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Early Ford Thunderbirds

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Ryan, Dec 17, 2007.

  1. Jeem
    Joined: Sep 12, 2002
    Posts: 5,885

    Alliance Vendor

    Yessir, I like it.

    droppedstepside likes this.
  2. autobilly
    Joined: May 23, 2007
    Posts: 3,094


    T'birds- enough said by every one else. Although, if you like late 50's ford styling, the lines arn't too bad. Make mine a Vicky.
  3. RODMAN58
    Joined: Jan 1, 2006
    Posts: 272

    from VIRGINIA

    I always dug the baby birds. The 312 bird motor was no dog. It was fords answer to the vette. It turned out to attract a different sort of following but still found it's way onto the strip. We've all seen bird and vette gassers. I still think they are cool. I don't know how a 312 stacks up against a 283 in side by side but I'd like know. Anybody recall seeing side by sides with vette's and birds? I do know the europeans were not laughing when the GT cars rolled out in the 60's.
  4. roadkillontheweb
    Joined: Dec 28, 2006
    Posts: 1,379


    The early birds were never cut out for racing.
    droppedstepside likes this.
  5. Dominick Hide
    Joined: Dec 13, 2007
    Posts: 218

    Dominick Hide

    Tell that to the guys in the staging lanes!

  6. beatnik
    Joined: Nov 8, 2002
    Posts: 2,207


    few more bird pics

    Attached Files:

  7. richcraft.spl
    Joined: Nov 30, 2006
    Posts: 234


    Here is a pic. of my 57 t-bird its just a cruiser now . My dad use to race it with a 427 medium riser and a toploader in it . one day ill put her back into the drag form.


    Cooon, Gasser 57, bchctybob and 6 others like this.
  8. AV8-Rider
    Joined: Jan 31, 2002
    Posts: 909


    Europeans versus T-Birds.
    I can speak for Scandinavia only.
    Here we have a lot of classic US cars.
    Probably the highest density pr. citicen outside the US.

    The early birds where quite early, (mid 70's) a popular and expensive car. They became pricy long before other models the general HAMBER would prefere.
    They still are.
    Most of the birds overe here are in pretty stock condition.
    Has generally been a car you restore and not hopping up.
    Go to a US car meet over here and you will see many birds. ......I'll guaranty that a poodle skirt can be spotted close by at any time.

    With a few exeptions I would take a Vette any time.

  9. Minewithnoshine
    Joined: May 17, 2007
    Posts: 938


    Mike, the Bird the way it looks like now is what it is known for in our times, but back in our dad's times, the drag version was what it was all about, either way it's a killer car!
  10. Harrie
    Joined: Dec 1, 2007
    Posts: 1


    This is the R&C article from October 1994.
    She's one beautiful car alright. My apologies if the pic quality isnt great.

    Attached Files:

    droppedstepside likes this.
  11. BTTT so Ted Kempgens can see this. :)
  12. Awesome! :eek: Doane Spencer was a legend. Who goes to the trouble of making ther own wheels?!!?
  13. 6t5frlane
    Joined: Dec 8, 2004
    Posts: 2,381

    from New York

    I agrree the Cars are just flat out pretty ! But I disagree with your thoughts on Ford's idea of them. Everybody knows that their inspiration probably was the Corvette. I think they took the 2 seat idea and went in a different direction, hence " The Personall Lux Car " Yeah they had a performance version but I really do not think they were trying to make a Corvette
    bchctybob likes this.
  14. Bigcheese327
    Joined: Sep 16, 2001
    Posts: 6,691


    I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the Don Francisco 'Bird. I always loved that car.

    bchctybob likes this.
  15. mtkawboy
    Joined: Feb 12, 2007
    Posts: 1,213


    I saw a black SOHC 427 powered Bird at Bonneville in the spectator area that was a work of art a few years back. You could spend hours over & under it finding all the trick little mods on it
    SOHC427 likes this.
  16. Lobucrod
    Joined: Mar 22, 2006
    Posts: 4,122

    Alliance Vendor
    from Texas

    Here's a pic of my buddies bird I snapped when we went to see the Great Race when It came through Lubbock. Im sure he'll jump in here with some better ones when he finds this thread. Several of you probably saw it at the HAMB drags this year. This is the only pic I could find, I was getting ideas for the flames for the coupe.
  17. Silhouettes 57
    Joined: Dec 9, 2006
    Posts: 2,791

    Silhouettes 57

    I agree with your comments. Good looking cars.
  18. scottrod2
    Joined: Nov 23, 2005
    Posts: 195

    from Columbus

    On the way back from Bowling Green HRR number 2.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2014
    droppedstepside likes this.
  19. Lowlife
    Joined: Dec 8, 2001
    Posts: 397

    from MO. USA

    This would have to be my favorite 'bird, Baskerville's story from the April '93 R&C.

    Attached Files:

    By Ray Brock*
    Our first meeting with Karol Miller took place in the middle of the hot, blinding expanse of the
    Bonneville salt flats in August of 1956. None of the old time hot rodders who had been
    participating yearly at the annual SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) National Speed
    Trials knew anything about this soft-spoken Texan -- he just drove in one day near the start of the
    week-long meet and asked for an entry blank.
    Unlike most of the other Bonneville entrants, Karol wasn’t towing the car he intended to race, he
    was driving it. He and a friend had decided to see what the famous salt flats looked like so they
    threw a couple of sleeping bags in Karol’s 1956 Ford Victoria and left Houston for the 2000-mile
    drive to western Utah. Karol was used to long drives though for his full-time job was operating oil
    exploration teams for his father’s Houston-based drilling company and the test locations might be
    all over the country, from Louisiana to North Dakota. When the two Texans and the Ford arrived
    on the salt, there was already more than 25,000 miles logged on the odometer. A 3.23 rear axle
    ratio was fitted to the car and an overdrive transmission was used. The O-D was strictly for
    highway cruising, giving a 2.26 final ratio.
    As Karol explained later, the 25,000 miles on the engine didn’t hurt his chances at all; they made
    the engine nice and loose. During the few months prior to Bonneville, Karol had performed quite a
    few experiments with the car and knew that it was running good. The pan had never been off the
    engine but a fresh valve job had been given the cylinder heads. Ports and valve sizes remained
    stock. An Iskenderian E-2 camshaft and spring kit were installed and an Edelbrock dual-quad
    intake manifold was fitted with a pair of Holley carburetors. A Mallory ignition with centrifugal
    advance weights was used in place of the stock distributor which used only vacuum advance.
    Total spark advance was about 38º.
    Karol used Ford cab-over truck carburetor bonnets on each of the four-barrels with flexible
    ducting to the fresh air vents which passed beneath the inner fender panels on their way to the
    passenger compartment. These ducts provided cool air directly to the carburetors for maximum
    induction efficiency. As the car speed increased, so did the air pressure through the ducts so
    jetting was complicated somewhat by the slight pressurization of the carburetors at high speed.
    Karol experimented with jetting quite a while before he found the right combination.
    Stock ’56 312 exhaust manifolds were used on the engine with a pair of cutout plugs fitted so the
    mufflers could be bypassed by uncapping the head pipes 24 inches downstream from the
    manifolds. The Ford chassis was stock except for a set of heavy-duty Monroe shock absorbers.
    The rear spring shackles were reversed from their normal tension position to a compression
    position, giving the rear of the car a noticeable forward rake. Stock street tires with most of the
    heavy tread rubber buffed off by a retreading shop were pumped up to 60 pounds at the front, 50
    pounds at the rear.
    Since Karol Miller was an "unknown" to the predominantly West Coast entrants at Bonneville, no
    particular attention was paid to the orange and white hardtop coupe as it pulled away from the
    starting line on its first run. Some minutes later when the speed of almost 140 miles per hour was
    flashed back from the finish line 2 1/4 miles away, many thought that perhaps a timing mistake
    had been made. The speed was unheard of for a Ford sedan.
    Hot rodders hadn’t thought anybody would have much success using the Y-block Ford engine
    with the odd intake port arrangement but, all of a sudden, here was a Ford with 312 cubic inches
    running in a popular sedan class that permitted from 305 to 488 cubic inches and it was beating
    almost everybody. The only car that could hold its own was a ’56 Chrysler 300 with a 400-inch
    stroker engine. These two cars battled for the whole week before the Chrysler emerged the
    winner at 141 mph with Miller’s Ford runner-up at 139-plus. By the end of the week, everyone
    knew who Karol Miller was and they were also starting to revise their thinking about Ford’s Y-V8
    Although Karol Miller had been unknown to the regulars at Bonneville in 1956, he had already
    earned a reputation as a sharp tuner of Fords on his own home grounds around Houston. His first
    Ford was s 1949 coupe which he bought new and, in his own words, "just played around with it a
    little to see if I could make it run better." Among the changes made were the installation of Merc
    crankshaft and pistons to enlarge the displacement to 255 cubic inches. Carburetion, ignition and
    other changes made Miller’s ’49 the scourge of the area and all those who had tried
    unsuccessfully to take his measure on some of the long straight Texas roads were mighty happy
    to see him join the Army early in 1950.
    After Army duty, Karol bought a 1953 Ford with the then new overhead valve six. A short time
    later Karol was back in the thick of things after he’d milled the head to up the compression,
    installed dual carburetion, opened up the exhaust and a few other little Miller touches to aid
    performance. It didn’t take the boys in the Houston area long to learn that Karol was back in
    circulation because the I-block six proceeded to show its taillights to all the hot flatheads in town.
    The next Ford was a 1955 model with the 292-inch engine. Karol installed T-bird heads which
    had been milled and ended up with a compression ratio of about 9.5:1. A four-barrel carburetor
    was also used. A few more Miller improvements and the ’55 Ford attained its proper spot as top
    dog in the neighborhood. After the ’55 came the ’56 Vicky and that’s where we came in.
    After shaking up contestants and spectators at Bonneville, Karol went home, made a few minor
    changes to the engine and decided to take in the 1957 NASCAR Speedweeks event at Daytona
    Beach, Florida, where speed trials were held on the hard packed sand each February. Since the
    car was not of current model year and not strictly stock, it was required to run in the Experimental
    class. Rough beach conditions held up the meet for several days before Karol got a chance to run
    but when the time finally arrived, the Vicky set sail for a two-way average of 140.070 mph over
    the measured mile. This speed placed Miller well up in the class standings ahead of many high
    powered entries from factory-sponsored race teams.
    During the waiting period from Daytona to the 1957 Bonneville Nationals in August, Karol made a
    number of changes beneath the hood of his ’56. First of all, he decided to play it smart and quit
    trying to compete against as much as 488 cubic inches in D class with his 312 and drop back to C
    class for gas coupes and sedans. The class limit was 305 cubic inches for C class. Karol took a
    292-inch block and crank, bored .060-inch oversize and came up with 302 inches. 1957 cylinder
    heads gave the larger intake valves needed and Karol also fitted 1/8-inch larger than stock
    exhaust valves to the heads.
    With larger exhaust valves, the combustion chambers in the head crowded the valve closely and
    would obviously cause restriction to gas flow. Karol opened the chambers out generously around
    both intake and exhaust valves to improve flow and the lengthened chambers were then wider
    than the cylinder opening. Carefully, the top of each cylinder bore was chamfered from the
    chamber outline to a point just above the top of ring travel. This eliminated the ledge at the top of
    the bore which extended into the enlarged chamber. All of the grinding to the cylinder head and
    block gave an extremely large volume in the combustion chamber. To get the needed high
    compression for maximum performance, Karol used Jahns deflector head pistons and then milled
    the heads .100-inch to reach the desired ratio of 11:1.
    Karol then selected an Isky cam for the engine but this time it was a "smoothie" grind with high
    rpm potential and less torque than the E-2. Karol devised his own stroboscopic test stand to
    check valve action at various engine speeds. In the single stall garage behind the family home,
    Karol mounted a Y-V8 block on an old kitchen table, installed a cam, tightened down an old
    cylinder head with single intake and exhaust valve in one chamber, used a pair of lifters and
    pushrods to drive rocker arms actuating these valves, dropped a distributor in place and then
    drove the setup by a small 3 hp four-cycle utility engine.
    A battery supplied primary voltage to the distributor which operated in the conventional manner
    but with only one secondary lead which was connected to a timing light. A V-belt from the small
    engine turned the cam fitted with two sprockets to give a wider surface for the belt to ride on.
    With this setup, Karol checked out dozens of combinations in cams, springs, valve weights,
    rocker ratios, etc. Advancing or retarding the distributor gave stroboscopic viewing through the
    timing light. By the time late summer rolled around and Karol was ready for Bonneville, he had
    come up with a perfect combination. Both intake and exhaust valves were lightened the limit; an
    Isky Ford inner spring and Isky Chevy outer, plus an Isky Chevy retainer and .060-inch shims
    under the outer springs made the valve gear stable in excess of 7200 rpm.
    The Edelbrock dual intake manifold was retained with four-barrel Holleys, but had been carefully
    matched to enlarged ports. Fresh air to the carburetors was doubled in volume with two large
    flexible hoses to each carburetor bonnet from openings behind the grille. The exhaust system
    also came in for its share of attention as Karol attempted to "tune" for maximum power at about
    6000 rpm. Individual 1 1/2-inch pipes 32 inches long from each port extended almost straight out,
    through a long narrow opening in each front fender. A little rough on appearance but darned
    helpful for performance.
    Since Karol still didn’t have the finances needed for a second car to tow or trailer the Vicky, he
    again drove it to Bonneville for the ’57 meet. Since the outer valve springs were almost coil bound
    with the high rpm setup, horseshoe shaped shims .060 thick which had been fitted under the
    outer springs were removed to lessen possible cam wear on the 2000-mile jaunt. Stock exhaust
    manifolds were also fitted for the trip.
    When Karol arrived at the salt, the first day was spent installing the spring shims, headers,
    carburetor air ducting and setting the chassis up for minimum rolling resistance. Engine oil was
    used in the transmission, overdrive and front wheel bearings. Wynn oil was used to thin out the
    rear end lubricant. Rear shackles were reversed to raise the rear of the car for improved air flow
    beneath the car. Trimmed down tires with little tread rubber were used with high inflation
    When everything was set to go, Karol drove the car up to the starting line and took off on his first
    run. This time, spectators and contestants knew who he was and all activity stopped while they
    watched. Through low and second gears, Karol twisted the engine up to a spine-tingling 7200
    rpm and then shifted into high gear. 2 1/4 miles away at the finish line, the impressive sounding
    Ford approached rapidly and then roared through the timing traps at a speed of 149-plus mph.
    With the 3.23 gearing, engine rpm was about 6100.
    The reason for the high rpm through the gears was to keep engine speed up within the best
    power range after shifting. If shifted at less than 7000 rpm from second to high, rpm would fall
    below 5000 rpm and the engine would not pick up speed.
    Throughout the week of the ’57 meet, the Ford ran consistently near the 150 mph mark. The only
    trouble encountered was a blown head gasket and once it was replaced, speed went right back to
    its normal. By the end of the week, Karol Miller had set a new C Gas Coupe/Sedan record twoway
    average of 150.097 mph for the flying mile. The speed was almost 13 miles per hour faster
    than the previous record held by a Chevy. The 302-inch Ford with the impressive 7000-plus
    exhaust tone was one of the sensations of the ’57 Bonneville meet.
    Again the following February, Karol took in the Daytona Beach Trials but this time he went to an
    even smaller engine displacement and then topped it off with a Latham axial-flow supercharger.
    The engine was a 272 fitted with Karol’s special valve gear, reworked heads, an Isky blower cam,
    the tuned headers, Mallory ignition and the Latham competition blower with four side-draft Zenith
    carburetors. Running ten pounds boost, Karol shocked other contestants in the Experimental
    class by averaging 153 mph over a rough beach and walked away with the class win. The ’56
    Victoria was the fastest car on the beach in 1958. After the success shown with the blower, it was
    only natural for Karol to retain the combination for the ’58 Bonneville Nationals. Since the use of a
    blower automatically jumps cars one class under SCTA rules, the engine size was cut back even
    further so that it would fall under the B class maximum of 259 cubic inches. Then, the addition of
    the Latham blower would again raise the car into C class.
    To drop the engine displacement to 259 inches, Karol used a ’54 Merc crank with 3.100-inch
    stroke and then bored the block .010-inch over standard ’54 Merc bore (3.625) to achieve the
    proper size. Again the engine was topped by the head, valve and cam setup worked out by Karol
    on the table in his garage. Compression was held to 8.5:1 for use with the blower. With a smaller
    engine displacement than he’d run at Daytona, Karol contacted Norm Latham for blower
    information and switched to a unit that had fewer vanes at a slighter pitch for use at Bonneville.
    When Karol rolled onto the salt for the ’58 meet, driving the car from Texas as always, the Ford
    was again the center of attention. After a day of engine and chassis setup, Karol proved that he
    still had the magic touch as the little 259 inch Y-V8 plus blower exceeded the 150 mph mark on
    the first run. By the end of the week, Karol had raised his C class record slightly to 151.997 mph
    and had a one-way qualification speed of 153.32 mph. At the 4300 foot elevation of Bonneville,
    the lower boost Latham did not put out the pressure Karol had hoped for so he actually went
    home unsatisfied although everybody else thought he’d done great.
    The ’56 Victoria was retired from competition after the ’58 Bonneville meet and returned to strictly
    highway use with a 312-inch engine until late 1959 when with 120,000 miles on the odometer, it
    was sold to make way for a new 1960 Ford Starliner coupe. Karol really intended to quit racing
    when he bought the ’60 Ford and it had the standard 352-inch engine with hydraulic lifters, power
    steering and even air conditioning. By the time summer rolled around though, Karol got the urge
    again and, in a matter of two weeks, put together an engine for another fling at the salt flats.
    The 352 engine was bored .090-inch over to take stock Edsel replacement pistons. Edsels used a
    .050 larger standard bore for 361 inches and with .040-inch oversize, a total of 368 cubic inches
    was realized, placing the Ford in a newly established BX Gas Coupe/Sedan class with a
    displacement limit of 370 cubic inches. Karol then borrowed a few engine pieces from a friend
    who had purchased one of Ford’s 360 hp high performance 1960 cars. The 360 hp heads were
    milled .030-inch to give a compression ratio of 11:1 and otherwise left stock. The four-barrel
    aluminum intake manifold was used and equipped with a ’59 Lincoln four-barrel carburetor which
    had larger capacity than the standard Holley. An Isky RR8000 cam and spring kit was installed
    and these pieces were the only non-Ford parts used. Exhaust headers were the factory cast iron
    items; distributor and wiring were 360 Ford.
    As always, the car was driven to Bonneville, this time with the added luxury of power steering and
    air conditioning. After arriving at the salt and passing through the inspection line, Karol drove it to
    the pit area, changed tires, removed the power steering and air conditioning belts and made a
    warm-up run. The car left the starting line with just a slight whisper from the stock dual exhaust
    system and a few minutes later word flashed back from the finish line that the Ford had registered
    a cool 150 mph -- with mufflers.
    After bypassing the exhaust system and performing a little tune-up, Karol qualified for a record
    run at 158.17 mph and then set a new record average of 157.902 mph. When the meet was over,
    Karol slipped the belts back on for power steering and air conditioning and headed back to Texas.
    Early in 1962, Karol sold the ’60 Starliner with 95,000 miles on the odometer and it was still going
    We talked to Karol in May of 1962 and he was driving a Fairlane 500 with the 260-inch V8. He
    hadn’t made up his mind just what he was going to do for the ’62 Bonneville meet, if anything, but
    he did confess that he had looked the Fairlane engine over pretty good.
    If Karol does show up at Bonneville this summer, you can bet that he’ll be driving a Ford product
    of one type or another and you can also bet that whatever class he chooses to enter will have a
    new record hung up before the week is over. With his slow, Texas drawl, Karol doesn’t make
    much noise -- he lets his Fords speak for him and their voices are loud.
    *From the FORD PERFORMANCE HANDBOOK, 1962, by Ray Brock and the Editors of HOT
    ROD magazine.
    jimmy six and kidcampbell71 like this.
  21. salty40
    Joined: Dec 1, 2007
    Posts: 21


    Very very impressive. I love to hear and read stories like this, guys like Miller, Yunick, Garlits, Spencer, and others. They inspire me to get out in the garage and get to work, even if I can never match their expertise. I'm not sure if Karol Miller is alive today, but I will goddam guarantee he does not spend any time playing on a computer.

    Still trying tothink of a witty signiture
  22. BAD ROD
    Joined: Dec 16, 2004
    Posts: 1,535


    I have a soft spot for tri 5 birds. My dad bought, and still owns a 1957 E-series with a 3 speed overdrive. I got to drive it to high shool. It is a pretty cool car.

  23. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,752


    That was a really nice Bird.

    Lynn Wineland also built a nice one that was featured as a project car in R&C; nicely customized and hopped up, he ran it at the drags and lakes too.
  24. Ryan doesn't like my car...:(
  25. unclescooby
    Joined: Jul 5, 2004
    Posts: 4,966

    from indy

    Tom's 57 just does it for me. That car is sooooo freakin cool.

    Attached Files:

  26. BAD ROD
    Joined: Dec 16, 2004
    Posts: 1,535


    He's still young, give him time. :)
    SOHC427 likes this.
  27. Durod
    Joined: Aug 20, 2005
    Posts: 809

    from DFW, Tx

    im diggin' it, too...
    Spoggie likes this.
  28. My 57 T-Bird Since 1968. Cross bolt 427 Ford W/ Tri Power, beefed C-6, Corvett IRS, 4 Wheel dics brakes,and Zenith wire wheels.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 13, 2009
    Gasser 57, Oldb, SOHC427 and 4 others like this.
  29. madpole
    Joined: Apr 9, 2007
    Posts: 629


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