Our Fleet: Ford Thunderbird

Our Fleet: Ford Thunderbird

REMEMBER where we left off? Everything was going so well and I’d worked out that there was a starting procedure for the Thunderbird.

It’s got a swinging steering wheel so that large Americans can get in and out easily, it’s an automatic, it’s got a foot brake, and more switches and electrical features than a car of this age should possibly have.

To start the car, the steering wheel needs to be locked in position and your foot has to be on the brake – enough for it to register but not too much, as there are no discs on the front – then turn the key. This was enough to get the engine turning but not enough to fire it up.

With the bonnet back up and air filter off, everything seemed to work but the fuel wasn’t making its way from the huge petrol tank in the rear to the engine in the front.

Thanks to a temporary fuel tank made from a Buxton bottle (other bottled water brands are available) directly feeding to the fuel pump with a bastardised piece of pipe from elsewhere on the engine, things were more promising – and it was clear that there was an issue here.

After a few attempts at firing up and a bit of Easy Start in the carb, it wasn’t long before the 6.4-litre V8 fired into life – my first realisation that I owned a fully fledged American muscle car with some serious muscle and an unmistakable roar to match. However, while the petrol was going speedily in, it was leaking from the petrol pump and carburettor just as quickly.

As the engine was firing away, it was clear it would be short-lived. My second realisation was that I’d bought a car I couldn’t afford to run to the shops and back at 16mpg. But at least I knew it sort of worked. While all of this was going on, there was a second issue to resolve – getting into the boot. Not a particularly difficult thing, but some persistence with the WD-40 meant that before long I was in – although I immediately wished that I wasn’t.

Although the boot lid itself was substantial, the floor wasn’t much more than some crusty rust. The good news was my new door cards to replace the rotten ones were in there.

Next, an easy job for me was getting the rear drum brakes back on the car – or at least that’s what I thought. Once in place, the car became impossible to move.

In a desperate attempt to shift the T-bird out of the work car park to a more suitable area – before being chastised by the site manager – we spent three hours and five cans of different flammable liquids trying to move it. Every time it would fire up but I couldn’t get it moving and my worst fear was that there was an issue with the gearbox.

However, with the rear drums off again, the Thunderbird rolled unbelievably easily for its weight. Now that we knew it would move, we tried to fire it up once more, but the fuel pump had completely given up the ghost.
So, with the Buxton bottle directly feeding the carburettor instead, it started immediately! But you can’t hold a water bottle over the carb with the bonnet closed – instead, with the bonnet up and partner-in-crime Sean sat on the wing, I attempted to manoeuvre it into position with limited visibility and no brakes.

I made it, so I guess this is a positive story really, but I’m sure my next update will be filled with just as many problems as resolutions.

Model: 1966 Ford Thunderbird ‘Flair Bird’
Owned by: Rebecca Chaplin
Engine: 6.4-litre V8 390
Bought for: £4,250
Mileage: 24,043
Highlight of the month: Hearing that lovely V8 roar into life – albeit temporarily.

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