Ford Thunderbird Firestar Custom
As customs go, it is hard to improve on a sleek 1961 Ford Thunderbird coupe with its build orchestrated by John D’Agostino, who has been instrumental in reviving the art of customizing since he rose to prominence in the 1970s. Over the intervening years, his very fertile imagination and true reverence for the legends of the restyling art have resulted in a multitude of beautiful customs that emphasize and retain the best original design elements of each car with tasteful accents, creating a unique statement every time.
D’Agostino was already a seasoned competitor on the West Coast ISCA show-car circuit by the early 1970s with his brand-new 1970 Pontiac Grand Prix, which took Best Custom honors at the Grand National Roadster Show, followed by a much more radical 1972 Buick Riviera. D’Agostino developed an even greater fascination for the restyling art after viewing George Lucas’s iconic American Graffiti in 1973. Shortly thereafter, D’Agostino purchased a nearly restored 1951 Mercury, but found it too nice to customize, so he simply completed the restoration and sold the car, clearing space for the purchase of another 1951 Mercury. This time, D’Agostino radically customized the Mercury, which he dubbed the Midnight Sensation. True to its name, even though the car had not yet been completed, it created an unexpected sensation in the parking lot at the 1975 Oakland Roadster Show, forging D’Agostino’s growing stature in the custom car world.
A steady succession of major award-winning customs followed over the ensuing decades, with D’Agostino enjoying national and international notoriety. This particular D’Agostino creation, the “Firestar” 1961 Ford Thunderbird Coupe, was built in 1997 and beautifully continued the distinguished tradition of its creator. Sporting a chopped top and a pair of subtly modified taillights, the Thunderbird also features restyled rear fender peaks, very successfully echoing the attractive high-canted fenders of the earlier 1957 Thunderbird.
Beautifully finished in arresting Candy Red paint with gold scallops by Marcos Garcia of the Lucky 7 Custom Shop of Antioch, California, “Firestar” is accented by a set of chrome plated wire wheels and wide whitewall tires, a D’Agostino trademark. Other touches include extensively dechromed bodywork, European-style headlamps within custom mesh-type housings and a custom grille insert with an intricate network of bullet-shaped projections, reminiscent of custom grille treatments of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Inside, the already stylish Thunderbird interior remains intact and includes the aircraft-inspired instrument panel, a “waterfall” dash and floor console enhanced by beautifully fitted white vinyl upholstery. Options include power brakes, power steering, power windows and an AM radio.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in September 2009 at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California.
300 bhp, 6.3L V8 engine, single four-barrel carburetor, three-speed Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission, independent front suspension and live rear axle with Air Ride front and rear, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 113"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel