Gary Coe’s 5.0 Coyote Powered Thunderbird Is A Bird Of Prey
By Dale M. Moreau – Photography By the Author
This incredibly beautiful 1955 Thunderbird is not the first one Gary Coe has owned. He still owns the “driver” 1956 that spawned the dream that you see here. He wanted to build a really nice car but knew it would take years, and he didn’t want to be without it. It’s a 30-foot car, but a fast one, with a 392 ci Windsor engine. But, it would never stand up to the Coyote power he planned for the new one. Gary started with a body with no frame that he picked up at Bird Brains in Aurora, Oregon. Loading the body in his own custom-made car hauler, Gary took it to Steve’s Auto Restorations in Portland, Oregon. Steve’s Auto Restorations sent the measurements of the body to Art Morrison Enterprises for one of their custom chassis. They created a new frame and suspension to wrap around the potent DOHC Coyote V8 engine.
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Meanwhile, Steve’s Auto Restorations, who are well equipped to handle the changes that Gary was looking for, started on the body. The first change was to enlarge the wheel tubs, then a custom rear body panel, followed by Aston Martin front fender vents and spears, and one-off bumpers front and rear. Steve’s Auto Restorations added to the bottom of the quarter-panels and made a valance to thicken the rear of the car. But wait, there’s more. The headlight doors, usually made of pot metal, were hand-formed in sheetmetal and the fenders were welded to eliminate the seams. Also done away with are the door handles, locks, and the gas filler door. A 1957 Thunderbird grille surrounded with a tube grille adds the polished look of a custom car.
In the meantime, the chassis arrived from Art Morrison all set for the running gear. Gary races late-model Mustang Cobra Jets and has a high regard for the Coyote engine. His Ford motor of choice for this project is a ’14 302ci DOHC cam crate engine, knocking on the door of 420 hp, with Mustang 2-½-inch stainless headers. A 400RW automatic transmission with CompuShift is paired to the Coyote engine. Of course, a Ford 9 inch rear end that houses 4.11 gears is resting beneath a 16-gallon stainless gas tank. This ’Bird flies on Outlaw 18-inch Billet Specialties wheels front and rear. Those hot rims are shod with NT555G2 235/40R18 Nitto tires on the front and 255/45R18s on the back, with Wilwood brakes. Steering comes from an tilt ididit steering column topped with a Budnik steering wheel. The rest of the interior features a 1957 Thunderbird leather-covered dashboard with hidden stereo and air conditioning by Steve’s Auto Restorations. Jim McCrea of Portland hotwired the Thunderbird, and Bright Auto Upholstery in Portland stitched up the cream leather original seats.
Check out the images of 1955 Thunderbirds online and you will not see one that even comes close to the eye candy that is this hot rod. MR
Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Coyote Swapped 1955 Thunderbird.