A heart attack six years ago dramatically altered Robert Conrad's active life style. No more hunting or fishing trips were in his future and his newly purchased power boat was reluctantly sold.
Sitting around the house doing nothing proved to be frustrating. That is when a friend introduced Conrad to the world of antique automobiles.
He found much to admire in the old cars on display at car shows. A 1973 Ford Thunderbird he saw reminded him of a similar one that his brother-in-law had once owned. “Cars still had character in 1973,” he observes.
Once the legal papers were signed on March 27, 2014 Conrad drove the blue Thunderbird to his Stafford, Virginia home.
That was a remarkably good day.
A dark blue padded top, blue leather upholstery and blue carpeting complete the blue theme of the handsome car. Even the headliner is blue.
Records that came with the car show the original owner bought the Thunderbird at a Ford dealership in Parkersburg, West Virginia on June 14, 1973.
Thunderbird was Ford's “Personal Luxury” car competing with Oldsmobile's Toronado and Buick's Riviera from General Motors. Thunderbird came equipped standard with a 429-cubic-inch, 208 horsepower V-8 or, in this case, an extra cost optional 460-cubic-inch V-8 engine that delivers 219 horsepower.
The big V-8 is kept cool by the 19.5 quarts of coolant flowing through the engine and radiator.
Five quarts of oil keep all the moving parts lubricated and the four-barrel carburetor feeds fuel to the engine from the 22.5-gallon gasoline tank.
Contributing to the luxury image is the 120.4-inch wheelbase supported by 15-inch wheels which level any imperfections in the road that the 4,505-pound car does not smooth.
Conrad's Thunderbird is equipped with power steering, power brakes, power windows and power door locks.
The automatic cruise function is activated by controls on the two spokes of the steering wheel.
Ford literature of the day boasted that expensive premium grade gasoline was not required for the engine to perform perfectly.
A total of 87,269 Thunderbirds were manufactured during the 1973 model year, each one with a base price of $6,437.
This car is from the era I grew up driving these big cars, Conrad recollects.
He does miss having small, triangular wing vent windows but he has learned to live with that deficiency.
“What drives me insane,” he says, “is the lack of a right side outside mirror.” However, that is a common complaint of drivers of antique automobiles equipped with only one outside mirror.
At the front of the Thunderbird is the energy absorbing chrome plated bumper which itself is protected by a pair of small vertical bumper guards. A thin strip of rubber protects all of this dazzling bright work.
Throughout the car the Thunderbird emblem can be found, even on the small “opera” side windows and on the large stylish wheel covers.
From the Thunderbird emblem on the leading edge of the long engine hood to the wall-to-wall taillights at the rear, the style of the car speaks Thunderbird. “I love it,” Conrad says.
The odometer nestled on the instrument panel by the 120-mile-per-hour speedometer registers almost 43,000 miles, a figure Conrad believes to be accurate judging from the condition of the car, both inside and outside.
“I enjoy getting it out,” Conrad says.