“I always had this passion to bring back a classic car from the United States and initially, as I love surfing, I was considering a woody of some kind. I was thinking of a Chrysler Town and Country which was a two door vehicle with wooden panelling. I was out in Livonia, Michigan, about an hour out of Detroit and I saw one up there but it was in so many pieces and would be so much work, I just couldn’t have done it. The next day I went to the Henry Ford museum (Greenfield Village) and onto the Ford Rouche plant where they make the F150 and they have a display of finished Ford classics in their foyer and the last car on display was a 1955 T bird which I fell in love with! On my last day in Detroit before flying back home, I decided to look at the classifieds in Detroit and there was a T bird for sale just down the road in a warehouse.
It was 10am in the morning when I looked at this 1955 T Bird and made an offer. my flight back to Australia was at 6pm that night. Admittedly, I don’t know enough about cars to have even bought it but here I am, sitting in the departure lounge waiting for my flight out when the phone rang. I answered it and it was the warehouse. They accepted the offer I had made so I hopped on the plane a happy man! “reminisces Gary Hill, the now proud owner of a classic 1955 Ford T Bird!
While many may resonate with Gary’s story of how he came about his newly acquired pride and joy when comparing it to their own classic’s journey from purchase to reconstruction and finally to that first drive, we all hold our own stories close to our hearts as fond memories of a dream executed and subsequently conquered. This is Gary’s journey.
Having purchased the two door sports car, he had it shipped to New York to be transported over to our shores. Having never taken this mental path before, Gary and his wife, Mae, weren’t sure if they’d ever see the car again but the shipping company kept Gary in the loop with every move the car made giving them piece of mind through to the final destination. Gary’s previous experience with classic cars was owning a 19?? British built Morgan bought locally.
Once the Bird had cleared customs, Gary had it transported straight to Blackley Automotive in Geelong where owner, Brodie Blackley took it for a drive to assess its condition and then sit down with Gary to decide on the vehicle’s depth of restoration. While Gary freely admits to not being an in-depth automotive enthusiast, he was smart enough to decide it’s better to do it right the first time and not take the perceived easy way out. Gary’s wife Mae was a little less enthusiastic upon seeing the weather beaten sixty year old vehicle! “I had my doubts about it looking at this old thing! But when I sat in it, I thought, “Gee, this is comfortable and there’s so much vision around it!” Like all classics do, they have a way turning you around!
With the car stripped down and the body mounted onto a rotisserie in the workshop, Gary set about stripping off the years of road grime and sealant while Brodie outsourced the rebuild of the 292ci small block V8. Gary spent weeks getting familiar with the underside of this old girl with a scraper and wire brush before covering her cleaned and freshly painted interior and doors with Dynamat for a comfortable and quiet ride when completed. Gary is amazed at just how well the sound deadener works exclaiming “It’s now so quiet inside!”
Considering this American classic came from Motor City, a place renowned for snow and rusty rides due to the salted roads, it had very little rust in it except for a common structural area under the A pillars. As these cars were put together with spot welding instead of the standard bolt together system, Brodie had to access the cancer by surgically cutting open the front guards!
“When I was in Detroit the next year, I knew what I wanted to do with the car so I went around to a number of restoration places that were working on T Birds and took hundreds of photos to use as references for the rebuild as well as found the original workshop manual which was a big thick book giving me all the information I required” says Gary.
He was also able to contribute to the project by taking home many of the smaller parts for a good scrub, a polish or a respray before laying them out in their various groups in the spare bedroom. What couldn’t be restored was sourced from NPD in America before all being returned to Blackely Automotive for final reassembly.
With the classic sports car resprayed in bright red and the convertible hard top changed to contrasting white, the small V8 with two barrel carby was mated to the three speed manual box before being carfully reinserted into the gleaming engine bay. All electrical wiring has been skilfully rerouted under the guards giving the business end of the coupe a clean tidy appearance. All that was required of the interior was a bit of elbow grease and a good scrub to bring the 4 way electric bench seat and side panelling back to its former glory while a new dash pad in red vinyl completed the cockpit.
With the completion of the 18 month restoration, Mae says” We can now use it with our newly established club, the BBCCC (Baby Boomer Classic Car Club)!” Gary tells us how the club came to be; “Comically, when I came back from Detroit, I was chatting with a couple of fellow car enthusiasts and said “I might start a car club and call it the Baby Boomer Classic Car Club. These guys are also members of the Barwon Heads Golf Club and have classic cars and thought it was a great idea! So now we’ve created a car club within the golf club. There’s ten families in the club.” “With our group of friends, what we do is, we go for a drive to somewhere for lunch or we drive to another golf course and play golf before having a bite to eat and heading home” Mae chimes in.
With such a classic treasure to be driven whenever possible on our roads, it goes without saying that comprehensive insurance is a must and Gary has chosen to insure his pride and joy with Rhino Insurance Company. “Rhino have been so good to work with. When I bought the car out, my contact at Rhino, Tim, looked at the photos I sent him of the T bird and he valued it for me for laid up insurance. I revalued the car myself with the help of Blackley Automotive and we felt that Rhino had over valued the car. I spoke to Tim about it but he was happy to leave the value at the original value and thanked me for letting him know. I spoke to Rhino recently now that it’s back on the road and we have an agreed on-road value and have also included my classic 1981 BMW motorcycle. They’ve been great!” claims Gary. With a good insurance company and a well-executed restoration, Gary and Mae can cruise comfortable in the knowledge they’re safe and sound and have many happy motoring memories to look forward to ahead of them!