I can be an incredible cheapskate, proud of the ability to stretch a dollar until it screams for mercy.  No doubt this hubris is connected to that streak of independent self-reliance bred into the American psyche — we all want to be Henry Fords. So all too often, at least in my case, make-or-buy and DIY-or-outsource decisions tend toward over-optimistic weighting of the make/DIY side of the equation, sometimes resulting in wasted effort and increased costs. 

Case in point. After acquiring the T-bird, it stayed parked on our street for several weeks while I tried to figure out how to get a 4400 pound car up a steep driveway, 100+ feet at a 10° incline.  We tried towing it up with the minivan — not enough power.   Next we purchased a 5000 lb. winch and mounted it to the seat supports in the minivan, with the cable coming out the opened rear gate.   The plan was to pull the T-bird up 20 feet, chock it, move the van up the driveway, pull the T-bird up another 20 feet, etc.  Although tedious, that was working out fine.   Until…

Mere inches from a tragic outcome

Mere inches from a tragic outcome

In order to reposition the van the winch cable needed to be released.  This time though, the T-bird jumped its chocks and proceeded to roll down the driveway.  In desperation, I futilely grabbed the cable and hung on.  At the end of the spool the escaping T-bird yanked the cable off the winch.  Still hanging on, the car pulled me across the street onto the neighbor’s immaculate lawn, crashed through his azaleas, and came to rest one excruciating inch short of his house.  In shock, I fell to my knees and pounded the ground in humiliation and frustration. 

Thankfully, the neighbor was not at home, thereby avoiding the inevitable drama, potentially complicated by police involvement.  I called for a tow truck and after several hours work (and one snapped tow cable) we were able to drag the T-bird free and up the driveway. I left the neighbor a note claiming responsibility for the landscape damage and humbly promising to pay whatever it cost to repair.  Surprisingly, he reacted with amused aplomb and forgiveness. God bless him.  

swaybar2Fast forward a few months.  After removing the engine from the car I noticed that the front stabilizer bar (sway bar) was not straight.  It appeared to have been bent after crashing through the neighbor’s azaleas.  A local suspension shop tried to bend it back without breaking it but the result was not satisfactory.  In order to bend the bar properly it needed to be heated to a malleable temperature.  Blacksmiths have forges, and I found one willing to process the bar.  The meticulous blacksmith asked if I had a mechanical drawing for the bar.

Now, I had assumed the bar to be bilaterally symmetrical, so correcting it should have been a matter of making the right side a mirror image of the left side. A small inaccuracy could be adjusted out during front end alignment.

But no, I didn’t have a mechanical drawing.  More research.   

Readers who have served in the military need not be reminded how an angry sergeant would parse the word assume (as in: ass, [yo]u, me).  Here is a drawing of the underside of the T-bird showing the sway bar:


As you can see, it’s not symmetrical at all, the right side curves around the engine oil pan.  The question is, did I ask the suspension shop to distort a perfectly good sway bar?   And, without a detailed drawing, how can it possibly be corrected?   Luckily, I was able to purchase a salvaged sway bar on eBay.  Here is the salvaged bar in comparison to the original.     


In summary…

1 T-bird (factor in 1 knucklehead) =  $(winch+tow truck+landscaping+suspension shop+new bar)

Cheers, y’all!

Picked up the re-bored engine block from Naborsstored Automotive.  Sprayed all polished surfaces (cylinders, lifter bores, bearing surfaces, crankshaft, camshaft) with WD40 Long Term Corrosion Inhibitor (a “sticky” oil), wrapped it in plastic and stored it in the shed until other preparations are completed.  The engine compartment needs to be cleaned, primed, and painted before the engine and transmission can be reinstalled.  Aside from degunking,  grinding, and sanding the engine bay, there was one problem.

During the years that the car sat idle, the battery leaked acid which rusted away the metal floor of the battery niche. The fix was to install sheet metal to replace the niche floor, supported by angle brackets screwed to the remaining side metal.  Test panels were cut out of  ‘foamcore’ to get the floor shape exact before cutting the sheet metal. After assembly, fiberglass cloth was applied over the joints to seamlessly conform to the original curves of the niche.  The repair is solid and strong. Sanded smooth, primed, and painted it appears to be original.


1) Bracket installation, 2) sheet metal screwed to brackets, 3) fiberglass, 4) sanded and painted

And here is a photo of the engine bay after applying primer and paint.


The color is an original 1966 Ford option called Mariner Turquoise metallic.  The car, currently white, will be two-tone.  The body will be Mariner Turquoise and the hardtop a pearl white.  The interior is a lighter turquoise vinyl and will be restored in that color.

Next post will be engine block prep and re-assembly.  Stayed tuned!  And Thanks! for visiting.

The goal is to restore the T-bird to as near factory new as possible. That means disassembling  most of the car, de-rusting and repainting individual parts,  replacing worn out components, and reassembling.  Luckily, there is minimal body work required — there’s no frame damage, some minor dents and a few rust holes.  Body surfaces will be sanded, primed, and repainted, including the engine compartment, underside, and chassis.  Undercoat will  be applied inside fenders to reduce road noise and prevent future rust.

We recently removed and de-gunked the C6 automatic transmission, to be overhauled at a local trans shop.  Now the priority is to clean, prime, and paint the engine compartment so that the C6 and engine can be reinstalled.


During the cleaning we noticed that the front stabilizer bar (sway bar) was bent.  Drive Line Service of Atlanta (770-242-9365) was able to partially straighten it for  $20.  However, we’re searching the web for a replacement part. (If anyone has a lead on one, please let me know.)

Another problem is that over time the battery leaked acid and rusted out the battery compartment, which will require some complicated metalwork to remedy.  We designed a metal insert using CAD software but still,  effecting a seamless repair will be a challenge.

Almost everything in the passenger compartment (seats, console, carpeting, etc.) were removed for rehab.  The seat covers are in good condition.  However the dashboard is severely sun-dried and cracked.  The vinyl door panels and headliner are also damaged from exposure and age.  Re-covering with new vinyl is not too difficult, but as of yet we haven’t been able to source vinyl that matches the original color.

Removed the dual exhaust pipes, which are in great condition.  Just need to be sanded and coated with high temperature paint.   The resonators and mufflers are rusted out and will be replaced with new.

OK, that about brings the project status up-to-date.  Future posts will feature work in progress.  Thanks for visiting.

The first major task was to remove the engine for overhaul.  As it turned out it wasn’t.   Turning, that is.  The engine was frozen, which made removal all the more difficult.  The last step requires removing the four nuts connecting the flywheel to the transmission torque converter, which requires rotating the flywheel to access the nuts, which was not possible.  What finally worked was to slide the engine forward just enough to create a narrow gap (about 1-2 inches) between the engine and trans, and then slip a wrench in to loosen the nuts.  Got them out after a day of frustration. Even so, one of the nuts had to be broken off.

After removing the engine and mounting it on an engine stand, the next task was disassembly.  Some of the pistons were rusted to the cylinder walls.  Those had to be removed by drilling several holes in the piston heads and collapsing them toward the center (using a cold chisel, a hammer, and delicate brute force) to relieve pressure against the cylinders.


Once extracted, the rest of the teardown was fairly easy.  Note that it is important to catalog parts referenced to their original locations if the parts are to be reused in the rebuilt engine.  This is especially important when extracting the push rods and hydraulic lifters.   Throughout the restoration it is good practice to collect and store parts in plastic sandwich bags with locations written on the bags with a Sharpie permanent marker pen.  Use string tags to identify both sides of all electrical and hose connections.   Take photos of large or complex assemblies before taking them apart to aid putting them back together.


After some internet research and phone calls, we stumbled upon a small racing shop that could re-bore the stripped engine block.  A machine shop referred us to Nabors Automotive (770-982-9821, in Snellville, GA, which  turned out to be an auspicious accident.  Owner Tim Nabors is experienced, highly knowledgeable, informative, and  helpful.  The work was high quality and not too expensive. Tim’s advice was priceless.  They vatted the block and crankshaft, re-bored the block to .030 over, and inspected the crank and cam (both reusable).  We ordered new pistons, rings, and bearings from Summit Racing and Nabors checked the pistons for fit and installed the new cam bearings.   He recommended tapping out the oil plug holes in the block and inserting hex screw plugs.  That’s safer than using the aluminum cap-type push-in plugs, which can potentially be installed crooked and leak.

Stay tuned, there’s more to cover to bring this current.  Cheers!

In July we acquired a 66 T-bird from a farmer in SC.  It had been sitting in one of his fields for 17 years.  The body was in surprisingly good condition,  the motor we assumed would need overhaul.  Here are pictures from July, before work was started on the car.


Subsequent posts will bring progress up-to-date.  Check back soon!