Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction, Part 7

Resuming our tour of the baby-boomer toys, here we encounter a 1955 Ford Thunderbird. The T-Bird was always one of my favorites — at least the model years 1955 through 1957 when they were two-seaters. Now those were cool cars! And it is still fun to look back at the consoles from this era — pretty spartan compared to the high-tech, wrap-around cockpits we find in cars today.

Interestingly, with this T-Bird, the seller also included a model of the exact same car. At least I finally found an automobile I could afford — the model, not the full-size vehicle.

You may recall the Cadillac that I shared in last week's issue — here is a 1955 version. Convertible even.

This vehicle shows the evolution of the tail fins that were the height of automotive fashion for more than a decade. Today's younger set will find it hard to believe that such excesses were ever in vogue — especially in light of the almost homogeneous designs of today.

A traditional Buick styling cue dating to 1940 is a series of three or four "portholes" or vents on the front fender behind the front wheels. The source of this design feature was a custom car created and owned by Buick stylist Ned Nickles.

His Buick had a flashing light within each porthole, synchronized with a specific spark plug — simulating the flames from the exhaust stack of a fighter airplane. Combined with the bombsight mascot (introduced in the 1940s), these "ventiport"s put the driver at the controls of an imaginary fighter airplane.

The flashing light feature was not used by Buick in production, but the portholes remained as nonfunctional ornamentation.

A personal story: My great grandfather was a Buick man. Every two years he would buy a new one. His "discards" were often sold to family and friends so that my parents and many of my relatives also drove Buicks.

When I was really young — like four or five years old, Granddad, as he was known, would let me steer his Buick on the country roads around Showell, Maryland where he lived — while he controlled the foot petals.

It was many years later when I reached adulthood that my mom, in relating these stories, told me she was scared to death when Granddad let me "drive". Somehow I survived to tell the tale.

Another feature of that era's automotive fashion was distinctive taillights. Every kid in those days could distinguish between a 1955 Buick (seen here) and a 1956. Yes, they often evolved only a bit year-to-year but the differences were enough for us to know.

We would instantly recognize this 1955 Chevy. However, if a dispute arose about whether it was a '55 or a '56, we discovered the authority to determine who was right.

It seems that the part number for the taillight lens was embossed into the plastic. And the model year was part of that part number. In this very tight crop of the above photo, you can see the "55" just to the right of center. Case closed!.

Of course, if the owner of the vehicle saw us crouched down close to the rear fender, he would naturally assume these teenagers were up to some mischief. It was hard to convince the adults that we had no nefarious intent.

At least at the auto auction, one could stoop down and take a close look at the taillight and no one cared. And if you had done so behind this Chevy, you would verify that it is a 1956 model. Of course, we kids already knew that.

Foreign cars were considered quite exotic in those days. Just saying "Jaguar" rang a tone of distant lands quite unlike the U.S. The funny thing was that the only foreign cars that my friends and I liked were the sports cars. This 1956 Jaguar XK140 would fit the bill.

But our hearts were really reserved for a small set of American cars, thus we end this week's issue with (as I mentioned above) one of my personal favorites, a beautiful 1956 Ford Thunderbird. Don't believe me on the year, check the taillight.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com