ONE FOR THE ROAD: In response to an invitation to classic car owners to share their vehicle love stories, more than a dozen car buffs contacted La Jolla Light to be interviewed about their prize possessions. In this series, we present their delightful roadster experiences.
For newer La Jolla resident Taylor Miller, the Ford Thunderbird is the quintessential California car. And now that she’s taking advantage of nearby surfing, paddleboarding and Golden State outdoor recreation opportunities — she simply had to have one. So she acquired a pink 1956 Ford T-Bird, which she calls “The Pink Mermaid.”
“They are the cutest damn cars in the whole world,” Miller said. “People see my car and call it a ‘Malibu Barbie’ car and want to take their picture by it — especially little girls, they go insane!”
For several years, Miller shared residency between WindanSea and Salt Lake City, Utah. But now she is here to stay and a few years ago moved to a house off Torrey Pines Road with her partner, Paul Mears. Mears also owns a T-Bird, and took Miller out for a drive in it during their courtship.
“When I saw Paul’s T-Bird, I absolutely fell in love with it. I had to have one. I was driving what he calls a ‘citizen car’ at the time, which was nice, but I wanted a T-Bird with the continental kit (a tire on the back), which his didn’t have,” she said.
“I asked Paul if he could look around for a 1956 T-Bird for me so it would have the kit. We found one in Oregon, owned by a doctor who never drove it; he kept it in the garage. We had someone from the T-Bird Club we belong to check it out. He knew what he was looking at and said it was authentic and worth the money.”
The only downside is the color. Miller said while she wasn’t looking for a pink car, the shade is light enough that she was OK with it.
Mears’ 1955 T-Bird, named “Teddy,” is blue. A pairing, he said, that does not go unnoticed.
“We were living in WindanSea and had the pink and blue cars parked in the driveway one day, and there was a couple who had just gotten married, standing there with their photographer taking pictures,” he said. “I let them get in the cars and stand next to them, as if they were his-and-hers cars for their wedding photos.”
Mears said the appeal of the T-Bird lies in the “creative styling” of the time. “Things were new and people were trying new styles when Ford was making the T-Bird. Nowadays, you can’t tell a Chrysler from a Bentley, cars are so similar ... they were so unique back then. I see old cars and I’m blown away with the creativity.”
Miller agrees. “I just love these cars. I like cars and anything sporty, like surfing or skiing. And this car is all about that. I also love the smell of an old car and the fact that it sounds like a boat motor. It’s harder to drive, certainly, but it’s just so different,” she said. “I’ll go somewhere to run an errand and return to my car and there will be a crowd around it. I let people hop in and get their picture taken inside. I can’t go anywhere without people talking to me or getting a thumbs-up on the freeway.”
To keep it clean and its parts lubricated, Miller said she regularly washes and drives The Pink Mermaid. “I love to wash my car. My father always had to have the nicest cars and when I was little I would help him wash them,” she said. “And by driving it around, it keeps the parts from breaking.”
Both Miller and Mears regularly drive their vehicles, but one is more cautious than the other when it comes to dings and dents. Mears said, “I’m careful with the car, but I use it. I drive it to go surfing or run errands. Some (classic) cars are for driving and others live in trailers their whole lives.”
Miller is somewhere in between, she said, “I’ll drive The Pink Mermaid around, but if someone opens the door and hits my car, I get really upset.”
In the event a part needs to be replaced, Mears said the T-Bird is simple to fix. “I’ve worked on cars my whole life, but you don’t need a lot of experience to make minor repairs, you can get the parts easily and look it up on YouTube when you don’t know what to do. That’s something you have to keep in mind when you buy an old car, how available the parts will be, because you could buy a $4,000 car but not be able to drive it because a $35 part isn’t available. You can find parts for this car all over the place, and there are T-Bird Clubs everywhere that can help.”
Mears added the car clubs are everywhere because there is an appreciation for this “American Classic,” which has translated into pop culture. In the 1973 film, “American Graffiti,” Suzanne Somers makes a cameo appearance as “Blond in the T-Bird” that prompts Curt, played by Richard Dreyfus, to call her “The most perfect dazzling creature I’ve ever seen.”
Editor’s Note: In response to an invitation to classic car owners to share their vehicle love stories, more than a dozen car buffs contacted La Jolla Light to be interviewed about their prize possessions. In this new series, we present their delightful roadster experiences.