- The Washington Times - Friday, February 19, 2010

Greg Wilson thinks his 1969 Thunderbird was a leftover model at Pratt Ford Sales Inc. when the 1970 Thunderbirds arrived.

Records indicate the 17-foot-5-inch-long car was built at Ford’s Wixom, Mich., factory on May 21, 1969, but was not sold until Jan. 28, 1970. That’s when a man from Sherman Mills, Maine, went to the dealership in Millinocket, Maine, and took delivery of the royal maroon Thunderbird.

For three decades, the four-door Thunderbird Landau received special treatment, evidently being garaged regularly.

A Leesburg, Va., man then purchased the car and corrected the many electrical woes created by an aged electrical system. Once the Thunderbird was again healthy, clean and polished, it was purchased by Mr. Wilson.

“I was looking for something different,” he says, when he found the Thunderbird. The odometer had recorded 72,800 miles by November 2006, and when the car was driven from Leesburg to his West Springfield home, Mr. Wilson reports, “It drove like a dream.”

While thoroughly inspecting his car, Mr. Wilson discovered under the back seat the original build sheet enumerating the accessories that were installed at the factory.

The base price of the 15,695 Thunderbirds like this one was $5,043, Mr. Wilson says. He explains that it increased by $17 after Jan. 1, 1969, with the government-mandated adjustable head restraints.

Optional equipment on Mr. Wilson’s Thunderbird includes:

c SelectAire: $499.22.

c AM radio/eight-track: 128.49.

c Power windows: 109.22.

c Michelin radials: 101.30.

c Pilot control: 97.21.

c Tilt-away wheel: 66.14.

c Tinted glass: 47.49.

c Wheel covers: 35.70.

c Cornering lights: 33.70.

c Dual rear speakers: 33.07.

c Visor vanity mirror: 3.79.

The one option Mr. Wilson misses is the right-side exterior mirror. It was an extra $6.95 and would come in handy in modern-day traffic. “I can’t find one anywhere,” he laments.

From the waist up, the handsome Thunderbird is covered with a black vinyl top uninterrupted by a sunroof, which was offered that year as an accessory.

Top to bottom, the interior of the Thunderbird is dark red, including the vinyl seats and door coverings as well as the dashboard and carpeting, capped by a matching headliner.

Two rows of vents on the cowl in front of the windshield draw fresh air into the cabin, and a single row of vents outside the rear window create a flow-through ventilation system.

The two-spoke steering wheel with the built-in cruise control automatically swings to the left whenever the driver’s door is opened. In front of the driver are five instrument pods.

From the left, the first one contains the oil-pressure and fuel gauge. Next is the speedometer and then the clock, which Mr. Wilson says still works. To the right of the clock is the alternator and temperature gauge, followed by the flow-through vent control and wiper and washer control.

Five courtesy lights are strategically placed to illuminate all parts of the sumptuous interior. “It was always garaged,” Mr. Wilson says, “and never driven in the winter.”

A pair of Landau bars on the inside of the pillared hardtop car mimic the ones on the outside. The rear doors are hinged at the rear. Of course, the carpeting is protected by authentic Thunderbird floor mats. Overhead, attached to the headliner, are the shoulder belts, which in that era were separate from the lap belts.

In the 1 1/2 years since he has owned the Thunderbird, Mr. Wilson has continued to improve his car whenever possible - from having the air-conditioner compressor rebuilt to getting the eight-track tape player repaired. Mr. Wilson still has some of the eight-track tapes from his high school days in Huntington Beach, Calif., and says he not only wanted the tape player to work but needed it to work.

The big Thunderbird appears to be lower than its actual 53-inch height because it’s 77 inches wide. “I love the engine note of that 429,” Mr. Wilson says, referring to the gigantic 429-cubic-inch Thunderbird V-8 engine. All that power is needed to propel the 4,649-pound car with alacrity. Bringing the heavy car to a halt is a chore handled by the front disc brakes. Mr. Wilson reports mpg of “about 12 on premium gasoline.”

Five quarts of oil keep the engine lubricated, while 20.5 quarts of coolant keep the temperature under control. The thirsty engine drinks from the 24-gallon gas tank.Mr. Wilson thoroughly enjoys his luxury ride. “It’s really drivable,” he says, “with no little hiccups.”

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