- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2002

As a child in Brooklyn, N.Y., Rodney Bullock spent many happy hours riding in his father's 1960 Thunderbird. It was tricked up with fancy wheels, lake pipes and dummy spotlights.

During the summer of 1989 Mr. Bullock stopped at a house about a half mile from his Oxon Hill, Maryland, home. For years he had seen a white 1960 Ford Thunderbird languishing in the back yard and wanted to see if it was for sale.

The owner, who proved to be the second owner, reported that he parked the car in 1973 and intended to restore it. Mr. Bullock gave him some literature about restoring Thunderbirds and went on his way.

As the years rolled by, however, he noticed the neglected Thunderbird never moved.

In the autumn of 2000 someone else approached the Thunderbird owner and was told it was for sale only to Mr. Bullock. When that information was passed on to Mr. Bullock he quickly re-established contact and in October 2000 purchased the car.

Forty years earlier the Thunderbird sold for a base price of $3,755.

Mr. Bullock had the 3,799-pound car towed to his home. The bottoms of both doors were rusted, as well as both quarter panels and the floor of the big trunk.

All the cancerous metal was excised and replaced. Amazingly, the passenger compartment floor pan was intact and rust-free.

The spark plugs and all the wiring were replaced. Having undergone some tinkering, the distributor needed to be rebuilt and calibrated along with the four-barrel Holley carburetor.

The standard Thunderbird V-8 was a 352-cubic-inch engine that developed 300 horsepower. Once Mr. Bullock got the engine running as it was intended to, he turned his attention to the Cruise-O-Matic transmission.

It worked fine until the car was driven a few miles when he found the reverse gear would not function. After picking the brains of some veteran transmission mechanics, he learned he needed a case-saver kit.

Once he found the item, the transmission was successfully rebuilt.

Ahead of the three-spoke, deep-dish steering wheel is the 140-mph speedometer mounted in the center of three instrumens in a stainless-steel and chrome-laden dashboard.

The speedometer is accurate, according to Mr. Bullock, who adds, "It'll do every bit of it."

All the brightwork trim pieces were replaced or replated.

The 1960 model is the third year of the "square birds" and, in addition to the three pods of gauges, there are three lights on each side at the rear and three chrome quarter panel markings.

With the knowledge that white cars usually do not show well at auto competitions, Mr. Bullock began shopping for the ideal color for his Thunderbird.

Keeping his wife, Joanne, in mind, he decided a pastel blue pearl would be the perfect color. The blue-and-white front bucket seats and rear bench seat highlight the exterior color. The carpet and padded dashboard match the exterior blue, but he decided the headliner should be white. "I built the car so my wife would be comfortable driving it and could enjoy it with me," Mr. Bullock says.

The 17-foot, 1-inch-long Thunderbird, with its 113-inch wheelbase, was complete, at least as complete as any restoration is ever complete, in August.

Mr. Bullock's father was aware that his son was rebuilding a Thunderbird much like the one he had 40 years before. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the completed car.

As a tribute to his father, Mr. Bullock put some finishing touches on his car that he knows would have made his father proud.

Just below the rocker panels are full-length lake pipes. Up on the chrome-plated cowl are mounted a pair of dummy spotlights, just like the accessories on his father's Thunderbird.

Now that the vehicle is in condition to satisfy him, he enjoys taking it out for fair-weather exercise.

"It's not a hot rod," he remarks, "It's a cruiser."

Mr. Bullock reports that his Thunderbird easily "walks on down the road."

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