August 1, 2007

You've got to get darned excited about a ride like this. It's a '57 Thunderbird that bridges the generations with solid good looks, sweet creature comforts, and raw power under the beak. Purists won't feel completely comfortable with it because the '57 T-bird never came with an FE-Series big-block, which wasn't available in the car until 1958. Those courting a wild imagination can appreciate this Thunderbird for its slippery elongated and finned torso, plucked fender skirts, Halibrand kidney-bean wheels, pristine black and white vinyl interior with engine-turned aluminum appointments, efficient late-model air conditioning, and powerful, 427-based, 452ci stroker.

Alan Hasuike's Thunderbird is an inspiration to people who love performance and personal luxury in a stylish, futuristic two-seater. This brute black 'Bird wasn't much more to Alan than cool college transportation when he bought it from Joe Fisher {{{Ford}}} in Portland, Oregon, in the mid-'60s. At the time, he never dreamed it would still be in his life 40 years later. Early in the going, he lost the keys at the bottom of {{{Spirit}}} Lake, which was later buried by the smoke and ash from Mount St. Helens. He laughed when he told us he had to break into and hot-wire the car to get home after a day of water skiing. Red-faced, he adds former President Harry Truman gave him and a friend hell for stirring up his fishing hole.

When Alan bought this car four decades ago, it had the original 312ci Y-block V-8. In 1967, he swapped in a 401-horse '61 390 tri-power big-block with a four-speed Top Loader and 4.11 gears. The result was a retro rocket that got him a lot of respect. In 1968, Alan was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington, not far from home. While there, he befriended Bill Carroll, a Ford uddy from Hillsboro, Oregon, with a 427 Galaxie. Before Alan and Bill shipped out to Vietnam, they checked out each other's Fords during leave. While cruising the drag in Portland, they happened upon a brand-new '68 {{{Plymouth}}} Road Runner looking for trouble. "Twenty-five bucks says you can't beat us!" Bill said to the guy in the Road Runner. Cocky and ready, the guy in the Mopar said, "You're on!" Alan admits he was caught completely off guard by the exchange. When he asked Bill if he was crazy and trying to get arrested, Bill responded, "It would be a shame if we didn't go to Vietnam."

The three cars-a Road Runner, a Thunderbird, and a Galaxie-cracked throttles from a rolling start on the freeway. Had Bill known what the Road Runner had underhood, he might not have proposed the bet. But at wide-open throttle, maxed out at speed, the Road Runner ran out of breath, getting passed up by two aggressive Fords. When Bill and Alan stopped to collect on the bet, Bill was stunned to see "426 HEMI" on the Road Runner's hood.

While Alan was in Vietnam, he entertained Thunderbird dreams in a steamy tropical climate far from his native Oregon. During his tour of duty, he was awarded a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, an Air Medal, an Army Commendation, and more for his hard-won efforts. At times, Alan wasn't certain he would ever see his family again, let alone his Thunderbird. Inspiration came from what he read in car magazines a world away.

When he was discharged from the Army in 1970, he learned restoring the Thunderbird would not be easy, nor would it come soon. Parts were scarce and tough to come by. There would be a family to raise and a life to live. In a moment of desperation, Alan put the 'Bird up on blocks and bought a 427 Corvette Stingray. It would be a long time before he would get back to the Thunderbird.

In 1999, Alan decided to revisit his T-bird. He blew off the dust and got after the rust, conceiving and building something he would affectionately name "Black Bird." The name had significant meaning for Alan. His father worked for Lockheed-California's Skunk Works during development of the SR-71 Black Bird spy plane. Ironically, both the SR-71 and the two-seat Thunderbird were developed around the same time. The SR-71 high-altitude spy plane came at a time when the Soviet threat was real, and the nation needed a super-fast reconnaissance aircraft to keep an eye on Moscow. Satellite spy technology ultimately made the SR-71 obsolete, mandating its retirement during the '90s. However, the SR-71's service record and performance cannot be underestimated. It served honorably for three decades.

Alan's urethane black Thunderbird serves him as honorably as the SR-71 served the free world. Black Bird keeps him free to chase what pleases him most-brute performance and raw speed. Alan's restoration remains faithful to the Thunderbird loyal because he didn't alter the body in any way. It retains the elements that make Thunderbirds breathtaking. Yet, it yields a pulse-quickening lean persona worthy of an "Engineered In Excellence" at the Hot Rod Happening in 2002. It has consistently won First Place and Best of Show awards around the Pacific Northwest as well.

To fully appreciate what Alan has done, you need to know more about his stroked 427 powerhouse. This is a mild-mannered, highly streetable 427 stroker fitted with a 428 crank for additional displacement from the 427 cross-bolt big-bore block. Topped with Edelbrock heads and induction along with an aggressive flat tappet hydraulic cam and good port matching, the 452 offers a unique combination of docile performance and all-out, balls-on snap at high rpm.

Alan's vintage Black Bird teaches us the exacting science of restomod because it is tasteful in every way. It retains the dynamic lines of the era while giving Alan the ride of his life-something he dreamed of in the jungles of Vietnam a lifetime ago.

1957-Was It Heaven?

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower is president
  • The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first man-made satellite
  • First civil rights bill passed, protecting the Black vote
  • Ford sells more cars than Chevrolet
  • Hurricane Audrey slams into Cameron, Louisiana, killing 390
  • Cat in the Hat is published by Dr. Seuss
  • Detroit Lions win the NFL championship
  • Milwaukee defeats the New York Yankees in the World Series
  • Bobby Fischer becomes world chess champ-at 13
  • Brooklyn, New York, loses the Dodgers to Los Angeles
  • "Beatnik" becomes a household word-can you dig it?
  • Paranoia canvasses the continent from red scare, cold-war politics
  • No one has heard of the Internet
  • The Touch Tone telephone is 10 years away
  • It takes 7-9 hours to cross the continent in a pre-jet-age Douglas DC-6
  • Vietnam is a distant, French-involved conflict
  • Leave It to Beaver debutes on CBS
  • Classic Thunderbird Facts

  • The Thunderbird name was conceived by Ford stylist Alden "Gib" Giberson
  • Although it is widely rumored porthole windows began in 1957, they were first ffered on the '56 Thunderbird
  • The decision was made in 1955 to build a four-seat Thunderbird in 1958 ecause there was larger market potential for four-seat cars. At the time, sales figures for two-seat Thunderbirds were unknown
  • It took 15,000 units to begin turning a profit during the mid-'50s
  • The best two-seat Thunderbird sales year was 1957 at 21,380 units
  • Supercharging was available only in 1957
  • Dual four-barrel carburetion was available only in 1957
  • Ford sold 37,892 four-seat Thunderbirds in 1958
  • Ford sold a whopping 1,674,448 '57 Fords, including Thunderbirds, beating hevrolet that year
  • Although commonly referred to as a sports car, the Thunderbird was always a personal luxury car-never a sports car
  • Other names considered for the Thunderbird were Beaver, Detroiter, Runabout (yes, Runabout), Arcturus, Savile, El Tigre, and Coronado
  • The Thunderbird was first shown to the public at the Detroit Auto Show in February 1954
  • The '55 Thunderbird first went on sale on October 22, 1954
  • Ford expected to build just 10,000 units. It built 16,155 for 1955
  • The Thunderbird was introduced with the 292ci Mercury Y-block V-8
  • The 312ci Y-Block V-8 was introduced for 1956 and continued for 1957
  • Former Ford executive (later Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy administration) Bob McNamara concluded Thunderbird needed four seats to be a seller
  • Classic Thunderbirds were full-frame cars. The '58-'66 T-birds were of unit-body construction with shock towers like the Falcon, Fairlane, and Mustang
  • The original Thunderbird was designed by George Walker, Lewis D. Crusoe, and Frank Hershey. Crusoe was a retired GM design executive hired by Henry Ford II during the early '50s
  • How badly do you want a '57 T-bird?
    Resale values are pushing $75,000 for average restorations
  • SR-71 Black Bird-Eye In The Sky

  • World's fastest air-breathing, highest- flying aircraft
  • Based at Beale AFB, California
  • Holds record for fastest New York to London flight-80,000 feet at over 2,000 mph-with an average speed of 1,807 mph-in under two hours. Exact time to cross the Atlantic was 1 hour, 54 minutes, 56. 4 seconds. SR-71 slowed one time for refueling from a specially modified USAF KC-135Q model jet tanker
  • This world-breaking record was set in 1974 by Major James V. Sullivan and Noel F. Widdlefield
  • This same airplane flew 5,447 miles back to Los Angeles in 3 hours, 47 minutes, breaking windows in places along its route (sonic boom) on the way home
  • SR-71 uses a special jelly-like jet fuel called JP-8
  • Pilots wear pressurized space suits due to the 80,000- to 100,000-foot cruise altitude
  • Exceeds Mach 3 and outflies the Earth's rotational speed, which means it flies faster than the sun crosses the sky. Mach 1 is 741.4 mph at sea level. Mach 2 is twice that. Mach 3 is three times that
  • In the SR-71, you can have breakfast in New York City and have another one in Los Angeles before you left New York state
  • Think your classic Ford is fast? The SR-71 flies 33 miles in 1 minute. That's 3,000 feet in 1 second. Let's see your quarter-mile e.t. timeslip
  • The SR-71 is made of titanium and composite materials
  • The SR-71 was the world's first truly stealth airplane
  • Fifty SR-71s were built, then all tooling was destroyed
  • The SR-71's cameras can photograph a golf ball on a putting green at 80,000 feet
  • The SR-71 was designed with a slide rule, not a computer
  • A total of 478 people have flown the SR-71-a fortunate few Information courtesy SR-71 Web site.
  • The Details
    '57 Ford Thunderbird
    Owner: Alan Hasuike, Tigard, OR

    452ci FE-series big-block V-84.250-inch bore, 3.98-inch stroke Nodular iron 428ci crankshaft Forged Eagle I-beam rods Aries forged pistons Crower flat tappet hydraulic camshaft, 0.540/0.540-inch lift, 320/320 duration Comp Cams 1.76:1 roller rockers Port-matched Edelbrock heads Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold Holley {{{850}}}-cfm 4160 double-pumper Autolite dual-point distributor w/PerTronix Ignitor MSD 6AL ignition FPA ceramic coated headers, 131/44-inch primary tubes, and 211/42-inch collectors

    Close-Ratio Top Loader four-speed

    9-inch3.25 gearsDetroit Locker differential31-spline axles

    Edelbrock mufflers211/42-inch dual exhaust

    Front: Dropped spindles, heavy-duty replacement partsRear: De-arched leaf springs, heavy-duty replacement parts

    Front: 11-inch disc
    Rear: 11-inch disc

    Front: Halibrand, 15x7-inch, 311/42-inch offset
    Rear: Halibrand, 15x711/42-inch, 4-inch offset

    Front: BFGoodrich, P225/60ZR15
    Rear: BFGoodrich, P225/60ZR15

    Black and white vinyl with engine-turned aluminum appointments
    Factory power seat (an option in 1957)
    Stock N.O.S. steering wheel
    Custom removable tonneau cover
    VDO instruments
    Custom Autosound stereo system
    Aftermarket air conditioningFactory power windows (also a cool '57 option)

    PPG Black urethane basecoat/clearcoat applied by Alan and his friendDon Randall