Squarebird: Vinny Tang's 1959 Custom Ford Thunderbird

Words Vinny Tang Photography Luke Ray

When I was a teenager growing up I was totally obsessed with anything that had to do with wheels. Skateboards, pushies, bikes and of course cars, cars and more cars, usually of the hot rod variety. Being an Asian kid growing up in the Fast and Furious era I couldn’t help but feel a bit different when all the kids was talking about Nissan Silvias and Hondas in class, but when I was at home by myself I was reading hot rod rags and trawling through the Jalopy Journal and its infamous forums.

As a part time job through most of my years through high school I worked at an import lot for Japanese sports cars on weekends, dealing with all the “Ricers” that came in with their Skylines and Supras. So when it came time for me to buy my first car I knew I had to have something that would never be associated with those guys.

Unfortunately at the time I couldn’t afford the Henry Ford steel I was drooling over in Just Cars so I settled with a 1971 VW Type 3 Variant; a retired '80s show car complete with bright pink paint, velour interior riding on Porsche Fuchs wheels at a very low altitude.

I promised myself that I would own my very own American custom within five years and surely enough, after a string of Volkswagens that included a slammed ’62 Beetle, a gorgeous ’54 Beetle and a few others, I finally worked my way up to purchasing this amazing J-Code 1959 Ford Thunderbird off The H.A.M.B. internet forum for sale section four years later.

Originally looking for a ’64 Galaxie XL, when I came across the 'Squarebird' it was love at first sight. I immediately arranged for the car to be shipped over from Nevada, where most of the custom work and restoration had been taken care of by the previous owner, Jon.

Jon bought the ‘Bird from his father one week before the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekend last year in pretty average shape. He created a wonderful late ‘50s mild custom that not only turned heads, but also gave a nod to arguably the most influential car painter of all time; the late Larry Watson.

The paint job that Chris Clark Customs laid out paid homage to Watson’s ‘58 T-Bird 'Vino Paisano', donning the same panel and fade style that the second incarnation of the Vino Paisano wore but with a gold/nickel base and bright candy blue paneling to set it apart from its predecessor. It was finished off with some lovely but subtle pin striping adorning the front and back of the car.

Apart from the wild paint though, the only other cosmetic modifications on the Birdy are the tuck & roll interior, new old stock chrome reverse wheels wrapped in BFG bias plys and of course the menacingly low stance provided by some chopped springs and lowering blocks.

When the car arrived in Melbourne it was almost straight off the tow truck and off to a cruise up to the Chopped Rod & Custom show in Newstead, Victoria. It survived the weekend without any hiccups, but once it got back to Melbourne it was sent to Rancho Deluxe in Collingwood to get the pamper treatment from Ben Thomas.

It’s now on the road breaking necks scraping speed humps. I don’t have much of a plan to do any further modifications. The only thing I really have planned for it is to drive the hell out of it! I don’t know if you can tell through the photos but this car is an absolute hoot to drive and to see flying down the freeway. I get all kinds of people quizzing me almost every time I stop at a traffic light.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 07.

Follow Vinny: @bigdaddytang.

Model Anne Duffy: @anneduffy_model.