SP Rides: The Rolling Thunder
BY MICHAEL KITCHENS
Owner: John Hughes
Occupation: Retired firefighter
Hobbies: Women and cars
Year, Make, Model: 1956 Ford Thunderbird
Color: Pearl White
At 74 years young, John Hughes has been around the block. He’s seen quite a few fabulous rides in his day, and one of the first was a 1963 Chevy Nova Super Sport. He’s always been into the all-original classic. He also happens to have a 1984 Hurst Olds, which is in similar specs. But that’s not the focal point of today’s issue. Obviously, it’s all about this absolutely stunning 1956 Ford Thunderbird, and for good reason.
So, where were you in ’62? Well, this is a ride straight outta American Graffiti and no, I’m not kidding. Who can forget the iconic T-Bird from the movie, the very one driven by that most perfect, dazzling creature, Suzanne Somers? There are many young men who have that goddess and that car forever imprinted on their brain.
And truthfully, this gorgeous specimen looks just as incredible now as it did when it rolled off the factory floor. In 2003, the car underwent a complete restoration by the previous owner, Ken Fontes, to bring the car back to its original luster. More than $60,000 was spent and the result is an incredible memento of Americana.
After restoration, the car sat in Fontes’ garage until his unfortunate passing. Hughes came upon it through a friend who happened to know the family and jumped at the chance to take this beautifully crafted, classic machine home to protect and care for. With only 300 miles on the odometer after restoration, the car was like new.
The car comes with a 312 engine with 290 horsepower but that’s not what really gets to Hughes. As an original car, nothing has been added other than some better disc brakes up front and an electric window wiper — no, the value comes from its style. The entire car is a work of art. The bodylines are unique and exquisitely crafted with the memorable yet conservative tailfins. The gorgeous chromed components that make up the front fascia harken back to an earlier era of craftsmanship. It truly is a beauty.
The interior is just as incredible with an amazing speedometer and the lovingly restored knobs and dials. The red interior is offset by white upholstery inserts and silver accents alongside the dash.
The selling point for this ride isn’t necessarily its worth — which just so happens to be a pretty penny — it’s the nostalgia that it provides Hughes. Although the younger crowd may appreciate it, it’s truly the older generation that can relate to it. For those who grew up alongside this car, it reminds them of their school years. For Hughes, it takes him back to some of his most carefree moments among his friends. And it’s absolutely fabulous.