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.