Empire Lambda New York Automobile Club

Coupe

Our Cars: Peter Lauria’s 1962 Ford Thunderbirds

by Roger on May.10, 2012, under 60's Cars, Convertible, Coupe, Ford, Our Cars, Thunderbird

A Picture Perfect Pair

Peter Writes:

It was March 17, 1964, I was 9 years old, and I remember very clearly getting off the school bus and seeing a new car in our driveway. WOW, I thought to myself, we got a new car AND it’s a convertible!!!

The car was Chestnut Brown with a black top. Upon closer inspection I saw that it wasn’t a convertible rather it was a vinyl-roofed hardtop with with simulated landau ‘S’ bars -I had never seen anything like that before. I was disappointed it wasn’t a convertible but my Dad explained he had almost bought a convertible but as with the top down there was no trunk he didn’t feel it was practical –oh well. In any event, something came over me and I instantly fell in love with this car. I didn’t even know what it was at the time but it was a 1962 Thunderbird Landau and I thought “WOW! we were special!”

My Dad took me for my first ride in the car to go to the bank.. As I slid into the front bucket seat and felt the copper metallic-finished leather bucket seat wrap around me and beheld all that beautiful interior chrome I was totally convinced that I wanted to own this car someday.

A few weeks later I noticed a neighbor down the street had the same car. It was beige with a black convertible top (now I knew the difference). I used to love to watch the top fold automatically into the trunk and disappear. Now I was conflicted as I wanted to have both cars. Boy, what a dreamer I was!

Over the years I kept the T-Bird polished inside and out and helped my Dad with the few repairs and maintenance it needed. My Mom used the car for work and used to drop off my Sister and me to school with it often. I always looked back as she drove away down the block wishing I was old enough to have it. The T-Bird just looked so beautiful with those two big round tail lights glowing like flames from a rocket ship.

Around 1970 my Dad put the old ‘Bird for sale as he felt it was time to update my Mom’s car. We had a 1964 Lincoln that my mom was now using as her car so the T-Bird sat in the garage unused awaiting its sale. I felt sad for it just sitting there waiting but I had no say in the matter. I remember one day a man came to see the T-Bird and was ready to buy it. They made a deal but at the last minute my Mom apparently had a change of heart and said she didn’t want to sell the car, she was so comfortable driving the T-Bird and she felt the Lincoln was too big for her. My sadness of losing the T-Bird suddenly changed to joy and my hopes of having it were alive again.

In my senior year of High School I took Drivers Ed. and needed a car to practice on. Since my Mom felt comfortable with the T-Bird and it was smaller than my Dad’s Cadillac I did my practicing and eventually took my road test in it. I’ll never forget the first time I got behind her wheel as a driver….. I started the motor, slid the swing-away steering wheel to the left and put the gear selector in Drive. I slightly depressed the accelerator pedal and she took off as beautiful and powerful as she looked.

In the spring of 1973 I was graduating from High School and my parents didn’t know what they should give me for a graduation present. Never thinking of a car, as I already had my Grandfather’s old 1957 Dodge Cornet, they surprised me with the ultimate gift – their 1962 Thunderbird Landau was finally mine!

I drove the car for the rest of the school year and took it to Daytona Beach Florida for college. We had a nice garage for it in Florida which continued her life shielded from the elements. I carefully drove her on the beach in Daytona keeping her far away from the water. In 1976 I drove the car back to NY and used it daily until 1979 when I decided she was going to be kept as a special interest car. From 1979 to 2005 I didn’t use the car often but always started it up and did some short trips to keep it going. My Dad and I did some work on it over those years just like we did when I was younger. It was one of the few things we had in common and were able to do together. We kept that car running so well over the years.

When my Dad passed away in 2004 I felt like a part of me was lost.. It wasn’t just the loss of a parent but also the loss of our joint commitment to the car, so to speak. A year later I turned 50 and felt it was time now to restore the T-Bird to her original beauty. After the car was fully restored I showed it to my Mom, since it was her car first. To my surprise she simply said “It looks the same”. I took that as a compliment, that the restoration brought the car back to it’s original showroom condition.

Oh, and for that 1962 T-Bird convertible our neighbor had – dreams can come true. In September 2011 I purchased a 1962 T-Bird convertible in Heritage Burgundy. This particular car was a very special find for me. My Dad had bought a 1963 T-Bird as a second car for a short time back in the mid 60’s and it was also Heritage Burgundy. The original owner added a Tonneau cover a month after it was purchased so while it’s not a true roadster, it has the same look of one. Finally the original owner of the car owned and cared for the car from 1962 to 1989 and documented everything he did to the car. This binder has been carried forward and updated by all the subsequent owners as well. I have every receipt for all service and maintenance, including every oil change for the past 50 years!

What a perfect car for me, it fulfills my childhood wish of possessing the Thunderbird convertible I imagined dad had purchased for those initial fleeting seconds in 1964 and my later fantasies of owning both the T-Bird coupe and convertible… What more could could my inner nine-year old want?

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