Darrel Arment
August 1, 2008

Step By Step

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Because the Hatchers were such enthusiasts of the '56 T-bird styling, body alterations would be one of the simplest tasks to be undertaken. To the untrained eye, there are barely any changes at all, but to those who know their '56s, there are several. The front bumper was smoothed and tucked in tight to the body, and the rear piece, with its continental kit and exhaust cutouts, was exchanged for a smoothed and fitted '55 "shorty" bumper with a hand-formed roll pan underneath. The grille was replaced with a simple billet insert by Carriage Works, while the taillight lenses were swapped for '63 Falcon pieces. There were only minor sheetmetal changes; the front cowl vents were welded closed, as was the gas-filler door, and a section of the hood right in front of the scoop was cut out, inverted, and welded back in place, giving the hood a totally unique look. Naturally, there was the standard removal of badging and chrome trim, but as noted earlier, for the most part the body stayed a pure, unmolested T-bird. For the final touches, Vintage Fab in Independence, Missouri, laid down a slick coat of DuPont black base/clear, and Tiny's Signs in Edwardsville, Kansas, applied the gold-leaf flame trim and red pinstripes.

Going Inside
The interior was handled much like the exterior; the factory instruments were refurbished, while the tach and the clock were converted from analog to electronic. The stock shifter was reused, and the original seatback was modified to mimic a bucket-seat appearance-all original items, but with a twist. The aluminum trim was removed from the dash and the door panels and replaced with paint and upholstery. The dash now houses a Custom Autosound audio system and some Vintage Air climate control outlets where the aluminum once resided, while the door panels have a really neat Thunderbird feather motif applied to them. When all the modifications were complete, a combination of black ostrich leather and Ultra Vinyl was installed by Vintage Fab and Bob Sipes in Independence to finish off the cabin in style.

When we first saw this car, it had just made a flawless 200-mile run. The whole package felt so good on the road that Jim could hardly wait to get the break-in period out of the way so he could really nail the skinny pedal to the firewall. We're sure that's happened repeatedly by now, and who knows-maybe the car has even made its way back to Indiana to visit those who, for decades, drove and took care of it. We wonder what they'd think seeing this '56 in its new guise.