Epic journey behind T-bird

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American cars have long been a passion for Paul Coory.

The Kinmont resident owns 12 of them.

And that passion is in the blood, Mr Coory said.

“When I was a kid, my father had 1952 Chevys, my uncles always had either Fords or Chevys. I was brought up with them.”

That emergent passion was further fuelled when a new neighbour moved in next door to a teenaged Mr Coory.

“Very early on when I was 13 [or] 14, a guy shifted in next door to me in Mornington and he used to give me all his old Hot Rod magazines. It sparked the fire a wee bit.”

Among Mr Coory’s 12 American cars, pride of place is reserved for the black 1957 Ford Thunderbird which he bought more than 20 years ago.

How he bought that car is a story in itself.

After seeing the 1973 film American Graffiti, Mr Coory said he always knew his “dream car” would be an early Thunderbird.

Having spied a suitable white one for sale online, Mr Coory travelled to the United States only to be disappointed with the car after he arrived in Los Angeles and saw it in real life.

“When I got there it wasn’t the car I thought I’d bought.”

The car didn’t match up to its photos, Mr Coory said.

The seller of that car did, however, have a suggestion.

He knew of a T-Bird for sale in Portland, Oregon, so Mr Coory flew to Portland.

As soon as Mr Coory saw the black 1957 Ford Thunderbird, he knew he would buy it.

“I didn’t even drive it. I decided, yeah, that was the car. I just knew.”

Buying the car in Portland was only part of the adventure. The seller, a man in his early 80s, asked Mr Coory how he would get it to Long Beach, California, from where the car would be shipped. Mr Coory’s answer surprised him.

“He couldn’t believe that I had come from New Zealand to LA to buy a car then flew to Portland. Then [I] told him I was going to drive the car down to Long Beach California, which is three/four days’ driving.”

Mr Coory was protective of his new acquisition on the drive to California.

“I always parked it where I could see it. I put the distributor cap under my pillow. I didn’t want anybody to pinch it.”

Looking over the Thunderbird, he still marvelled at the vehicle’s artistic appeal.

“To this day I still think they’re art on wheels.”