- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

It behooves us all to be extra diligent when checking our naughty or nice list before giving a toy to a child. The ramifications can be far-reaching.

For example, young Joe Pascale wasn’t even in his teenage years when he received a black plastic model of the first four-seat Ford Thunderbird, a 1958 model. That was the first of three years that Ford manufactured what has become known as the “square birds.”

More than four decades passed but Mr. Pascale has always had a soft spot in his heart for a square bird convertible. There were minor alterations, principally cosmetic, that made each year distinctive. After serious study, Mr. Pascale determined that the 1959 Thunderbird convertible coupe was the car for him.

Unfortunately for him, only 10,261 such models were manufactured in the 1959 model year. Finding a hardtop coupe would have been a far easier task because Ford produced 57,195 of that model.

By 2005 Mr. Pascale determined that the time had come to do something about the lack of a square bird in his garage. During the next year he chased down about a dozen Thunderbirds. After talking to the various owners to determine if the car seemed a likely prospect, Mr. Pascale would send the owner a disposable camera and ask him to burn off all the film taking pictures of the car from every conceivable angle and then send the camera back to him.

He went through a lot of throwaway cameras but that was the idea. A disposable camera is a fraction of the cost of an airline ticket to go check out the car.

“None of the Thunderbirds I looked at had the combination of color, mileage and condition that I wanted,” Mr. Pascale says. He persevered and eventually came across a Brandywine Red 1959 convertible that looked promising. Of the 21 colors offered that year, he is pleased that his is the color it is.

He discovered that the rust-free convertible was an original New Mexico car until the late 1980s when it was sold to the second owner, an Oklahoma man, who decided in 1989 to commence a frame-off restoration. The ambitious undertaking was completed in a year or so just before the owner died.

The totally restored Thunderbird was then auctioned, advertised as having been driven 10 miles since restoration. A Weatherford, Okla., man purchased the car and until last summer drove it an average of about 400 miles a year, just enough to keep the battery charged and the juices flowing.

That’s when Mr. Pascale saw the car and became the fourth owner. This car was so outstanding he skipped the disposable camera routine and asked a fellow member of the national Thunderbird owners club to inspect the car for him. The result was a definite thumbs up.

Mr. Pascale quickly purchased the car and anxiously awaited its delivery on the back of a truck. On a July afternoon earlier this year, Mr. Pascale met the truck at a park-and-ride lot west of the metropolitan area at 3 p.m. “The car looked beautiful,” he says as he witnessed the unloading. The only downside, he says, is that the white convertible top had yellowed.

He drove his 17-foot, 1-inch-long acquisition home to Vienna on 14-inch tires mounted on authentic Kelsey-Hayes wheels supporting the car’s 113-inch wheelbase. Once at home he began a thorough examination to verify what exactly it was that he had purchased.

The $3,979 base price of the 3,903-pound car was virtually a dollar a pound.

Extra cost options on the Thunderbird include:

• Air conditioning……$446.

• Cruise-O-Matic……..242.

• Backup lights……….110.

• AM push-button radio.105.

• Power windows……..102.

• Heater/defroster……..83.

• Power steering……….75.

• Power brakes………..43.

• Tinted glass………….38.

• Rear fender shields…..27.

• Wondershield washer…14.

• Undercoating………..13.

• Outside mirror………..5.

The interior is swathed in red carpeting and the padded dashboard is a matching red. Although the speedometer is calibrated to register speeds of 140 mph, Mr. Pascale says, “You would run out of brakes and suspension before you would run out of motor.”

The 352-cubic-inch V-8 engine develops 300 horsepower while drinking high-octane gasoline from the 20-gallon fuel tank.

Always striving for perfection, Mr. Pascale has plans to freshen the faces of the instruments, which are somewhat faded, and, of course, a pure white vinyl top is going to replace the current one.

The car that inspired Mr. Pascale to get this one, the model from his childhood, is still in pristine condition in a safe place in his home.

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