THE CAR AND ITS OWNER: 1957 Ford Thunderbird owned by Tom Grippa
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING: When the Beach Boys wrote their hit song, “Fun, Fun, Fun (‘til her daddy takes the T-Bird away),” they could have easily been thinking of a car like this. The two-seat Thunderbird built from 1955 to 1957 was the quintessential symbol of ‘50s prosperity and good times, and it outsold Chevrolet’s Corvette by a wide margin. “In ’57,” Grippa says, “the Thunderbird had a restyled front grille, rear deck and new bumpers. Other new features included the ‘Dial-O-Matic’ power seat, which had a memory setting, and a ‘Volumatic’ radio system, which automatically increased the radio volume as the car's speed increased.”
HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT: Grippa has owned the T-Bird since 2009. “It has been planned since I was 10 years old,” he says.
WHERE HE FOUND IT: He bought it in Riverhead from the brother of a family friend.
CONDITION: “The car was garaged, but not driven for about 13 years,” Grippa says. “It had a few coats of paint on it with no rust on the frame. The car did not start and had to be flat-bedded to my mechanic. On the way there, the fuel tank dislodged. That was just the first of many surprises to come.” Since then, Grippa has had the convertible restored to original specifications. His car, a Series D model, has a 245-horsepower V-8 engine with the “Fordomatic” automatic transmission.
TIPS FOR OWNERS: “Join a club first before buying a classic car,” he advises. “I joined the Thunderbird Club of New York after making my purchase. The people in the club were great. They helped me with suggestions on where to get parts, have work done and avoiding some of the mistakes they may have made.”
VALUE: Grippa estimates the value at $45,000.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “My Dad was a Ford man,” he says. “In 1962, he brought a 1960 ‘Colonial White’ Thunderbird home to be our family car. My Mom thought it was too sporty for a family car and wanted him to take it back. We kept the car for five years and I thought it was the coolest car in our neighborhood. When I started to attend car shows, I noticed the 1957 Thunderbird. I set my sights on a ’57 ‘Colonial White’ T-Bird and the rest his history. Every time I take my car out for a drive, I think of my dear old Dad. I know he's watching his son, who became a Ford man.”