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I have a 1956 Fiesta red Ford Thunderbird that I want to do a frame on restoration. I plan to start about mid May of this year. I will start by removing the engine and transmission. This will open up the engine bay as I want to paint back to new again. There is a dustless blaster company about 20 mile from me that I plan to have them remove the paint from the body, hood & trunk. They charge $700 for the 2 hour or less process. This will save a lot of time and they have plenty of experience so as not to warp the metal. I plan to have the car on a lift while cleaning the underneath. There have been several small oil leaks that have covered the complete underneath and overall, the underneath looks good. It just needs cleaned and painted. I will remove the exhaust and gas tank so I have better view of the frame for cleaning. I will spray the frame with KBS Klean, then OSPHO to etch the frame, then apply KBS primer, then KBS paint. The motor and transmission will be painted while it is out. There are 28,000 miles on the car and I plan to have a compression check done to see if an overhaul is in order. The car runs and shifts well. I will keep the body with Fiesta red when painted. Although the seats are in good condition I would like to reupholster the interior with leather although I know this was not OEM. I will make a decision on this later. Any thoughts from you will be appreciated. A picture is posted for you to see the car. My email address is phillips.larryc@gmail.com. This is just in case you have comments that you do not want posted on the forum. I live in Georgia and my first name is Larry.

 

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Larry,

Let me be the first to say WELCOME! :)

That sure is one nice looking car. I have had a love of these two seaters for a long time but having become deep in a varied collection well, having one car is to your advantage!

 

Post lots of pictures. 

What is the story how you came to own her?

 

Doug 

 

Edited by dei (see edit history)

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Great looking car.  I had a 57 About 6 years ago.  I had owned it for 10.  I  bought it from a guy that said it needed a full restoration and was running on 7 cylinders.  It had a ton of orange peel in the paint along with runs and sags and the bumpers were kind of crappy along with ancient tires and rusty wheels.  I polished and cleaned it to death.   Put new tires and aftermarket wheels to replace the rusted aftermarket wires, then gave it a full tune up and fixed the horribly adjusted throttle linkage.  I eventually replaced there carb as well and bumpers.  Wet sanded and buffed the paint.  It was pretty darn respectable when done,  I only had about another 3G in and drove it all over.  Drove it to Lowes,  a few 3 hours trips up into the mountains.  It was a great car.  Very reliable.  I was just ready for something different.  I would still like to get a 55 stick with OD.  

Almost looks too good to restore.   Have you driven it yet?  My only complaint is you get whipped around pretty good with the top off,  especially at 70 MPH on the Interstate. Some people say they are a bit cramped for bigger guys but seem to have more room inside than my 60 Corvette that I eventually replaced it with. 

IMG_6000.JPG

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Doug:

I found the T-Bird on the internet and began a very long conversation with the owner. A fine man from Port Colborne, Ontario. I guess it is easy to get fooled by someone who is trying to sell something but this man seemed to be honest. He answered every question I asked and he was right on target with his answers. I bought it sight unseen for a very reasonable price. I confirmed my purchase with the owner on August 10, 2018. My biggest regret was that my wife died of a widow maker heart attack on August 14 of 2017. Her funeral was held on Saturday the 19th and the T-Bird was delivered on August 20. I wish she could have seen it but it was not to be.

 

Some minor body work will be done and the car will be completely repainted the original color, Fiesta red. This color was originally made by DuPont for the 1956 year Cadillac. When they painted their first car they said we do not like the color and refused to take order of any more Fiesta red. The fender guitar company liked the color and painted most of their guitars with Fiesta red for some time. Then DuPont offered Ford motor company the color and they painted the Thunderbird Fiesta red. I don't know how many they painted this color but I liked it the first time I saw the one I purchased. The 1955 T-Birds were Torch red, the 1956 was Fiesta red, and the 1957 were painted Flame red. I am only addressing the red ones.

 

I will re-chrome some of the smaller chrome pieces. The bumpers are in good shape. The seats are in excellent shape but as I stated in my previous posting I would like to do leather but no decision has been made yet. The dash cover and the head liner both needs replacing. I am replacing shocks and fuel tank. I have a small amount of play in the steering and I will have that checked out during the restoration. Brakes are fine but at some point I would like to upgrade to disc brakes. I suspect it will take me about 18 months or so to get everything done I would like to see done. I will be happy to supply pictures through out the restoration. Although being able to address the cleaning and painting of the underneath while on an outside lift I wish I could do it on a rotisserie. This would be the very best but no one in this area has one unless I want to go to Atlanta and pay a huge amount to have it cleaned on one. I do not plan to do this. I will clean it on the outside lift.

 

Will talk to you and others as we move forward with this frame on restoration.

Larry

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Sorry to hear the story about your wife, heartbreaking.

 

'56 is my favorite year, I've owned a dozen or so early Birds over the years.  I always thought someone should offer a leather interior kit, would be very nice to have leather.

 

Looks like  a good car, they're fun, although they aren't "sports cars" even though they sort of competed in that arena.  A little sloppy to drive, the suspension wasn't the best on them, but the brakes should be fine for normal driving without having to go to disk.

 

Have fun with it!

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You will want to be sure to only run good fresh gas in it. I had a boat I was rebuilding for the owner and the tank needed to come out.  The gas smelled decent so. Put it in the bird like I had other older cars to burn it up with a little fresh.   Huge mistake.  I bent I think 3 push rods before it was all over and I had only good gas in it again.  The gas looked fine as well.  I got good at replacing push rods though before I was done.   Gave me a good reason to pull and polish the valve covers as well. 

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AuburnSeeker:

We have a couple of gas stations that sell ethanol free gas so I go to the one closest to me for refueling. I drive the T-Bird somewhat often but have never had the top off yet. I will reserve that to another time. Sorry you had some bad luck with gas but you learned a valuable lesson and got some mechanical experience. We learn from our mistakes and I have had my share over the years as many have. Thanks for your posting, keep them coming.

Larry

 

Trimacar:

I agree on the conversion to disc brakes. It is expensive, I think I saw where a conversion kit is about $1,275.00, and if you can't do the conversion yourself just add the expense of labor. Now closer to $1,500.00 or more total. As far as someone offering a leather interior, there is a company in California that does. It is called "Larry's Thunderbirds & Mustangs". You can find them on the internet. They ask you to purchase the whole interior kit so they can match the colors completely which makes good sense. I had them quote me and I think it was going to be about $2,800.00 but this included everything including the trunk mat. Add a couple of thousand if you have to hire someone to install the kit. I think I can do everything except the dash and headliner. They give good service, a little pricy on leather but not bad. I have purchased some things from a supplier much closer to me but my last order did not go too well. I will most likely go back to Larry's in California. The  closer supplier to me is why I ordered from them. They are just over a hundred mile from me while Larry"s is about 3,000 mile. The closer supplier to me offers free freight on orders of $300.00 or more while Larry's does not offer any free freight. Thanks for your posting, keep them coming.

Larry

Edited by 1956 Ford Thunderbird (see edit history)

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Hi Larry,

You have a very nice car and I hope you get a lot of enjoyment out from it. I'm am sorry your wife isn't with you to enjoy it.

There are other T-Bird parts suppliers that are quite good including Prestige Thunderbird and Concours Auto Parts (they also have the leather interior so you may want to check with them for a price). Since the leather is configured the same way as the original vinyl that shouldn't be a problem and will be more comfortable.

What is your source for the information on Fiesta Red paint? The reason I ask is that the color is not unique to the T-Bird. It was used on full size Fords also. I also believe that Ford used Ditzler, not Dupont as their paint supplier.

Anyhow, I hope your restoration goes very well.

Regards,

Lew Bachman

1957 Colonial White

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Lew, I found the story of the Fiesta red on the internet. It may have been used on other Ford cars but I have not seen any. Please let me know if you have. It is possible that DuPont was not the supplier. I will try to find the link for the story I quoted and get it to you. Glad you have other information and maybe we can get to the real story. We all know that once information is passed on that it varies as the wind blows. As far as the leather, I appreciate your help with a second supplier and I will check for price. The 1956 OEM vinyl has an embossment in the center of the backrest while the leather does not offer this unless your second supplier does. I am anxious to see. Thanks for your research, talk to you soon.

Larry 

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Hi Larry,

Please look at this link from the strat-talk forum: 

www.strat-talk.com/threads/what-is-the-correct-fiesta-red.160960/#post-903823

This link shows the Ditzler chart for Ford colors for 1956. It lists Fiesta Red with an asterisk and if you look at the legend at the bottom of the page you will notice that an asterisk indicates the color is also available on the Thunderbird for that year. You will also notice that three of the colors (Navajo Gray, Sage (Thunderbird) Green, and Thunderbird Gray) were for the Thunderbird only. Fiesta Red was definitely a color used on the 1956 Ford, either on the whole car or in two-tone combinations such as Raven Black and Fiesta Red or Colonial White and Fiesta Red.

I seriously doubt the story about the 1956 Cadillac, it sounds like an urban legend to me. 1956 T-Bird production began on 10/17/1955 and that would be pretty late in the game to be making decisions on colors, especially for the main car production.

When was the first fender produced?

LEW

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Lew,

Well spoken. Although I have not seen any Fiesta red on other than T-Birds, no doubt there are some out there. And you are most likely right about the 1956 Cadillac. It always amazes me how stories get started and how difficult it is sometime to find the truth. As generations pass it becomes more and more difficult to get to the truth. I have a question you may know the answer. I have searched to find out how many 56 T-Birds were painted Fiesta red but have had no luck. Is there a source out there somewhere I could find out? 

 

Thanks for your input, will always be appreciated.

Larry

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According to a chart I saw at the squarebirds website in 1956 there were 15.5% of the cars in Fiesta Red (color code "K")

Production records show 15,631 Thunderbirds in 1956. 15.5% of 15,621 comes out to 2,423 cars in Fiesta Red.

 

Edited by fordrodsteven (see edit history)

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Larry,

Fordrodsteven is correct. CTCI member Dave Tulowitzky maintains a T-Bird registry of known cars and through that he has calculated the percentages for each color. The other part is that there were also two-tone 1956 T-Birds that had a Colonial White body and a Fiesta Red top. Anyway, Fiesta Red was not a rare color for a 1956 T-Bird.

Regards,

Lew

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Thanks for the information about how many 56 T-Birds were painted Fiesta red. Since my last comment to Lew I have seen a 56 Ford Fairlane painted Fiesta red. I never thought F/R was a rare color as I have seen several T-Birds painted using this color. I like the torch red on the 55's but I am too old for that bright a color and it messes up the VIN tag by not being the OEM color. I look forward to all of your comments as we move forward. 

The Augusta National golf week is in full swing now. I live about 10 mile from the course. Heavy rain at 5:50 this morning but now a beautiful day. People who paid big dollars to attend are grateful the rain stopped. Talk to you soon. 

 

 

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Fordrodsteven, and confirmed by Lew. Thank you so much for this good information and the web address. I have been trying to find out this information for months and was never able to get it. Two heads are always better than one. Thank You. I now have all 3 years and color by percentage in an Excel spread sheet. I am forever grateful and in your debt. 

Larry

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I am considering the purchase of a Rotisserie and doing a frame off restoration. Do any of you have any experience with a good brand name with model number, etc.? Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. I like the Merrick brand with jacks. Thanks for your help.

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Frank, thanks for your message. I have reviewed the Accessible Systems and yes it looks to be a good system. You mentioned that the system is pricey, so is Merrick, maybe moreso. I would like to do a frame on restoration but I am concerned about the condition of the top of the frame fastened to the body. No way to tell the condition that I know of as to rust, etc. Frame off will tell all. Thanks again for your comment. I will let you know later which way I will go. 

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Hi Larry,

If you don't mind my asking, what is your goal in restoring this car? The reason I ask is it looks like a pretty nice car as it sits. If your goal is to create a show car then it makes some sense to do a body off frame restoration. Of course by the time you are finished you will have spent more than you will ever get out of it if you sell it. If everything is rusted out underneath then doing the body off is the way to go. On the other hand, you would be money ahead buying a better car and enjoying it now. I think about these things since I am now over age 65 and I would rather enjoy my car more instead of having it laid up being restored. Trimacar will tell you that he considers these cars commodities since so many of them have survived and it is not hard to get a good car at a reasonable price. The high dollar cars are the 57 E and F code cars. 

Anyway there is no wrong answer here, either way you will have a nice car. Enjoy it.

Regards,

Lew Bachman

1957 Colonial White T-Bird

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Lew, I don't mind at all. I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (bone cancer) in October of 2016. My wife died in August of last year and now I need something to do while I fight this disease. Although from a 100 feet away the car looks very nice while a close up look will reveal something entirely different. I won't go into detail as it most likely would be boring to all who read it. A magnet has pretty much verified that the car is solid with no major issues with the body. It runs well and a view of the underneath shows no major problem with rust. The interior is in good shape with only the dash cover and headliner needing replaced. I have looked for a fully restored Fiesta Red Bird with a 312, automatic, power seat, power steering, and power windows with no success so I decided to restore this one. I have 2 sons who are deeply interested in this car. I most likely could have found another color T-Bird with these same features but I did not pursue finding one with professionals in the industry. I am approaching this restoration with great enthusiasm as are both sons. I will keep everyone updated as to our progress along the way. Thanks to all for your comments. They are very much appreciated.

 

Larry Phillips

Evans, GA

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To all on this thread: Does anyone know where I can locate a low profile engine cradle with casters that will hold my 312 engine for the duration of my restoration. The closest I have come is on the Summit Racing web site. I spoke to a sales person who recommended one but would require modification and I'd rather not do that if I can locate another source where modification is not required. Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Larry Phillips

Evans, GA 

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