58-60 Square Birds

jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
edited March 2014 in Ford
Just thought I'd put this out there to see if there's any interest in a sqare bird chatbox.

Mine's a 1958 White Hardtop, white/black inside. I'm second owner; car has original 60K miles. Bought it in 1989 (49K miles) from the original owner; a 93 year old lady who could no longer drive.

Even have the original paperwork from Hackensack Ford, Hackensack, NJ.

If there's any interest, I'll post all the options and prices.


  • blh7068blh7068 Member Posts: 375
    Thats cool! Im the second owner of a 71 (fire)bird mostly original, 64k and have most of the orig paperwork. Sure, post the info...that stuff is always neat, regardless of vehicle type.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    I'm a Thunderbird fan in general, (Mine's a '95, nothing unusual, but she runs good and I like her). However, as nice as the 58-60's are, I'd rather have a 55-57 or 61-63 over the squarebirds. Either that, or a 2002. Actually, I would kinda like to find a barely restorable 55-57, and put in a Jaguar AJ-V8 engine, and the independent suspension Setup from a mid-80's Jag XJ6, and go with a nice custom interior while keeping it mostly stock on the outside. I know it involves major $$, major cutting & welding on tha car, and such a custom would never be worth what I put into it, but hey, I can dream, can't I?
  • carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    OK, I'll contribute. In 1958, when the first "squarebirds" [when did they actually start calling them that?] came out, I was 12 years old, and along with my best friend across the street, was a budding carnut, keenly interested in anything new coming out, and in the late 50's, I tell you, it was a great time to be a kid carnut. We thought the 58 Thunderbird was fantastic looking then, and I remember even seeing the first 58 Lincoln Continental, with all its bulk and radical [then] angular styling, etc., and, as kids, thinking "what awesome looking cars!" But then, in those days, everyone was captured by the styling excesses of the 50's, and that's why they made them that way. Anyway, the 58-60 T-birds were quite revered in those days, and for some years after. The style was the thing. Just look at how much that squarebird style was copied for years after, in the rooflines of various Falcons, Comets, and big Fords for several years after. My friend's Dad wanted a 59 T-bird so bad for a number of years after that, but in those days, the price was just a little out of his reach. He kept driving the old 55 Ford Ranch Wagon. Even the Studebaker Hawk of 1962 or whatever, kind of copied that same "squarebird roofline." The roofline style of the squarebirds was copied and imitated for many years after the squarebirds stopped-a tribute to the styling theme they intiated-whether you liked Thunderbirds or not. Personally, I never did like Thunderbirds, especially the later ones in the 60s. I saw them as kind of piggy, flaccid and overweight pseudo luxury cars with inefficient, common Ford drivetrains that were outclassed by other makes. But, I always respected and liked the styling/concept of the original squarebirds as a statement that would live on in many other forms for a few years. Now, whenever I see a "squarebird" on the road, I look, with respect, for the concept it introduced at the time, with nostalgia, and I'm glad there are still a few of these on the road to rock our memories of the late 50s! By the way, today I saw a 58 Ford Skyliner, backing out of a garage I've passed many times before, but never knew what was inside. How many 58 Ford Skyliners [retractable hardtop, in red and white, do you see?
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    ...with the factory sunroof (2536 produced), a/c, power seat and windows and the 'J' code 430, thanks.
  • mminerbimminerbi Member Posts: 88
    I agree with much of what carnut4 said in message #4, and would summarize my feelings by saying the styling, exterior and interior, of the Squarebird was outstanding. Bullseye! Today such a car would be referred to as a segment buster, because it defined personal luxury. The size was also perfect, in my opinion. I would add, though, that for me the main drawback of all 4 seat Thunderbirds, and not just the excessively large and space inefficient ones of the '60s and '70s, is their excessive weight. Does anyone know why they were so heavy? I can't help but think how much better their performance, in particular, but also their fuel efficiency would have been if their weight, including the Squarebird's, had been more proportional to their size. Does anyone else feel similarly?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Yes, their weight, especially the unsprung weight, makes them a chore to drive.

    I think it's just the laziness of the Detroit engineering of the time, using ladder frames, lots of chrome, huge V8 engines of no great efficiency--all this adds up to weight.

    While American styling was wild and creative in the 60s, American innovation and engineering really went south, compared to Europe. Essentially we were making the same cars we made in 1949, with fancier bodies.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Years ago I was getting some tires at Sears and met a couple there who collected squarebirds. They had one of them there, a '58, and they mentioned something about rear suspension problems but I can't remember the specifics now.

    Yes, the weights are staggering, especially for a car with such a short wheelbase. Lots of chrome of course, but I think a lot of it comes from all the bells and whistles they came with, plus probably lots of sound deadening material.
  • carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    the rear suspension in squarebirds. As I remember, the 58s had coil spring rear, but in 59, they switched back to leafsprings-anyone confirm or remember this? Also, the squarebirds had unitized body and frame? Or was that later? That might account for the weight.
  • parmparm Member Posts: 724
    I gotta admit, I've never really cared for the exterior styling on the Square Birds. Regulars in the classic car town hall will know my penchant for the '64 and '65 "Flair Birds" - but, even I don't like the grill on the 66's.

    However, my T-Bird styling preferences are moot because I found the clamshell buckets in the Flair Birds to be quite uncomfortable. And, since the whole point of owning one of these is for driving (or, at least it should be), I dropped my long-time fascination with these cars once I discovered for myself the lack of front seat comfort. So, as much as I like their overall styling, I've taken Flair Birds off my list of classic cars I'd like to own.

    With regard to the Square Birds, I will say that their interior styling was very nice for the period - same thing with the following generation Bullet Birds ('61-'63).

    Of course, these ramblings are only my humble opinion.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
    I presently own two Birds, a 58 and a 94. I also owned an 85 TuboCoupe from 1985 till 1994.

    So, I'll start with the oldest.

    I never had any intention of owning a square bird. Like everybody else, I wanted a 55...57 or anything in the early 60's, before the Bird became a Lincoln, or vice versa.

    But, I had known about this little old lady, who's back yard butted up against my wife's aunt's back yard, and her low mileage TBird. Since I was the present owner of a "classic" car (64 Galaxie 500 XL convert), I was asked to give her an idea as to what the car was worth, since she could no longer drive.

    So, on a beautiful afternoon in 1989, I took the 1964 convert over to her house to take a look.

    The car, white with black/white interior was parked nose in in a very narrow one car garage in Ridgefield Park, NJ. Car was on four flats, and hadn't been started in four years. But, it had an original 49,000 miles! Car had no dents, but you could see where the little old lady had some little old accidents. The grille inset was the Chevy-like 60 instead of the honeycomb 58 (probably picked up from a wrecking yard), the front seats needed covers, and the dash was all cracked up and in bad shape.

    So, I told her that, without starting the car, I figured $4,000.

    Two days later, I got a call that she "liked me" (I guess when your 93, you like anybody that talks to you), she also saw (by my convert) that I was not out to buy and sell, and she offered me the car for 4K.

    The next weekend, by brother-in-law and I, armed with battery cables, tools, new plugs, and a rented air compressor, went to see the car. We filled up the tires (they held air!), pushed the car outside, removed all the plugs, squirted some oil down the cylinders, hooked up battery cables, put a little gas down the carb, and attempted to start it, air filter on, of course.

    Darn thing kicked over pretty quickly, but was running rough. Car looked good, though, and I started to get an appreciation as to how advanced these cars were in 1958.

    Took it for a ride, car still missed, but decided to buy it anyway. Drove it home, getting a little concerned about the miss, parked it in my garage, and went upstairs for dinner.

    After dinner, I came downstairs, popped the hood, and found four unattached sparkplug wires! My brother-in-law thought I had re attached all wires, while I thought he has attached his side while I did my side.

    Attached the wires, and (surprise) the miss went away.

    One thing that the little old lady said to me was that she and her husband (never had kids) really wanted the two seater, but they waited too long to buy one, and the sqare birds were announced. I imagined buying a 57 two seater with 49,000 original miles in 1989!

    Tomorrow I'll look for the original Hackensack Ford paperwork with the cost of the car and all the exotic options, like skirts. I'll post all the figures and bottom line cost, including what they got for a trade-in on their 1950 Nash.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    You are correct. The 58's had a one year only rear coil suspension.

    I always liked these cars, especially the 1960 models.

    They handled horribly and had lousy brakes, still, they had a classy look.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Yes, the '58s have something of a reputation for scary handling. This is why Ford made considerable changes to the suspension in '59. Not only the rear leaf springs, which kept the rear axle in place during high torque and braking instances, but they also repositioned the front shocks entirely and beefed up the stabilizer bar. The '59 is no sports car but it is more manageable to drive.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
    As an owner, I can confirm that the 58 handles like garbage. But, I seem to remember Ford racing square birds on the oval track, although I don't remember which year.

    Pricing for a 1958 Thunderbird as follows: (Taken from original car invoice dated 4/14/1958, Hackensack Ford, Hackensack, NJ.)

    hi-fi radio--$128
    Pwr steering--$88
    FA (?) heater--$90
    BU lights--$19
    Wheel covers--$24
    PA (?) wipers--$14
    WW tires--$55
    Fender shields--$35

    base price--$3,846

    less trade in-$700 (1950 Nash)
    net cost--$3,558
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
    (Information taken from a book on Ford history)

    The 58 product planner, Thomas Case, fought to retain a two seat version as well as the four seat version; Robert McNamara shot him down. However, if it weren't for McNamara, the Bird might have died altogether.

    Car was definitely "unit construction".

    Rapid fire, clever engineering. Two thirds into the design stage, they discovered that there wasn't enough width for rear wheel movement. They split the die and moved the two sections apart.

    To keep the height of the car 10" lower than the regular Ford, the resulting design revealed that the driver's butt was only 12" off the ground. This resulted in high door sills, and the seats literally in a deep well. Bingo, the first "tunnel control console", which has just about become a standard with any bucket seat car.

    Wixom plant went on overtime to meet the demand; profit per car reached $1,000.

    Convertible was a late addition. 1958 sales were 36,000+ for the hardtop and 2,134 for the convertible.

    If you're not familiar with the car, you get a surprise to learn that the radio speaker is in the console, along with the heater controls and ashtray.

    When you buy an after market stereo radio to fit the car, they provide a speaker set up housing two separate speakers that's designed to fit in the console. (However, I did have to take a hammer to the driveshaft hump to get the stereo speaker to clear the hump.)

    To change the cracked dash and to provide room to work, I had to remove the instrument section, glove box, seats, and console. It was a tough job, but you can't tell any difference from an original installation.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    What's interesting about that list of accessories is that apparently you could have bought a '58 T-Bird without r&h, as the ads used to say--radio and heater. I wonder if there's a Bird out there with radio delete.
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    I remember my grandmother would always order her cars without a radio. She usually had a top of the line model so the lack of radio would usually take people by surprise.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    Power steering was an option! Can anyone imagine driving one without PS?

    When I was a kid working in a gas station, we had a customer with a beautiful '60 T-Bird. It was gunmetal grey (not a great color)and had the black and white vynal interior. I remember it had factory A/C which was pretty rare, even in So. Calif. He kept this car in immaculate condition and ended up selling it for (I think)
    800.00 in 1968. He offered it to me first.

    Since I already had a couple of cars and probably didn't have the money anyway, I passed.

    Oh well!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Actually, killing the T-Bird after 1966 or so would not have been a bad idea.

    It could always have been resurrected in the present time or maybe late 90s.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
    I agree that after 1966, the Birds lost their way.

    But, let's not forget the 1983 through 1989 TBird, especially the TurboCoupes.

    I bought a new 1985 TC in black/gray inside/5 speed. It was a great car, until I totalled in the last snowstorm of a miserable winter in the NEast, 1994.

    At slightly over 100,000 miles, the original brakes had just been changed (95,000); the clutch was original; the shocks were original; but the turbo had been changed.

    Car ran like a medium sized V-8 while getting over 30 MPG on the highway. And the 88's and 89's with the intercoolers were quicker.

    Fantastic car, and a styling leader in 1983.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    My brother's girlfriend had one when I was in high school (also a 5-speed), I borrowed that car every chance I got. Nice looking car, and it was quick, stylish and had good ergonomics for the time. It was quite a handful in snow and rain, though.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
    One serious problem with my 58 Bird is blow by.

    After riding on a highway, when you come to a stop, the smoke coming out of the open breather pipe is terrible. Looks like the car is overheating. Also, blows blue smoke out the back when first started (valveguides).

    Since it's not a showcar, and I only put about 2,000 miles per year on the car, I don't feel it's worthwhile to have the motor rebuilt. (I know where I can get my hands on a 69 Cougar 390/335 engine, but that car's been sitting for a long time and probably needs rebuilding, too.)

    (69 Cougar, XR 7, 4 speed, low miles, factory sun roof, factory A/C, red/white vinyl top/white interior, but the car turned to junk because it's been sitting in my relative's yard for (I'm guessing) over ten years.)

    I was thinking about converting the 58's open breather system to a closed system, by replacing the open breather pipe (picked up a closed system breather pipe from a junkyard 64 Ford 352) and running the fumes into the valve covers using a pcv valve.

    Is the idea too wild?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    No, I did it years ago to a '61 Chevy to get it smogged. I used an aftermarket kit but the later stock setup should work.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    It doesn't sound like you have it hooked up right in your head. The blowby fumes have to be recycled in combustion, you can't pump blow-by back into your valve cover area. You will have excessive crankcase pressure and lots of oil leaks I would guess.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Yeah, sorry, I guess I didn't read that post carefully. You're hooking it up opposite to the way it works.

    What you've got now is a crankcase ventilation system where air in vented into the valve covers, through the engine and out the road draft tube.

    Around 1963 as I recall (at least in California) they went to Postive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) where the crankcase vapors were ducted into the intake manifold (or as I recall, into the air cleaner housing if you were retrofitting a pre-'63 car) instead of going out the draft tube. That's what I did with my '61 Chevy and I think with the '56 Stude. I remember taking the road draft tube off at least one car. It may still be in my father's garage.

    A few years later (1968?) they went to a closed crankcase system where air is sucked through the air filter, then through a hose to the oil filler cap, through the crankcase, up through the other valve cover through a PCV valve and into either the intake manifold or a spacer under the carb.

    You have an interesting problem that can probably only be solved with a case of STP, but I think you should call Tom and Ray. After they get going with it it'll probably be good enough to make their next CD.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    You can't really fix it, but maybe putting in new valve stem seals would help things a bit. You might also darin your oil, then run some cheap oil in there and flush it immediately (1/2 hour at idling). Then clean oil and new filter.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Isn't it weak rings that causes blowby? Are you saying that maybe the rings are sludged up and aren't expanding? A quart of ATF added to the oil seems to clean out an engine pretty well too.

    If the car really has low miles the rings should be okay unless maybe they rusted to the cylinder walls from sitting.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Rings in those days didn't last as long as they do now.

    No, I was just thinking that sometimes clean oil burns more slowly than old filthy oil.

    There is no fix for worn rings. You can't replace that big a gap with something out of a can. The oil is just getting up into the combustion chamber. I suppose you could slow it down a little by gunking up the crankcase but I'm not sure this is a great idea on an old engine.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
    I know that I have two separate problems here, and I'm willing to live with the bad valve guides.

    But, the engine really does have only 60,000, so would it be worth to just add a can of ATF to the oil, or do what the old timers used to do: pour it slowly into the carb.

    If the tube into the valve cover is a bad idea, I was able to find the plate that goes under the carb that lets fumes get recycled into the combustion chamber.

    If I doctor something like this up, can I run a hose directly from the overflow tube into the pipe on the plate without a PCV valve?

    Remember, I'm not looking for authenticity here. I just want to do something to keep the fumes down so that I can use the car for longer trips without other drivers thinking that the car's overheating.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    There's really nothing you can do about this. ATF is just a very high detergent oil that isn't a very good engine lubricant. Some "old timers" were, sad to say, crackpots. They aren't all imbued with wisdom, believe me (speaking as one near-old timer myself).

    I don't wanna catch you pouring anything into your carburetor but gas :)

    If you jury rig a PVC system you are just going to foul your air cleaner and your spark plugs. The engine cannot process that level of blow-by.

    I'd say flush the engine with cheap oil, do some quick filter changes, and replace the valve stem seals and see what happens. Even pulling the heads and doing valve guides may help considerably. It's not a very hard job on a car like yours.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    I would hate to see you Micky Mouse up the car by installing a different engine like that 390.

    Oh...I know, others here will disagree with me.

    I think the idea of changing the oil several times is a good one. Also, try a can of Rislone. This stuff really works and this comes from a guy who usually does not believe in oil additives.

    Changing the valve guides isn't a real complex or expensive repair and you just might have a big difference.

    And...60,000 miles was getting to be overhaul time back in the "old days". Might be time for a rebore too.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I think the "old-timers" poured stuff like ATF down the carb to blow out the carbon in the combustion chambers. Don't know if it works but I bet it kills every mosquito within fifty feet--fierce amounts of smoke will come out the tailpipes.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
    Sounds more and more that I'll just drive it the way it is until it's time to dump it. (I will try the Rislone.)

    In my younger days, I had no problem changing manual trans (57 Chev 3 speed) and rear ends, and doing brake jobs in my driveway; no more. So, I'm not about to tackle removing the heads, and, like I said, the blue smoke from the valve guide problem only lasts for the first half mile or so. (I still don't mind doing simple stuff like changing radiators, water pumps, carbs, doing tuneups, etc.)

    The 58 is an amazing car to work on, with the hood opening from the front. The motor sits so far forward from the firewall, you can actually see most of the bell housing from up top. But, when you need to do radiator or front engine work, it's easier to take the hood off than try and work around it.

    The plate that I was referring to sits between the carb and the manifold, so it's downstream of the air filter. (It's an identical setup to the PCV system on my 64 Galaxie convert.) But, as noted, it could still foul the plugs if the blowby is bad enough.

    Seems like a pretty simple thing to try out, though. If it doesn't work. I can always throw in a new set of plugs.

    But, do I really need the PCV valve?

    Been kicking around the idea of selling one of them anyway. The convt has some nasty NEast rust underneath, but still runs/looks fine, even with 205,000 miles (about 110,000 on the motor). Owned it since 1969. It's like part of the family, now.

    It'll be a tough choice.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    A shop will use compressed air to hold the valves in place whne they change the valve stem seals.

    Not that difficult unless you lose air pressure in the middle of the job and the valve falls.

    If this happens, the mechanic will turn the air blue with swear words that make a Drill Sergeant look like a choir boy....

    As far as ATF...I once watched an old timer free up a sticking lifter by pouring a can down the carb. In this case, it worked!

    Talk about SMOKE !!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    For the life of me I don't know how oil in the fuel system is going to get to a valve lifter, but I'm open to being educated on this one!

    In the crankcase, it might work, as ATF is very high detergent.

    I once stopped some NUT from pouring borax into the intake air horn of a Mercedes diesel. He was going to "seat the rings". I really regret having intervened in hindsight. It could have been amusing.

    Yeah, put some valve stem seals in that T-Bird. It's worth the effort in this case I think.
  • jerrym3jerrym3 Member Posts: 202
    The valve seals sounds like a fairly inexpensive fix for the blue smoke when I start the car, and I'd get it done in a heartbeat if that were my only problem. But it still leaves me with the bigger issue: the blowby.

    What's a ballpark figure for an engine rebuild-$2,000?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    I don't know either, I do remember the lifter stopped clicking. He may have poured half of it in the oil?

    Can you imagine how brittle those stem seals must be after 43 years!

    The blowby? Well, I think a good machine shop would probably charge you around that 2000.00 number if you bring them the engine. I've been out of the loop for awhile and could be off.

    Probably needs a rebore etc...

    Sounds like the car may be worth the money and effortif the body is sound.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    Just wrap a rubber band around the top of the valve. That way, if you loose air pressure, the rubber band keeps the valve from falling down into the cylinder.

    Of course, there's always the rope-through-the-spark-plug-hole trick.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Pour borax through the carb ;-).
This discussion has been closed.