space car, one that might require a lot less work and would be great on long drives, see:
http://tinyurl.com/y73xjajl

Your pal,
James

Chuck Pergiel said...

A Volvo is not a Space Car. They have no style. Expensive European utili-boxes, if you ask me. I know some people swear by them. Not me.