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1955 Ford T-bird Powered by Modern Muscle

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 2015-10-15 Gerry Burger
001 1955 Ford Thunderbird Cruisin The Coast Ford Performance Bfif © Provided by Hotrod 001 1955 Ford Thunderbird Cruisin The Coast Ford Performance Bfif

It’s an interesting phenomenon, but somehow even when you are immersed in a sea of over 7,000 collector cars of every description, a certain few reach out and grab you. This time it happened during Cruisin’ the Coast as we were walking through one of our favorite cruise spots, Bay St. Louis. The streets were filled to overflowing with hot rods, muscle cars and restorations, and yet amid this collage of cars we spotted this simple 1955 Thunderbird, parked off the road in front of a vintage garage.

It was obvious at first glance this is no stocker, and while the modifications are many, they all enhance the original design of the Thunderbird. As we moved in for a closer look we met the owner, Debbie Alleman who was kind enough to share the interesting story behind this fine automobile.

Over the years Debbie and her husband, Pat Alleman, enjoyed a string of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. While that was enjoyable, Debbie suggested they try entering the collector car world with a nice modified car, as it would open up new avenues of motorized pleasure.

002 1955 Ford Thunderbird Cruisin The Coast Ford Performance Bfif © Provided by Hotrod 002 1955 Ford Thunderbird Cruisin The Coast Ford Performance Bfif

That suggestion spawned a great idea for Pat Alleman. He would search for a suitable car and have it built for Debbie’s 50th birthday. Luckily Pat and Debbie had a friend Tim Meaux who owns Mo Muscle Cars, in Monroe, Texas. Pat found and purchased this 1955 T-bird and brought it to Tim Meaux to be built as a birthday surprise for Debbie. In a cruel twist of fate Pat was struck down by a severe stroke the very day he delivered the car to Tim. Pat Alleman passed away soon after. It would be several months before Tim Meaux told Debbie of the car and Pat’s plan. Debbie quickly decided to move forward with the project and bring it to completion. The end result is seen on these pages.

Tim and Pat had discussed the build and like most good plans this was a simple approach. No major body mods, just some careful tweaking to enhance the original lines of the car along with a complete update of the running gear for better drivability.

Starting with a fine example of Ford’s two-seater, the body was removed from the frame and the front suspension was updated with RideTech coilover shocks, power rack and pinion steering and Baer brakes. Out back a 9-inch Ford rear mounts with a tri-angulated four-bar, an anti-sway bar and RideTech coilovers. A second set of Baer brakes complete the rear suspension and Polished American Torque-Thrust wheels are found on all four corners.

Power for the Thunderbird comes in the form of a 302 small-block Ford fed by Edelbrock Pro-flow fuel injection. MSD ignition provides a hot spark while headers handle the exhaust. All of the accessory items mount to the front of the engine with a Vintage Air Front Runner system. An interesting side note, this was one of the very first Front Runner systems Vintage Air produced for the Ford small block motor. Externally, milled the aluminum air breather and valve covers continue the alloy look. Behind the 302 Ford is a C4 transmission with a Lokar shifter.

003 1955 Ford Thunderbird Cruisin The Coast Ford Performance Bfif

003 1955 Ford Thunderbird Cruisin The Coast Ford Performance Bfif
© Provided by Hotrod

The body mods are few but effective. Out back the crossed flags have been removed from the gas tank door and the exhaust surrounds have been separated from the bumper, shortened and mounted to the pan above the bumper, providing a clean, uncluttered look to the rear of the car. Speaking of bumpers, both the front and rear bumpers have been flipped, once again making for a much lighter, cleaner look. The custom bumper irons tuck the front and rear bumpers close to the body and the ends of the bumpers have been trimmed to flow with the quarter panels. After untold hours of block sanding and panel fitting the ‘bird was covered with Ferrari red urethane from PPG.

Moving inside we find two-tone brown leather in a tradition rolled and pleated pattern along with a small console to house the Lokar shifter. Stock T-bird metal inserts remain on the door panels and the dashboard, once again maintaining the original T-bird feel. But our favorite part of the entire interior are the two A/C ducts skillfully integrated into the dashboard on either side of the speedometer, outlets once reserved for the clock and tachometer now provide cool air. The Vintage Air controller blends seamlessly into the stock dash.

The crowning touch was the license plate, one that Pat Alleman had chosen for the car. And so the car was completed much the way Pat had planned, and while the car was not completed for a birthday surprise the unveiling was still as special day, as Debbie told us, “The car wasn’t ready for my 50th but we did unveil it on 2/14/07 with a big Valentine party and that happens to be the date Patrick asked me to marry him.” Today Debbie enjoys the car on weekends and for local drives. One thing is certain, with the timeless modifications and reliability built into this T-bird it will never go out of style. 

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