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.The New Thunderbird

Get Creative
How to's...
Installing the Boot
My car will be like this
The New Thunderbird

Get Creative

So - You have your car now - what can you do to dress it up even more:

1 - Paint the recess of the wings on your hubcaps - really dresses them up.  I used #444 Patina - by Plaid in their Folk Art series.  It's a water soluble acrylic paint.  The color matches the color on the hood emblem quite close.  Here's a link to their site and the page with the color. #444 Patina  You may also find the paint in your local hobby stores.  I don't guarantee how long it will last on the hubs but mine have been painted for 8 months now and no chipping or peeling of paint occuring yet.  You'll also need a very fine artist paint brush, some toothpicks and paper towels on hand to wipe up any stray lines you make.  Clean you hubs well before starting this project and don't do it on the wheel..  Take the hubs off and sit down with some good light and plenty of time to play.  This is an inexpensive way to dress up your bird, and can be touched up at any time.  I did let mine stay dry for several weeks before washing them.  You may also want to put a couple of coats of wax on the paint after it's been thoroughly dried.
click on me

2 - Door Lock covers:
 Use a push plug like the ones that hold the rear package tray in the trunk. I found one that would fit inside the lock hole. I then cut the stem off with some cutters. then you apply a small piece of 3m automotive velcro on the backside and another piece on top of the lock cylinder. to get the proper color just paint it with your touch up paint you should be able to get it smooth if you are careful. this looks as good or better then the 12 buck version -- Tom Flocks

Another way:  Plastic screw covers. I used the #10 size. I don't know if that's 10mm or what. It's bigger than a #9 and smaller than a #11.  Actually the #11 might fit a little better. Hell, at 5 cents a piece, get one of each.  After it's painted and ready to be velcroed to the car, trim off and discard the bottom half as shown in picture 2.   The cover stays in place with a little bit of velcro. You stick one half right over the keyhole and the other half on the back of the cover. If you ever do need to use the key in the door (which I haven't ever) you just lift off the cover with a fingernail, and peel off the velcro covering the keyhole.-- I. Sheppard

3 - Front License Plate Bracket -  If your state requiress one and you don't want to put holes in your front bumper, here's a couple of  solutions found on TBN (thunderbirdnest.com) #1 and another #2

3B - Covering up holes in front bumper made when license plate holder was installed and you don't want the holes showing after removing license plate and bracket. More TBN help: method #1 and method #2

The following crafts can still be done even after you have your car:

Things to do While you Wait for your Thunderbird to be delivered -

1 - You're getting a convertible (that is the correct spelling) -
They leak no matter how hard the manufacturer tries to make them leak proof - so be prepared. Say - one nice thing about this 'bird since we've had it for a year now and drive rain or shine - NO LEAKS.  (well, maybe one - seam in the floor board on the driver's side had to be resealed - leaked while driving thru rain for 8 hours.)  But I did get some nice towels appropriate for my color interior and keep them in the car for mishaps, etc....  Wash them well in case the color wants to "run" or "bleed" particularly if you are getting a dark or bright color.  If your car never sees the rain, at least you will have towels to cover your seats  when the top is down and it's sitting in the sun.   They even work for a steering wheel cover in a pinch but do look tacky so you may want to make one of the steering wheel covers below.
Also look for the "shamis" on the market - they absorb much more water than a towel, without dripping, though they don't come in Thunderbird colors.
Now the following is for this scenario:  The sun's out, the top is down, you're wearing shorts.  You stop for lunch and leave the top down.   You come back to leave.  Ouch! the seat's HOT, can't touch the shift knob & the steering wheel is burning your fingers.
Been there, done that - many times!

2 - Make a simple Steering wheel cover

Get steering wheel measurement - It's a 15" diameter wheel.

Fabrics to use: Terry toweling, flannel, stretch denim, suede,  upholstery (route 66 design! - it's still available), double knit.    I was going to suggest vinyl or smooth leather but remember what this cover is for - to keep you from having to touch a hot wheel and vinyl & leather will defeat the purpose.

If you think you need the car in hand, then just prepare yourself for this project, i.e.: build a paper pattern, design the center embellishment.  Browse thru your local fabric and upholstery shops looking at the different types of fabrics available.  Most good, ready made towels use a better quality terry than you will find in most fabric stores.

  • A simple steering wheel cover can be made by cutting a large circle that is at least 4 inches larger than the steering wheel - so a 19" diameter circle will do. Embellish center of cover with design;  give circle a one inch hem, leaving an opening to insert 5/8" elastic that is cut 4 inches shorter than the circumference of the wheel.  Pull up on the elastic for a snug fit yet can still be removed from the steering wheel. Sew ends of elastic together and close opening in hem.  Cover is then ready to slip over the steering wheel.
  • Another simple steering wheel cover can be made by cutting 2 circles about 1 inch larger than the steering wheel.  Cut one circle in half  (toss one half) and make a 2 inch hem on the straight edge.  Embellish the full circle and the hemmed half circle.  Place right sides together so that hemmed half circle will be at top half of the full circle.  Sew a half inch seam around curve of the 2 pieces.  Turn right side out and finish hemming the rest of the full circle.  This will slip over the top of the steering wheel - no elastic needed.

If you have used the terry and decide you don't like the cover, at least you can use it for soaking up any water that happens to leak into the car.

Of course, you can forget the above if you think it's too tacky but remember this page is here when you've finally decided you've had enough burned fingers.   Covers also prolong the life of the leather and the finish on the steering wheel.

You could wear driving gloves.

or just go out and buy a steering wheel cover - those can be found on the market.

3 - Lets cover that gear shift knob
This will require a pattern and I don't think there are any of these covers to be found on the market.   I'll work on getting a pattern available for the future.  It'll be free since it'll be as easy to do as the steering wheel covers.  You may even be able to use a golf club cover if you need one in a hurry.  Of course you can suffer without one since you don't need to touch the shift knob for very long.
4 - Lets make a bag
for all  those above accessories,  to keep things neat & tidy.  There are plenty of different styles of bags on the market or you can visit your local fabric store, pick out a bag pattern from their pattern books and browse for the fabric of your choice.  I think a small gym style bag would be ok and it could sit on the shelf behind the seats or get tucked into the trunk.  A simple 'grocery" style bag with handles can also  be made and this you can personalize to match the rest of the accessories.
Comment: You may never think you're going to want any of the above but just leave the top down one time, while you go into a restaurant to eat or stop at a beach to enjoy the sand..  If you haven't found any shade to put the car in, you'll wish you had when you climb back into the car.  Of course, you're out of luck if you're showing off the car at a car show or other event and don't want any covers on the interior.  Then you'll need those towels for a quick cover when you go to sit back down in the car.

5 - Make Jewelry -

Find some nice stone & glass beads and come up with a necklace and earrings.  For starters, this is what I made from fiber optic glass beads, hematite beads, glass seed beads and fresh water pearls along with a Northwest Indian Thunderbird charm and a little "2002" charm.  Simplified it all by making it long enough so a clasp wasn't needed.
The teal blue of the fiber optic bead doesn't show up well, just like the Thunderbird blue - the colors are very close.  The dark grey of the hematite beads will match the interior quite well.

6 - QUILT! - (I've been waiting for this car too long)

Original design by Dot Lang - 4 feet 9 inches x 23 inches
Quilt! - I am a quilter so naturally, I will make quilts with Thunderbird themes. 
Small lap quilt

7 - Maintenance Log
Why I didn't think of this before, I don't know, as many of you have had your cars for awhile now.  This time, let's make a "maintenance log" for your new Thunderbird.  Personalize it with photos of your car.  It's useful to have a nice graphics program and color printer to help you along.  You'll also want some "card stock" paper .  It'll last longer with the kind of abuse that you may give it. typing paper or regular printer paper will work if you don't have the card stock.

  1. I started out with a "Title Page" that included a picture of our car and some of it's vital statistics such as VIN # and color.  You could also add engine size and transmission type.  Mine includes when we bought it and mileage on the odometer at the time plus it's original color, inside & out.  If you get a 3-ring binder as suggested on the "care" page, with a clear sleeve on the cover, you can insert this page in that pocket.  Here's my example:
  2. Next make your first "maintenance page" where you will include such things as  oil changes, tire rotation, and tune-ups:  Categories to include as headers are: DATE, Work Performed, Odometer Reading, Cost, Shop/Mechanic.  Make at least a couple copies of this page.  Remember that it's a working page and scribbles & scraches are OK on it.  Makes it look more authentic in the long run.
  3. You could add a Fuel page to it to log date you add gas, where, odometer reading, cost and mpg but I find a separate little notebook kept in the car is more useful.  That's where I keep track of oil changes, too, which can be transferred over to your main log.  Helps me know how long it's been between changes, etc... and how often the car is used.  Though you may think that keeping track of your gas mileage and mpg is not important in a pleasure car like this, this will become important information for you in a few years as it will be an indicator when things are not so right with the engine and fuel  system, etc...  Make a habit of keeping track of this information.

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© 2001 - 2003 Dot Lang
Webpage Design/Photos/graphics by Dot
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A Line of Dot's