Autobiography of a Fifty-Five T-Bird


Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

Hi, my name is Tommy T-Bird and I know that many of you who read this column work hard to find birth and other meaningful dates in your ancestor’s lives. I know that you also love to find the stories that bring your ancestors alive. My story begins in a barn in Colorado. My current owner, Jim, was playing cards with his friends when he noticed me in the corner and made an offer to buy me. After driving me home a few days later, he discovered that my front end was loose……and so the saga begins!

Jim took me to a local shop that specialized in restoring Classic Cars and received an estimate of $45,000. When he came to, he drove me to another shop that was a bit more affordable. A few days later the owner of that shop called Jim and asked him to stop by and look at the underside of the car. It was like Swiss Cheese, and he was able to put his finger through the metal in several places. Not good! However, the shop owner and Jim just could not stand to see a Classic like me go to the scrap yard. Work began to rebuild my undercarriage and just about everything else.

Then the owner moved his business at least three times over the next seven years and I moved with him as I was in pieces. Work progressed at a glacial speed and the bills kept coming. Jim considered me an investment and a family member. Also, he was trapped into continuing as the alternative was to scrap me and all the money that had been spent. Jim moved back to New York state in 2008 and left me behind hoping that the man who was “working” in me would eventually get finished. Well, new wrinkle, the man who was working on me decided to retire and was selling the barn that I had been living in for quite a while. Just for the record, I was still in pieces.

Jim now faced a dilemma, scrap me after all this time or find a way to get me back to New York State. I was so happy and even shed a few tears when I found out that he was coming to get me. He and his wife boarded a plane for Colorado where they stopped briefly to visit family. Then they rented a truck that was capable of hauling a car carrier. The trip back was a wonderful adventure. Everywhere we stopped men came out of the woodwork to admire me. Jim’s wife could not believe the attention that I drew but she patiently waited at each stop for the men to relive their youth and share their tales of car restoration gone awry.

Sixteen Hundred miles later I arrived at yet another garage. This one was owned by a man who was a metal worker and fabricator. He accepted the challenge and soon discovered that most of the work done in Colorado had been done wrong and he had to start over. I was so discouraged but Jim reassured me that it would work out in the end.

Four years later, due to the death of the man who had been restoring me, I was moved yet again to another local Car Restoration Specialist whose anticipated one-year project turned into a 3-year project. This included yet another move to have the interior work done. The company tasked with the interior work went out of business. As they did not notify Jim, it was quite by accident that Jim located me in that business buried in numerous other projects. It was back on the hauler and back to the Car Restoration Specialist who was finally able to complete the job. Hallelujah!!!

I was delivered to Jim but there was one more hilarious hiccough. Just after the hauler left the driveway, Jim was in the process of driving me into the garage and I stalled and then….You guessed it! I would not start. Jim raced to call the hauler to see what they could do to help. A short conversation ensued, and it was determined that the problem was that I was out of gas. Can you believe it?

So here I sit safe and snug in Jim’s garage waiting for spring when he can take me out for a spin. The occasional friendly caress on my hood helps to pass the time. So, this is my story, I hope that it inspires you to write your own.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.