- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

A week-and-a-half before Christmas in 1970 a New York customer entered Dockery Ford Inc. in Paramus, N.J., and special-ordered a 1971 Thunderbird.
The two-door Landau model he selected had a base price of $5,398. Included as standard equipment were:
Electric clock.
Power steering.
Black vinyl roof.
Front cornering lights.
Remote-control mirror.
Power front disc brakes.
429-cubic-inch V-8 engine.
Sequential rear turn signal.
Select-Shift Cruise-O-Matic.
Automatic park brake release.
Michelin steel-belted white sidewall radial tires.
The elegant Thunderbird is painted black to complement the black vinyl roof. The interior is also black from the headliner down to the carpeting.
Ford's Wixom assembly plant received the special order Dec. 14, 1970, and the Thunderbird was manufactured a week later on Dec. 21, 1970. It was delivered to the New Jersey Ford dealership Jan. 15, 1971, one of 20,356 such models built in the 1971 model year and only one of 511 Thunderbirds built with a sunroof.
The New York owner took delivery and reportedly drove the luxurious car sparingly between Manhattan and the Hamptons on Long Island.
After a decade of service the powerful car had accumulated a mere 17,000 miles. Yet, because it was 10 years old, the owner evidently felt the need to replace it with a new car.
Not really wanting to part with the old T-Bird, he parked it in a garage.
Twenty years later, when he sold the property, reality set in. The car had to go. He told his stepgrandson that if he could get it running, he could have it.
When that challenge was met the car being brought back to life suddenly the stepgrandson announced he wanted a pickup truck. To pay for the truck, he decided to sell the low-mileage Thunderbird at the national gathering of antique automobile aficionados at Hershey, Pa., last autumn.
That's when and where Stephen Cohen, of Leesburg, Va., entered the picture. He was at Hershey to see what he could see. After checking out the flea markets, he boarded a school bus packed like a sardine can that was shuttling people to the car corral where antique automobiles are offered for sale.
With all the seats on the bus occupied, Mr. Cohen stood at the back of the bus as it entered the car corral and began creeping about 2 mph through the lines of cars for sale.
From his vantage point he saw the outline of a sunroof on a Thunderbird, the type of car he had been looking for for the past 10 or 12 years.
Not wanting to wait for the next bus stop, Mr. Cohen simply opened the rear emergency exit door, stepped out and walked over to the sunroof T-Bird.
Because the owner had been there for three days without a single nibble for his car, he made Mr. Cohen an offer he couldn't refuse.
Three days after placing a cash deposit on the car, Mr. Cohen flew to Newark, N.J., near where the car was garaged. With the purchase consummated within an hour, the Thunderbird was loaded onto a truck and Mr. Cohen caught the next plane back to Washington to await his new old car.
At 1:40 the next morning the truck driver, following instructions, telephoned to say that he had arrived with the car after driving half the night through a rainstorm.
A copy of the original window sticker informed Mr. Cohen that his Thunderbird came from the factory loaded with options including:
Power sun roof…………$518.
AC thermostatic control….514.
Turnpike group………….227.
AM/FM stereo radio……..150.
Power side windows……..127.
Driver six-way seat…….104.
Convenience check group…101.
Rear-window defroster…….84.
Bucket seats/console………78.
Tilt steering wheel………..52.
Tinted glass………………50.
Traction-Lok differential…..49.
Bumper guards…………..38.
Body side molding………..34.
Power antenna……………31.
Protection group………….26.
Power trunk release………14.
Adding transportation charges of $98.70 brought the total price to $7,693.70.
The convenience check group consists of a panel suspended from the ceiling above the mirror with four warning lights that alert the driver that the headlights are on, a door is ajar, fuel level is low or seat belts are unbuckled.
Mr. Cohen replaced all the hoses and belts under the hood as a safety precaution. Next came a basic tuneup and a cleansing of the four-barrel carburetor.
A new set of tires, Mr. Cohen said, "makes the car sit tall." After the new tires were installed, the front end was realigned. Once a window was reinstalled on its track, the only thing left to do was, he comments, "spit-shine it."
Sitting behind the two-spoke steering wheel, which is equipped with a "rim blow" horn-activation system, he has 360 horsepower at his command.
The Thunderbird now has 17,600 miles recorded on the odometer. Mr. Cohen has plans to enjoy his Thunderbird; however, he first wants to replace the worn black paint.
It's going to look great.

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