Growing Strong Since 1976
It all began in January 1976 with an information ad in the “Buy and Sell” for intended owners of 1955-1957 Thunderbirds. At this time a little bird in mint condition would cost about $3,500-$4,000. Of course they were all daily drivers. The only other club for post-war cars at this time was the 5-6-7 Chev club.
There were no events for cars built after 1940 or so and nobody was collecting them. It was really a lonely hobby because back then Ford owners didn’t speak to Chev owners and vice versa. Our only events were our own club events, or joining the Seattle club for an event.
Six people attended the first club meeting on Feb.8, 1977 at Al Beix’s house – Al, John Henderson, Marc Edge, Walt Paton, Guy Millar and Gord Dewhurst. Gord, of course, is a member again having purchased a 1955 a few years back.
Besides monthly meetings, year one consisted of a tour to Mt. Seymour (six cars attending), a picnic at Cates Park, a tour to Harrison with the Olympic club from Seattle, and a pool party at Keith Robinson’s. On June 12, 1977 our club attended a picnic at Fort Casey, Washington. Our half dozen “rough” cars parked in a corner of the field of about 50 cars as the “bar had been raised about 100 feet” from our level of restoration.
By August of ’77, we had 18 little birds at the Regional in Seattle. September was our first Pow-Wow at Jock McDonald Park near Cultus Lake with 35 Birds. Gord Dewhurst’s father-in-law smoked salmon, and the Americans took all the awards home. We had five birds in the Speed Sport ’77 show at the PNE buildings in October and we were awarded Chapter 80, of CTCI on Nov. 9.
We ended the year with Volume I, No I of the club newsletter. Later to be named “The Smoke Signal” in July 1978. Our charter was presented this year, and we had two members attend the CTCI convention in Dallas, Texas. Gender balance became reality in December when Ruth Jensen was elected as secretary for the club.
By 1979 ’55-’57 Birds were going for about $8,500. In May 1979 Ford and Nel Johnson of Seattle were named Totem Club Life members. Ford was instrumental in founding the club and securing our charter. Significant events in the eighties were hosting the Southern California T-Birds at the Vancouver Rowing Club, welcoming ’58-’66 T-Birds to the club in 1983, T-Bird Day at Expo ’86 with 54 cars in heavy rain, and blind club member Burt Johnson driving his ’55 Bird at Boundary Bay Airport after a ground up restoration. Burt restored the car and drove the car – all with no sight! He later went on to break the world record for blind drivers driving a Corvette at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
In June 1989, we hosted our first VTCI Regional at the Villa Hotel in Burnaby, chaired by Bob Shannon. It was a huge success. We had previously hosted a three day event for little Birds at the Park Royal Hotel in 1978 but it was not a sanctioned Regional. By the ‘90s a little Bird would cost you around 35K to purchase and a big Bird about $20,000. The All Ford Day continued through the nineties as did the Pow-Wow. The first annual Okanagan Classic Thunderbird Club Show and Shine began in 1993, and continues today. Our second VTCI Regional was held at the Villa Hotel in July 1994. We also welcomed ’67-’71 Birds to the club that year.
The All Ford Day was held in 1995 for the last time, replaced by the 1st annual Totem T-Bird Classic Cruise In at Deas Island Regional Park. “From the Mountains to the Sea, Bring your Birds to B.C.” was the theme of the 1999 CTCI Regional convention. The highly successful convention was followed by one of the best attended Pow-Wows ever held at the Boy Scout Park in Richmond. Of course, 2002 brought the new Retro T-Bird and more enthusiasm to our events.
“Thunderbirds Roll at the River Rock” was the theme of the CTIC Convention for our Region in 2009. Held at the River Rock Casino in Richmond and chaired by Barry Miller, the event was a weekend to remember, with garage tours, rooftop Concours and an outstanding banquet.
In the near future, T-Bird enthusiasts look forward to hosting a VTCI Regional and welcoming more Thunderbirds to our club.
Happy 41st Anniversary – Totem T-Birds!