Interior of Jim Kerr's 1957 Ford Thunderbird
The view from Jim’s sofa. Click image to enlarge

Story and photos by Jim Kerr

Welcome to my den. This is not your typical den. Many people would look around and say “Hey, this is a garage”, but to me it’s my den. Find a seat and we can spend some time with some of my favourite things.

There are several places to sit. A cosy overstuffed armchair in the corner is a favourite spot to curl up and read, and a couple folding lawn chairs are available against the wall. You could hop onto the seat of my BMW motorcycle or climb into the 1937 Buick two door sedan and find a spot on the wooden apple box that forms a temporary driver’s seat. The Buick is just a shell now but parts are slowly being accumulated and someday it will cruise the summer nights as a long and low street rod. The apple box seat is an ideal place to sit and plan the next stage of construction, or just dream about how the car will look when finished.

Jim Kerr's BMW motorcycle
Click image to enlarge

The last available seats are a place of honour. They are in my little red 1957 Thunderbird. As you are my special guest, let your mind slide behind the wheel and imagine the wind rushing through your hair as I delve into the magic of my automotive world.

A glance around my den would reveal many of the items found in the shop of a person who enjoyed working on cars. The toolbox against the wall sits next to a floor jack and safety stands. A creeper leans against the air compressor, and a trouble light hangs from a hook. These are “tools of the trade” for any serious tinkerer. What makes this room different from a “garage” is what is found on the walls.

Of special interest is a porcelain BMW dealer’s emblem about two-foot diameter on loan from a friend. This antique has started many a discussion of the merits of their new models as compared to the older ones. I can appreciate the luxury of a 750iL and the Z4 roadster makes my head turn, but the sleek 507 roadster of the fifties is still my favourite. Its graceful lines portray a sleek and nimble look that beckons one to roar down the road with the top down. But let’s save that for another time. Now we are sitting in a little Thunderbird and we shouldn’t ignore her!

Pictures and posters of various “baby” birds grace the walls as a tribute to her. I always think of this little car as a lady, so just as ships have always taken feminine form, so does my car. The pictures served as inspiration when the car was in thousands of pieces while I undertook her restoration, and now remind me of the various views others see of the car as we cruise down the street.

The largest poster in my den is a 4 foot by 6 foot bus stop billboard of an actress filling an immaculate white 1957 Thunderbird with fuel. In script across the bottom are the words, “Charlie: the sexy, young fragrance for livin’ in the fast lane.” I don’t know if this ad campaign sold any perfume, but the car certainly caught my attention.

The only flaw in this poster is the model has her shoe placed on the car’s rear bumper as she fills it with fuel. Anyone who has lovingly restored a car or spent hours polishing chrome would cringe at the thought of her shoe scratching that delicate chrome finish.

Restoring this T-bird has been a labour of love. I fell in love with her when I drove my first one over twenty years ago. There is a special relationship between the car and myself after so many hours of cleaning, repairing, painting, and polishing. I am asked often if I would ever sell it. Perhaps someday, but right now we are having too much fun to consider parting ways.

Jim Kerr's BMW motorcycle
Historical photo showing identical 1957 Ford Thunderbird. Photo: Ford. Click image to enlarge

Sometimes the job of restoring a car is hard and dirty. It is difficult to dream about the finished car when it is scattered in a few thousand pieces across a shop and you are up to your elbows in grease. The key to getting it done is to take lots of pictures, make sketches as the car is being disassembled, and keep all the small parts in labelled containers. Your memory is probably better than mine is, but after a year apart, can you really remember where that wiring harness clip goes?

Maintaining a vehicle never stops, even a restored one. Tires need air, the oil needs changing, and rubber parts become hard with age. I noticed the convertible top weather stripping isn’t sealing as well as it used to (they never did seal completely!) and I should replace it. My den is a place of relaxation – a place to think, tinker and dream. Funny how time spent working there never does really seem like work at all! Thanks for taking the time to visit with me.

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