Happy Wife, Happy Life – Marilyn (and Bud) Wolfe’s 1957 Thunderbird
For some car guys, getting permission from your wife to buy or build a new car can be a struggle. Not this time for Bud Wolfe. His wife Marilyn practically insisted he build this 1957 Thunderbird.
“I had a ’56 Victoria I bought for my wife,” Bud says. “Then I started a ’60 Edsel, so I sold the Vicky. She was not happy! She said, ‘you owe me a T-bird!’ This is actually her car.”
Bud soon found a drivable but somewhat rusty ’bird to craft into a contemporary custom rod. “I like customs, but I would rather smooth up an existing style than go too far,” Bud says. “In other words, keep it like it could have been factory, just cleaner, smoother.”
That’s precisely the approach he had Mike Walter of Rainier Rod & Custom take on the T-bird body. The modifications are subtle and meaningful, like frenched headlights with integral turn signals, smoothed front bumper, custom grille, frenched taillights, modified rear bumper with custom rear pan, shaved emblems and door handles, and custom side trim. Mike also reworked the hood to hinge from the rear before spraying the brilliant PPG Blue Azure finish.
An Art Morrison chassis improved the T-bird’s footing, with more modern front and rear suspensions, rack-and-pinion steering, air springs, and Wilwood disc brakes. Bud says getting the stance right was a little tricky. He originally had Curtis Speed build 17- and 19-inch wheels, but then changed to 18s in the rear instead for a less-aggressive rake. The wheels are wrapped in Pirelli tires.
As you might have gathered from his other projects, Bud is a Ford guy and kept this project all Blue Oval with a 347c.i. small-block engine built by Stan Johnson using SVO heads, FAST ignition, and a Borla eight-stack EFI setup. Wicked Fabrication built adapters for the vintage T-bird Y-block valve covers. Sanderson headers feed fumes to the custom exhaust and a Lokar shifter directs the Tremec five-speed transmission.
Tony Miller at Stitches Upholstery gets credit for the clean cockpit, which features blue leather upholstery over Wise Guys bucket seats, with a Thunderbird emblem laser etched into the suede inserts. The dash, custom console, and door panels are upholstered to match. Custom Classic Instruments gauges are mounted in the dash above a Flaming River tilt column and Budnik steering wheel.
The end result is one trick 1957 Thunderbird that does exactly what Bud intended: takes a good design and makes it better. And more importantly, it makes Marilyn happy.
Photos by Damon Lee