The Story of the Blackbird

It all started a number of years back when my friend Mikeand I were working on a '66 T-bird I was restoring for a customer. Whenwe’d finish each evening, we'd have a couple of beers to celebrate day.The choice of the period was Coors Light and we’d always be listening aIIoldies radio station in the shop so we'd drift back to the days (not reallygood or old) when we were first learning how to afford the wonderful worldof wheels. These happened to be the days when the first thing we did witha car was change the hub caps and get rid of the chrome. It was the daysof baby moons, old spinners, lake pipes and yes, fuzzy dice. Well, moreand more of the conversations led to the wish that we would be do a carfor ourselves and do it the way we had them back when our cars were reallyexpressions of our personality. The biggest drawback to restoring one ofmy T-birds was always the fact that there was so much chrome and trim thatcould not be restored and just plain had to be sent out for rechromingor buy new. Everything else we could do ourselves. After doing enough carsfor customers, I knew very well that I would not (maybe ever) be able toafford all that chrome and trim.

With a stack of custom car magazines laying around theliving room (no wife at that time yet), I would watch TV and read nearly4 nights a week and of course the next day we’d chat about the ideas I’dread about. By the time we shut down and had a couple of beers the ideastook on deep roots and we started wondering what we could try them outon. “Hey, Mikey! I’ve got a couple of parts cars out in the yard and theyare totally dismantled already so we don’t have to spend time taking themapart, all we have to do is start grinding and sandblasting, welding, filling,sanding and priming, cutting some more and welding some more.” You’ve gotthe 4 wheel drive and we could pull them out with that and get them intothe shop next week.”

Well, Mikey thought I was kidding. HA!! The next day wehad one in the shop. We had one heck of a time getting it out of the snowbanks out in the field but it was now in the shop. And we were on our wayto a boyhood dream come true. After a few twelve packs of beer, a few weeksof Old Rock and Roll and much more discussion of the latest techniquesin customizing, gleaned from the stacks of magazines piled on the livingroom table, the “Blackbird” was starting to have a theme. The budget demandedusing only the worst of parts from my large stash of leftovers that noone would buy or use on their car for restoration. (The logic was thatif I could sell it I could use the money for some of the stuff we’d actuallyneed to purchase, such as paint) Boy, I tell you, all the years of weldingmy Dad taught me sure came in handy. We built more of the body than whatwas there to start with. The budget also demanded we eliminate or paintas much chrome as possible because rechroming was something we could notdo ourselves. That’s how the rear bumper became part of the rear body structure- - weld and paint - - build new rolled pan for under the rear bumper andwhile we were back there we cut and welded some ports in the lower rearquarters to duct the exhaust from the mufflers to the outside of the body.I could sell all the good chrome door handles and emblems I could get sothis car couldn't have any. Darn, I guess we’ll just have to open the doorswith electric solenoids and the tnmk will just get a remote release cableunder the dash. Grills for a ‘64 are hard to come by so a black paintedtube grill got built into the front bumper, which also got the paint treatment.

The “paint treatment” included some black magic from mydays of customizing and painting. With a bench full of cans and jars dugout of boxes, each containing a different brand of custom and special effectspaints, I started juggling ideas of what to mix together to get the effectwe wanted. The end result should look black when not directly lighted.When the sun hits it we wanted it to have a bluish tint or glow and underthe halogen street lights we wanted it to change into the purple shadesalong with some blue and black. Black lacquer was the base. Out came theclear lacquer and in went a few tablespoons (actually a few gobs) of pearlconcentrate. Spray pearl is no science, ya gotta look like you don’t knowwhat you are doing. Mikey was worried - -“Are you sure you know what thisis gonna look like?” - - “Mikey, go get a couple beers”. Maybe a twelverlater we had it sprayed. Lotsa coats of lotsa stuff. Lotsa old tricks fromages past before the new paints came out and we admired for over an hourusing flashlights and trouble lights and fourescent lights to see it changeall the colors we wanted. With no chrome on the lower part of the car,it just wouldn’t look right to have all that chrome around the roof andbelt area so that all got painted to match. The only chrome left was thetrim around the side windows themselves and the windshield. Now, we puta lot of effort into making this thing dark. I mean “DARK’ It didn’t seemright to have that bright glass all over the windows and lights. That stoodout horribly when we started assembling. Enter, the window tint. All thewindows (except the windshield) got sprayed and then on to the headlights,that worked so we did the parking lights too. The solution for the rearlights was to paint all the aluminum trim around the lights and make alarge black smoked plexiglass cover to insert into the rear bumper to coverthe whole area and make it blend into the rest of the black car. Turn thelights on and they shine the prettiest pair of bird shadows on that plexiglass.A pair of halogen sealed beams shine through the dark window tint sprayedon them very nicely also. A few of the other goodies are a completely rebuiltengine and trans detailed with black paint and all gold cad plated hardwareunder the hood.

The interior is all black vinyl including the headliner.To bring this whole thing down to earth the cutting torch took out onecoil off each of the front springs and dropped the rear springs by heatingthem next to each end-eye till they rested on the underbody. The finaltouch was a set of chrome reversed wheels and low profile 60 series tires.

This baby runs like a dream and handles extremely well.It even cruises the highway to the tune of about 18 miles per gallon (withthe foot somewhere down in the carb - -70 MPH). Where ever it sits, DarthVader can’t be far away. You can hear his low, hoarse voice every timethose glass packs take a breath. And right behind the wheel you will findone of us kids with our few gray hair and an 18 year old’s grin from earto ear.

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