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By Drew Truitt
Associate Editor 

Florida Pickers #4 -Love Sarasota Style

Classic Tbird for Sale

 

Last updated 10/25/2019 at 9:20am

Mike Hora from Spring Hill says of the Tri-Five ('55, '56, '57) Tbird two-seaters, "Greatest car ever, at least that's what I've specialized in over the last 20 some odd years," Mike relates. "I've made lots of money and enjoyed working on them, too."

He adds, "In fact I'm in Punta Gorda looking at a 1955 [Thunderbird] right now."

John Durning from Longwood has lovingly named his '57 Tbird, Roscoe.

"I've had this car since '68. Mechanically sound, stripped to bare metal and repainted Bordeaux Red in 2006," expounds John. "Original color was Inca Gold. Probably the ugliest color for '57."

"Roscoe" was featured in Early Bird Magazine in the January-February issue.

Although I love everything about cars, aside from attending a class on engines and how they work at an Illinois vocational school evening class light years ago, I really don't know that much about cars in general. I like driving them, and admiring a well-designed

automobile. And from time to time, aiming my virtual antenna in search of a hidden treasure in a barn or on a back lot.

Years ago I was traveling back to Florida from visiting relatives, and I veered off the interstate for a bite and to walk a bit. I think I was somewhere in Georgia. Knowing I would be sitting for another 10 hours or so on the trip home I decided to check out the neighborhood. Next door was a classic auto showroom.

I walked in, looked around and was instantly mesmerized, infatuated with the sheer beauty of these motorized marvels that were more like a fine wine or taking a long vacation in a far away place than something tangible, used to drive to and from work.

The experience left an indelible impression on me that now you are experiencing along with me, making discoveries of cool cars, and finally learning, well, the nuts and bolts of what went into their inception. Again, I rely on others to teach us both about these magical machines.

For one, car guru Dan Jedlicka (www.danjedlicka.com), starts off a review of the first generation Tbirds by saying, "The 1955-57 two-seat Ford Thunderbird is among the most recognized iconic American cars."

Inspired by the competitive edge of GM with the Corvette the First Gen Tbird came about and promptly tromped the venerable Vette, outselling them four to one even though they were a late arrival to the rodeo.

The 1954-57 Corvette saw 14,146 sales compared to 53,166 Thunderbirds sold from 1955 through 1957.

I rely on owners and independent experts to supply me with credible information and pricing. Buyers are unreliable sources of true value, and are occasionally known as "liars" because they have literally coined a term, the low ball offer..

Take, for example, the 1956 Tbird I posted for a Sarasota inventor, Darrell Knepp and his lively wife, Eva.

"My huband is what I call a dyslexic genius," jokes Eva. "You never know what he'll come up with next!"

Which is absolutely a fact. Over the years Darrell has owned and sold three patents that afforded them to buy their '56 Thunderbird without thinking twice.

"We should have waited," stated Darrell. "It really is too small."

The Knepps are more boat people than car people anyway. Another business they successfully operated was chartering a fleet of vessels to take people to far off destinations.

"We just hired a Captain. That's all," Darrell says without fanfare.

"He even built a personal submarine," interjects Eva proudly.

While I'm not certain this last invention had the success of his other ventures I can see from their expressions this was a definite highlight.

So just as it arrived now the old Thunderbird must go - this time to someone who appreciates it. Perhaps I had better put that in perspective. We hope it goes as quickly as it came onto the scene.

The Knepps understand they have something special, and don't want to give it away.

"We get 10,000 cars a day driving past our house," Eva states enthusiastically. "When we parked it on the side of the road," she goes on. "You wouldn't believe how many people stopped to ask about it."

Unfortunately, the starter was wrong for the model year.

"You can't sell a car that won't start," informs Eva.

Second that. So I did what any quasi-, wannabe, classic car salesman would do: I took it away from them, and consigned to a classic car dealership whose owner is a friend of mine.

Since I'm not like Mike Hora, and I don't have a budget for buying cars and swinging deals, I follow Darrell's forte and get creative. I step in the middle, but use this column and social media to find a new owner.

My dealer friend solves the starter issue and, now we both go a'huntin' for a legitimate buyer (my friend's dealership has 20,000 people passing by a day in the same city, so there).

Now you are up-to-date. We listed it for $24,999. We agree what it's worth is what someone will pay for it, and we're willing to sit in it and on it until the right person happens along.

As one of the higher priced autos I've posted I feel justified in that I not only find the germs, but the gems as well.

Let's make it a promise: No more junkers! Repeat. No more junkers!

Yeah, right. And snow is in the forecast for Florida tonight.

UPDATE from last week's FP 3

You may recall we were talking about the 1979 Anniversary replica of the Model A called the Shay Model A Roadster. An interested party from the Palm (East) Coast messaged me he wanted to go see it. As it was between a two and three hour drive from Deltona to Ocala I knew he was serious.

I called Gary, the owner since 1983 who bought it with just 500 miles on the odometer from a Ford dealership, and he said someone was going to pick it up tomorrow.

Slightly upset in losing a sale I flipped the prospect to a second Shay Model A in Delray Beach, and I am waiting to hear back from Howard, the dealer with the other Shay in great condition. I'm building a stable, and filling it with cars

A GLIMPSE AHEAD: NEXT WEEK FP 5

My itinerary takes me to Tampa - my first Florida city of residence. In fact, I only stayed in Ttown for one year which qualified me as a true Florida resident.

That year was 1977-78 which I need a calculator to tell me I have now been residing in The Sunshine State for over 40 years.

I like to have a goal or vision of what I want to find. Let's go out on a limb.

I think it's time to corral a Corvette.

 

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