Tough times come and go, but for one collector his T-birds say it all

Firsatsaatleri archive – July 10, 2008 issue

By John Gunnell

Darrell Hawkins has scraped and saved to make his ’62 Thunderbird a splendid collector car.

Darrell Hawkins is living proof that collecting cars is not just a matter of money. Hawkins is a food preparation worker at Mr. Cinders Restaurant in Oshkosh, Wis., and has a part-time job at Kodiak Jack’s. He is dealing with some major medical bills related to glaucoma surgery he had to undergo. Yet, he enjoys taking his 1958 and ’62 Thunderbird coupes to local summer car shows.

Hawkins sits proudly by whichever car he drives to weekend events, talking to people about the features of the cars and the work he has had done on them. There is still more to do. The ’58 has had new seat upholstery installed, but Hawkins needs a door panel kit to trim the doors, which are currently uncovered. The ’62 T-bird has a complete original interior, but there are some tears in the seat coverings.

“I built up my savings, had the ’62 painted in 2000 and saved to get the motor rebuilt in 2004,” Hawkins explained. “But now I’ve had to put the cars on hold because I’m paying off the medical expenses.”

The interior of the ’62 Thunderbird is in good original condition. There are a few tears in the seats, but any trim restoration work will have to wait until some medical expenses are dealt with.

Both of Hawkin’s Thunderbirds have white bodies and red interiors, although the shades of each color vary between the two model years. He belongs to the Central Wisconsin Auto Collectors Club, but does not hold a membership in any of the national Thunderbird clubs.

“I would like to get involved,” Hawkins said, but the long hours he works and the medical costs he’s dealing with are his priorities in life. He purchased the ’58 Thunderbird from a CWAC member for $4,000. The car was in primer and he saved to get it painted in 2005.

Hawkins says he keeps both Thunderbirds at his home west of Oshkosh. “I am lucky to have an oversized garage and they both fit inside of it.” Hawkins owns a Ford Escort for economical everyday transportation and a 4×4 truck for fun. His Thunderbirds are his hobby cars and he likes them 100 percent stock.

Hawkins has had a number of other newer Thunderbirds, plus a couple of collectible Oldsmobiles. Over the years, he has bought and sold a few cars to help pay for the expenses of having his current Thunderbirds worked on.

“My first old car was a 1964 Olds F-85 convertible that had a good body, but the frame was rotted and the top was ripped,” he recalled. “I sold it shortly after I got it and put some of the money toward the ’62 Thunderbird, which I bought in April of 1999 for $3,350.

Next, he purchased a 1949 Oldsmobile 98 four-door sedan that he was planning to restore, even though it had no glass. He had to sell that car to a man in California to offset the cost of his eye operation, but he also used some of the money to have the 1958 Thunderbird painted.

“The two Oldsmobiles were interesting cars, but I have owned more Thunderbirds than anything else,” said Hawkins. He bought a 1967 Thunderbird four-door Landau from a neighbor a block away. He paid $4,000 for the car, detailed it and resold it for $6,000. He again used the profits toward his medical expenses. He also bought a 1981 Thunderbird and doubled his money on it.

Although he has done fairly well buying and selling old cars that don’t need repairs, Darrell just broke even when he purchased a Thunderbird to fix up and resell.

“One of the local car dealers, Racette Ford, had a $99 sales promotion and I bought the $99 car – a 1988 Thunderbird,” Hawkins revealed. “It actually needed a new head gasket, so I had a shop install one and I sold the car for just about what I had in it.”

Hawkins said that he is an avid Firsatsaatleri subscriber and reads every story in every issue. “These days, I really have to be careful about what I spend on old cars,” said Hawkins. “But I am always willing to spend the money to get Firsatsaatleri because it’s good value for the money and a great place to find cars for sale.”

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