Real Wheels: Achieving a childhood dream with his Ford Thunderbirds

·2 min read

May 14—ELIDA — Jeff Steinke, of Elida, owns both a 1957 and a 1958 Ford Thunderbird. Steinke brought them to the Gary Allen Memorial Classic Car Cruz-In.

Steinke's interest in Thunderbirds came from when he was growing up.

"My dad had one when I was growing up, and I always wanted to drive it. He got rid of it before I was able to," said Steinke.

Both of Steinke's Thunderbirds are automatics. And both are black, his "favorite color."

Steinke has owned the 1957 Ford Thunderbird for one year, and the 1958 Ford Thunderbird for four years.

Steinke picked the '57 Thunderbird up in Pennsylvania.

"A guy in Florida passed away and willed it to his grandson. His grandson didn't want it," said Steinke.

Ford produced the first Ford Thunderbird in 1955. For the 1957 model year, the front bumper was reshaped, the grille and tailfins were made larger, and larger taillights were fitted. The spare wheel moved back inside the trunk, which had been redesigned to allow it to be mounted vertically. The side "Thunderbird" script was moved from the fins to the front fenders. A new option 4-way power seats that would move rearward when the car was turned off to allow easier exit and entry. 1957 sales were 21,380, including three extra months of production because the 1958 models were late. The 1957 Thunderbird was the last two-seater

Interestingly, Steinke's 1958 Thunderbird was purchased after someone had passed away as well.

"A guy was restoring it for his wife and she passed," said Steinke.

Ford Motor Company conducted surveys on its Thunderbird model and two major changes were made to attract buyers: a rear seat was added and more luxury was incorporated into the newly designed Thunderbird. The 1958 Ford Thunderbird won Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, making history as the first individual model line to do so. Sales more than doubled the previous year's production, even though three months of production was lost, due to the redesign.

Steinke has driven his 1958 Thunderbird to California and back, putting 4,500 miles on it.

"So it has seen the road," said Steinke.

He enjoys taking the cars to car shows.

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