Isaac Mion
November 12, 2010

As you can imagine, this '57 T-bird looked nothing like the pictures you see before you when the owner found it.

"I found it in a friend's garage in Colorado with no running gear," said owner Dave Liniger. "The body looked to be in good condition until it was media blasted."

Finding a car with no running gear might normally be a problem, but Liniger planned to replace those parts anyway, so in a way, it was a perfect find. Well, almost perfect. A lot of the body's sheetmetal had to be replaced due to rust and other previous damage.

While Liniger didn't mention his position as owner of Remax, one of the country's largest real estate companies, word sort of got around to us as this story was being written. Not only is Liniger modest about his success, but he can pretty much do whatever he wants when it comes to restoring his cars.

"I always wanted to build a sports car with a lot of power that handled like a new car," said Liniger. Don't we all?

With the restomod revolution in full swing, no longer does the lover of classic shapes have to put up with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of a 50-to-60-year-old car. Problems such as leaking ragtops, cruise ship handling, anemic power, and utterly useless climate control. Nowadays, thanks to companies like Vintage Air, classic enthusiasts can cruise in comfort at any temperature. And Dave Liniger is doing just that with the named company providing the refreshingly cool air.

Of course for the meat and potatoes of this restomod's upgrades, he decided to take the T-bird to a local company called C4 Hot Rods. C4 has been building some of Colorado's finest hot rods officially for about nine years now. Its reputation for high-quality hot rods and cool car shows is known throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

"We all come from a racing background," said owner John Metcalf. Mike Hudson, C4's main fabricator/mechanic worked as chief mechanic for Metcalf before coming to work with him at C4. Hudson is the one responsible for that Flash Gordon-like air intake lurking under the hood.

"That thing has 13 pieces of steel in it," he told us. "The Holley Dominator carb is like a toilet bowl so when it came time to get the air filter to fit, there was no option but to custom build one." When we asked Hudson which race team he and Metcalf worked for the answer was plain and simple: "Remax." It turns out that back in the day, Liniger got a taste of racing at a local track. At the time, Metcalf was running a struggling racing operation out of a one-car garage. Liniger asked him if he wanted some support and Metcalf, well, needless to say he felt right at home with Remax as a sponsor. After Metcalf got out of the race game, he started C4. But it wasn't his first foray into the custom car club.

"I'd built about a hot rod a year for most of my life before that," he said. We assume that he meant his formative years, but who knows, he could have been wrenching in the womb for all we know.

When C4 took delivery of the car, the first thing it did was take the body off of the frame.

"We essentially installed the motor, then built the car around it," said Hudson. "Then we welded the chassis and figured out the hood height." They used the center section of the frame and attached a Fat Man Fabrication power rack-and-pinion front clip. The rear needed a subframe as well, so to bring up the rear, they used an Art Morrison four-link rear clip.

Hudson then cut out the transmission support to ready for the installation of the built C6 automatic transmission with a 2,800-rpm-stall convertor and a custom mount. "If we didn't cut that piece out, you'd have to get to the tranny by taking the whole body off and disassembling the whole car," said Hudson. "On top of that, I had to replace the floor from the firewall to the back bumper."

With the chassis sorted, Hudson and crew got cracking on the body. They replaced the rocker panels, the rear quarter-panels, and various other areas that had shown themselves after the media blasting.

"When we got it back from media blasting it was whacked," said Hudson. "The nose was full of Bondo."

Finally, before putting the body back on, they tubbed the rear in preparation for the massive 18x12-inch rear Weld wheels wrapped in P335/30ZR18 Michelin Pilots. The front wheels, at 17x7 with P215/40ZR18's, would require no such adaptive measure.

As a final touch, they shaved the emblems-they did keep the one in back, but customized it to say Dave's Thunderbird, a personal touch that could only be appreciated by Dave and the 10 million others with the same name.

With PPG's Red Spice paint, capped bumpers, and the custom tube grille, Daves aren't the only ones appreciating this stunning blast from the past as it motors down the road; the sonorous roar from the custom ceramic-coated exhaust pipes expelling the nasty gasses from the 514ci Ford Racing engine.

The specs on this engine are off the charts, and it pretty much speaks for itself when it gets on the dyno and returns figures like 625 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. Various chrome ancillaries, like the March pulley system, allow the engine to look the part as well. Running the wires back under the distributor doesn't hurt the aesthetics of the bay either.

Minor changes to the interior vastly improve its appearance. One example would be the eradication of some of the padding on the dash. With the slimmed down dash, Sewfine custom red leather interior, and Dakota digital instrumentation, the open-air cockpit is almost as Flash Gordon as the intake. More stealth than wealth are the subs and amps-both are hidden under the rear fenders to retain a classic feel (and more room) when sneaking people into the drive-in movie theater.

All this flash would be nothing if the T-bird's cabin and body didn't have a set of legs to ride on. These are provided by adjustable Carrera coilovers front and rear.

Like all decent motorcars that need to come to a halt, so do the articles about them. While, the former is done with Wilwood four-pot calipers and 13-inch rotors, the latter is usually done with a closing paragraph such as this:

Thrown together through a love for racing and wrenching, car owner Dave Liniger, shop owner John Metcalf, and head fabricator/mechanic Mike Hudson have teamed up with the rest of the crew at C4 to create a Thunderbird that truly transcends the ages, bringing the salacious lines of the '57 T-bird back to the forefront of our consciousness with the unbridled ecstasy of a modern chassis, power, and underpinnings.

"Dave said he wanted a car with big wheels, a big motor, and a loud stereo," said Hudson. Looks like that's exactly what he got. Hopefully, he feels "at home" with his new hot rod.

The Details
Dave Liniger's '57 Ford Thunderbird

Engine

  • 514ci crate engine from Ford Racing Performance Parts
  • 10.25:1 compression ratio 4.30-inch stroke
  • 4.39-inch bore
  • Eagle H-beam connecting rods Forged aluminum pistons
  • Ford Racing aluminum intake manifold
  • FRPP Aluminum Super Cobra Jet heads, 2.20-inch intake/1.76-inch exhaust valves
  • FRPP solid roller camshaft, 0.640-inch lift, 254/258 degrees duration at 0.050
  • Billet aluminum accessories
  • March serpentine drive system
  • Holley Dominator 1,050-cfm carburetor
  • Custom air filter by C4 Hot Rods

Transmission

  • Built C6 Automatic, Lokar shifter
  • 2,800-rpm-stall converter

Rearend

  • Art Morrison 9-inch, narrowed, Mark Williams nodular Motorsport limited slip differential and axles, 3.55 gears

Exhaust

  • Sanderson 1 7/8-inch headers, 2 1/2-inch ceramic-coated custom exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers

Suspension

    Front: Fatman Fabrication power rack-and-pinion front clip, Carrera coilover springs
  • Rear: Art Morrison four-link rear clip, Carrera coilover springs

Brakes

  • Front: Wilwood 13-inch rotors, Dynalite four-piston calipers
  • Rear: Wilwood 13-inch rotors, Dynalite four-piston calipers

Wheels

  • Front: Weld Rodlight XP wheels, 17x7
  • Rear: Weld Rodlight XP wheels, 18x12

Tires

  • Front: Michelin Pilot, P215/40ZR17
  • Rear: Michelin Pilot, P335/30ZR18

Interior

  • ididit steering column, Vintage Air heating and air conditioning system, Dakota digital instrumentation, custom stereo with amplifiers and CD changer, custom leather interior

Exterior

  • Smoothed all steel body, shaved emblems, PPG Red Spice base/clear, custom aluminum tube grille