While driving his 1964 Ford Thunderbird, Victor Burns of Lincolnville had stopped at a gas station along I-35 in Oklahoma when a stranger walked up to take a closer look. They struck up a conversation.
“We talked about the possibility that he might have helped put the car together,” Burns said. “It was interesting. The man had lived in Michigan and worked for Ford on the Thunderbird line.”
The car’s most unique feature is on the dashboard above the radio, a small metal plate that reads, “This car was made especially for Tina Walton.”
Apparently, back then the company provided a personalized plate whenever someone purchased a Thunderbird from a dealer.
“I wonder if Tina Walton is still alive,” Burns said. “It would be interesting to know her.”
Burns’ wife, Gail, named the car “Tina” and made a nameplate for the front of the car.
Burns bought the car two years ago. His son-in-law Jesse Hamm and Jesse’s brother, Jason, both of Hillsboro, have been involved in the Marion County demolition derby for many years. They spend every year preparing vehicles for the next derby.
They were looking for Chevrolet parts at a farm auction between Walton and Hesston when they found the T-bird. It was stored in Walton for years, and the owner had died.
Jesse Hamm sent a picture of the vehicle to Burns after they got it fired up.
“I’m a Chevy man, but I knew my father-in-law was a Ford man,” Hamm said. “He talked to me about T-birds and Mustangs.”
Burns named his price, and the vehicle was purchased for half that.
“It was a good deal,” Burns said. “It’s worth more than double what I’ve invested in it.”
The fourth-generation Thunderbird hardtop has the original V-8 engine and 3-speed transmission. White with an all-white leather interior and lots of chrome, the car didn’t need much work to make it run well.
Burns replaced the gas tank because the car had set so long with gas in it. A tune-up and oil change, and it was ready to go.
He has shown the vehicle at a couple of car shows but gets his greatest pleasure out of driving it.
“It’s a heavy car, but it floats down the road,” Burns said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Another unique feature is the word T H U N D E R B I R D sprawled in large letters across the front of the hood. Burns said 1964 was the only year that was done.
Last fall, he drove Tina in Labor Day parades at Burdick and Florence. In addition to the trip to Oklahoma, he takes it to doctor’s appointments and for short trips in the area.
“Now that I’ve got the car out, I think I’ll drive up to Herington to have lunch with Gail,” Burns said last Wednesday.
His wife works at Central National Bank, and he is an engineer for Union Pacific Railroad.
Burns has enjoyed the T-bird so much that he would like to buy another antique Ford car.
“I have my eye on one, but it isn’t final yet,” he said. “It (owning antiques) is a little costly, but it’s fun.”