FORD THUNDERBOLT 40TH ANNIVERSARY REUNION - 2004
CARLISLE ALL FORD NATIONALS
2004 marked the 40th Anniversary of the legendary Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt and the All Ford Nationals at Carlisle hosted a gala celebration to honor the occasion. Assembeled for the event were 25 original Tbolts and many of the drivers who guided them to victory back in 1964. The very first Tbolt was fabricated at Dearborn Steel Tube (DST) in 1963 and went to Ford employee Dick Brannan. Both Dick and the car were at the show and we talked to Dick about the events surrounding the development of the Tbolt project. We also talked to Bill Holbrook of the Ford Experimental Garage and "Hammer" Mason of DST about the TBolt program and they also had some great stories to tell. The 2nd Thunderbolt (Bob Ford) was also at the show and we talked to its current owner Dennis Kolodziej about its impressive racing heritage. Little know secrets about the car are finally revealed after 40 years. The #7 TBolt was delivered to Mickey Thompson who immediately turned driving duties over to 19 year old Californian Butch Leal. Butch was also at the show and we had a chance to talk to him about his Thunderbolt and his impressive S/S Class Championship win at the 1964 U.S. Nationals. The #8 Tbolt went to Tasca Ford out of East Providence, RI and driver Bill Lawton took it to many wins during the 1964 season. Unfortnately Bill passed away a few years ago but in the BOV archieves I had an interview I did with him back in 1996 and he relates his rememberances of the car. Great stuff! The Tasca Tbolt was also at the show and it looks better than new.
On Friday night everyone went to South Mountain Dragway for an all Ford drag race and a special best of three match race between the Norristown Ford Tbolt and the California Tbolt of Phil Featherston. This was billed as an East Coast vs. West Coast race with each claiming to be the quickest Tbolt in the country. We captured all the action and it is part of our event coverage. Also making a couple passes was the 65 A/FX "Wild Child" Ford Falcon. Its original driver took it down the track for the first time since 1967. The cammer powered Falcon bounced and jumped all the way down the eighth mile and I loved it.
Back at the Fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday we continued to profile the group of Tbolts and found many interesting stories. Jim Gonia had the "Shaker" Tbolt there and is looking for some information regarding its first owner. Hubert Platt was there and we talked to him about his "Little Georgia Shaker" Tbolt. Rich LaMont told us how the factory tried to talk him into an automatic Tbolt back in 1964 but he held out for the four speed that still transfers power to the rear end in his original Norristown Ford Tbolt. One of my favorite interviews came from Al Joniac who piloted the Al Swenson Ford Tbolt back in the day. He told an interesting story about his meeting up with Butch Leal at the '64 US Nationals. Another story about that race was provided by Mike Gray who was at the show along with his original Reynolds Ford Tbolt out of Syracuse, NY. It was really great to hear these stories from the guys who made history with the Tbolts. Another famous Tbolt at the show formerly belonged to Emmit "Snake" Austin out of Alabama. Snake made several major changes to the car during its career and today it is restored to its original condition.
Back in 1989 I had a chance to purchase the former King Ford Tbolt but sadly I report that I passed on the deal. I did however take some video footage of it at that time and compare it to what it looked like at the show when it was reunited with its former driver Bud Shellenberger. I also had a chance to purchase the former Turner Ford Tbolt out of Kansas back in 1988 but once again I passed. I also compare 1988 footage with the way Phil Featherston's car looks today.
I am sure most people have heard of the Hot Rod Reunion "Cracklefest" well they did it one better at Carlisle when several Tbolts were started inside one of the fairgrounds buildings. This "Thunderfest" rocked the rafters to the delight of the spectators. I am sure you will enjoy this part of the video as well.
Sam Auxier, Jr was at the show and we talked to him about his race program back in 1964. As it turns out Sam ran an A/FX Comet rather than a Tbolt. Through the years I have noticed a great deal of similarity between the Tbolts and the Comets so I included an interview I did with the late Vern Tinsler back in 1994 where he told me why that is the case. Vern was the project engineer on the Tbolt program. We also had the original McCoy Mercury A/FX Comet at the show and it looked great.
Another celeberty making an appearance at the show was former NASCAR World Champion and Daytona 500 winner Bennie Parsons. Actually Bennie has a direct link to the Tbolt program and you will learn what that was in his interview. Great stuff!
The first white Tbolt was at the show thanks to Californian Rick Hamilton. He told me how the #12 car was delivered and raced out of Jerry Alderman Ford in Indiana. Bill Dismuke had his former Cook Motor Sales Tbolt (#99) at the show and you learn how Bill owned the car not once but two times over the years. Thunderbolt historian Craig Sutton was at the show with the former Delta Ford Tbolt and he told us how he got the car ready for the show after its owner passed away in 1997. He even made a pass down the track on Friday night. Canadian drag racer Barrie Poole was at the show and he told us about the Tbolt he ran in NHRA Super Stock competition in the early 1980's. "Fast" Fred Henderson also told me about his "Shazam" Tbolt out of the Philadelphia area.
I also had a chance to talk to several people from the Thunderbolt Owners Association (Dennis Kolodziej, Larry Short and Larry Davis) and they brought us up to speed with their work in preserving the history of the Tbolt.
And, oh yes, I have included some original movie footage from the BOV vault that takes you back to 1964 when these cars were dominating Super Stock and match race action throughout the Nation. I am sure you will enjoy this part of the production.
Have I said enough yet to convince you that this two hour video is an absolute must for all Ford enthusiasts. I hope so. This is bound to be a collectors edition video loaded with entertainment and historical information. This video is fully narrated with a story line that runs on top of the video action. Order your copy soon.