Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Custom: 1956 Ford Thunderbird

You know that phrase, “A face only a mother could love?” Well, this custom Ford Thunderbird here on eBay may qualify for the type of vehicle where that phrase is immediately uttered at first glance. To be fair, when I spotted the side profile of this car, I thought it might have been a Ferrari California spyder – seriously. So I can’t claim to be completely repulsed by the thing, which is the ultimate expression of 50s-era radio promotions and California surf culture. Special thanks to Bryan K. for this tip!

That image of it in storage is one thing; the full-on frontal view of its stacked headlights and angry snout is quite another. This is an interesting-looking car. I wouldn’t call it ugly, no – but I would call it challenging. I do love the way the body cascades down to the rear quarters, and the low ride height is visually pleasing. The car does look angry and powerful, but beautiful it is not.

The story of the converted Thunderbird is this: a California radio station commissioned a local hot rod / body shop called Cushenbery Customs to create a tempting convertible for a radio giveaway promotional program. Lots of custom bits were incorporated, from the Pontiac headlights, Mustang seats and taillights, and a drivetrain claimed to be “Cobra-powered” in the original advertisements. However, it now makes do with a 292 from a ’56 Thunderbird and a 4-speed manual transmission.

cushenberry5See, this is the photo that got me. That’s a pretty sweet profile, and the car appears to have a hard-top in other photos with no folded top in sight. I actually think proportionately the rod shop nailed the design, but that front end is a very personal decision as to whether you consider it attractive. Bidding is over $3,000 with the reserve unmet, and the car still runs and drives. Does anyone remember the original contest or rod shop?


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