In 1977, the seventh generation of Ford’s Thunderbird was born, and this model was the first model in T-Bird history to be “downsized.” This downsizing trend would continue for the next few years, as Ford would begin to test the waters in the mid-size car platform, spawning cars like the 1974-76 Gran Torino Elite series. Ford also wanted to find out if the public would accept a Thunderbird that was sized like Chevy’s Monte Carlo. Though the Elite ended up selling quite well, this “new” T-Bird model would put it in the shade. Compared to the 1972-76 models, the ’77-79 was a 1,000 pounds lighter and much more-economical, exhibiting size reductions in almost every dimension, including the overall length and width of the car.
The 1979 Ford Thunderbird was the last of the ‘Torino Bird’ models. With its jet set lines and plush interiors, it may have seemed more like a luxury sedan than the kind of sports performance car consumers expected from the T-Bird. These cars were everywhere, and the dealers made financing easy, so the ’79 T-Bird became a great choice for Lowrider enthusiasts. It became common to see these cars at the malls, the Boulevards, and at the local car shows during the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. Before owning the T-Bird that you see below, Albert Michel of Bassett, CA, had one of these dream machines, although it was a long time ago days before he got married. Over time, the car was put aside, Albert forgot about it, and one day it totally disappeared altogether. Although he never found out what happened to it, he told himself that he would one day get another one. Albert kept his promise to himself, and stayed focused on it; the car became his “Obsession.”
A little legwork was all it took to get Albert back in the game. “I found this car in the Penny Saver, back in 1999,” he says. “The car was from Pico Rivera, CA, and it showed signs that there was a big Rottweiler adult dog using it as a home or doghouse. Boy was that dog upset when they foreclosed on his house, right [out from] under him for $500.00,” Albert jokes.
This five-year project represents a true pledge to the Lowrider artform of the 1970’s. After many frustrating years of coming back from car shows empty handed, Albert was finally ready to make his mark, so he got started on building his dream T-Bird. Due to the extremely worn down condition of the car, this ride was completely restored from the bottom up. This meant the T-Bird would have to receive a complete overhaul, which left Albert with the task of custom painting the chassis frame, as well as the interior. Albert chose the House of Color Hot Pink Pearl base color for this project, due to the fact that he was looking to build this car for his wife, Jennifer. He figured that this color choice would represent her well when she drove the T-Bird to shows. The unique old school graphics that Buggs laid out on this car attract attention no matter where the car is, drawing stares of admiration from the streets as well the shows.
Now that the exterior of the car was up to par, it was time to put a little elbow grease into the interior. The car was sent out to Tony’s Upholstery, in the City of Industry, where they wrapped the interior in lavender tones, complementing the exterior of the car. The finished interior would look much better than the one that originally came inside this American-made beauty. A nice touch was the stitching of the Thunderbird on the seats, which the crew added in a tri-color scheme that tied the inside of the car to the outside.
Albert took his time putting the hydraulic hard line system in. He went to master tuber and hydraulic expert Richard Jaquez, of Evergreen Hydraulics in Victorville, who installed a reliable basic setup. This 48-volt system was low maintenance, and would also work well for Albert’s wife. This set up was done in a few weeks, since the basic setup turned into a longer project than anticipated, as Albert kept adding more and more upgrades to the car. These upgrades included molding the suspension, and adding chrome to the original setup.
This clean build lived up to Albert’s expectations, and he remains proud of the hard work it took for the T-Bird to come to life. “The car was built for my wife, Jennifer, but I drive it the most,” he says, beaming with pride. He is also a proud member of Perspective Car Club, which includes his close friends, as well as their wives. “The “Obsession” T-Bird paint colors are simply eye-catching, and everywhere we drive it, it is sure to be a people pleaser for all ages. I found that finishing and now maintaining the car has truly been an Obsession for me, and whatever it needed, it was done. This is the car that took my money,” he laughs. “Hopefully the torch can be passed down in the future, once the kids are old enough to be part of it.”
Passing on our lifestyle is a good way to save our culture. If we can include our kids in what we love to do, maybe they’ll share our passion. Keep up the good work, and maybe one day we will be reading about your kids in the pages of Lowrider!
Owner: Albert Michel
Vehicle: 1979 Ford T-Bird
City/State: Bassett, CA
Club: Perspective, Los Angeles
Paint: House of Kolor three-stage candy paint job highlighted with pearls, flakes shot by Buggs and pinstripping done by Dennis Jones and Danny D.
Engine: Stock motor and transmission rebuild by Javier’s Engine work
Hydraulics: Two pump Hydraulic setup powered by 4 batteries designed for low maintenance.
Wheels: 14×7 Galaxy Wire Wheels
Upholstery: The cars interior was done by Tony’s Upholstery. They stitched the interior in Lavender Marine vinyl tones that would complement the exterior of the car.
Tires: 14-inch Premium Sportway 5.20s