Saturday, May 22, 2004

Owner found '56 Thunderbird convertible irresistible - twice

Mike and Bobbie DeRosa of Mason look out over the iconic spare tire on their bright red vintage 1956 Ford Thunderbird.
First car: A 1948 Chevrolet convertible. Dream car: The Thunderbird.

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The Cincinnati Enquirer
312 Elm St.
Cincinnati 45202
Fax: 768-8495
Mike DeRosa loves his 1956 Ford Thunderbird convertible so much, he bought it twice.

The first time, it was 1965 and DeRosa was working for the U.S. government in Huntsville, Ala. The original owner, who lived down the street from his apartment, had put the Thunderbird up for sale, and it became DeRosa's daily driver for the next five years.

"I'd always wanted one and could never afford one," says the 68-year-old Mason resident.

DeRosa sold the Thunderbird when he and his wife, Bobbie, started a family in 1970. They had moved to Ohio by that point, and sold the car to the owner of the Middletown Lumber Co.

He thought that was it for the Thunderbird. Then, in 1992, after his two children were grown, DeRosa thought he'd try to track down the Thunderbird and buy it back. The lumber company had closed, so DeRosa called the Middletown tax office to find the former owner's name.

The owner had recently moved back to Middletown from Florida. But he told DeRosa that his son now had the Thunderbird, and he wasn't interested in selling.

DeRosa says his heart sank at the news. But he talked to the son, he says, and pestered him for four months until the son named a price.

"It was higher than it should have been, let's put it that way," he says.

The car wasn't in great shape because it had been in storage for 10 years, DeRosa says. So over the next year and a half, he and his wife completely stripped the car to bare metal and removed all the parts. They had the engine and transmission rebuilt, installed new wiring and upholstery and gave it a fresh coat of red paint. They since have put 32,000 miles on it, driving it to car shows, cruise-ins and as far away as Canada and New York.

"It's just a fun car to drive," he says. "I'm trying to figure out how to put in the ground with me when I go."

Lauren Bishop

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