Thunderbird owner bucks family tradition
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By all accounts, Dan Renda shouldn't be driving his 1957 Ford Thunderbird -- let alone loving it as much as he does.
His family has always been a died-in-the-wool, GM-only clan and he's definitely breaking ranks now by owning a machine bearing a blue oval badge.
"Dad was a staunch GM guy, choosing to only drive Buicks and Cadillacs," the Bartlett resident said. "Growing up there was no way we should ever mention a Ford product."
That didn't stop the youngster from gawking at cool FoMoCo rides. When he would visit his grandparents in Oak Park, he'd hungrily eye a 1956 Thunderbird belonging to the family next door.
"I would ask Dad, 'Can't we find something like that?' He'd quickly reply, 'Absolutely not.' "
Renda attempted a second plea a few years later when that same family purchased a 1962 Thunderbird, this one having a back seat. "I would beg him to get our family one. I would tell him it's much more practical. We could all sit in it!"
This rationalization wasn't going to work. His father still gave the same firm answer. But, as much as he tried, Renda couldn't ignore the Ford love springing up inside of him. Nor could he erase those images of the neighbor's striking rolling T-Birds.
He now owns two convertible Thunderbirds: a 1963 and this 1957. "Dad didn't live long enough to see the two Fords parked in my garage," Renda said. "Mom is sure he wouldn't be pleased if he could see me now."
Renda started his hunt for a 1957 in 2008, eventually finding the perfect example in 2012 in Crete. After being assembled in Wixom, Mich., the vehicle was delivered to Hale Young Ford in Long Beach, Calif. It was purchased for $3,616 and spent time in Costa Mesa, Calif., before heading back to the Midwest.
Renda is the fourth owner and while he was head over heels for the model, he wasn't going to settle for just any example.
"I wanted to be sure any T-Bird I purchased was well-documented and restored correctly," he said.
Renda felt confident with his vehicle after learning it had been restored by a well-known Thunderbird specialist, Amos Minter of Dallas. "It was simply a gorgeous car and everything had been done right."
The specs, data and numbers were correct but emotion still played a role in the acquisition. "Seeing the lines on the car took me back to when I was a kid. The design was just as gorgeous as ever."
Many years had passed since the vehicle's 1990 restoration and a minor tuneup was required on the 312-cubic-inch V-8, along with new foam padding in the seats to return it to like-new condition.
"The Starmist Blue paint color is light and airy and my favorite offering. It seems to make people happy when they see it," Renda said.
It's not just spectators with grins on their faces. "My wife frequently tells me when we're out for a drive that she hasn't seen me smile so much since I was a teenager."
Renda's choice in classic transportation may not be his dad's preferred cup of tea, but the accolades it has won would surely have him beaming with fatherly pride. The vehicle was shown at the 2013 Geneva Concours d'Elegance and took home a Carl F. Benz award.
"He never did come around to like Fords but that might have changed," Renda believes, "if he had the chance to take this one for a drive."
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