Greg Zyla: 1959 430 V-8 Thunderbird owner seeks information
Q: Greg, I am the owner of a 1959 Ford Thunderbird that the vehicle identification number states should have a 358 V-8 Ford engine, but in reality the engine is an original 430 Lincoln V-8. It has standard motor mounts and has not been modified.
In my research, NASCAR articles state that Ford made a production run of eight of these special 430 V-8 Thunderbirds for racing. The ID tag on my engine shows a production start date of “2 August” with the reason for production: “NASCAR rules for 1959 say all stock cars in competition must be available for purchase by the general public.”
Here’s some more pertinent information: The engine number is “edg8425” and a production tag is 5 ¼ inches by ½ inch on a black, handwritten piece. It is a 1959 T-Bird, No. 2 8 25 8, with a VIN of H9yh159472.
Back in 1958, Ford was racing the big Galaxie, so any help in tracking down the true manufacturer of my Thunderbird is greatly appreciated.
I tried previously to contact Holman Moody but couldn’t get through. Thanks much, Joe Swentek, Underwood, Minnesota.
A: Joe, your 430 V-8 Thunderbird may or may not have been built by Holman Moody. To explain, I contacted Lee Holman of Holman Moody several times in the past as to these 430 V-8 1959 Thunderbirds, and he said that in 1958, Ford officially gave its official stamp of approval and full factory support to the Holman Moody team.
Back then, I remember seeing ads for those Holman Moody race ready 1959 Thunderbirds, of which Holman Moody built as Ford did not build them on their assembly line. (Or at least, that’s what history indicates.)
Ford’s corporate backing found Holman Moody building what Lee Holman remembers as a “dozen or so” 1959 Thunderbirds, all having the capacity of removing the top to compete in the convertible races and called “zipper tops.” Thus, there were more than eight 430 V-8 T-Birds built.
Since a dozen 1959 race ready Thunderbirds came from the Holman Moody stables in Charlotte, North Carolina, yours could be one of them. However, also remember that of the seven Thunderbirds that started the 1959 Daytona 500, two of them were NOT Holman Moody built Thunderbirds, meaning others in the racing game were building 430 V-8-powered Thunderbirds for NASCAR racing. Regardless, you might be sitting on something of serious collector value or at the least, a valuable replica of a 430 V-8 Thunderbird. Either way, you win.
You can give Holman Moody a call at 704-583-2888 for more info, and also consider ordering a great book called “Holman Moody, The Legendary Race Team” by Tom Cotter and Al Pearce. This book explains in detail how Holman Moody built those 1959 Thunderbirds, and gives a great insight to their still popular business. It’s available on their website at www.holmanmoody.com. Holman Moody is still in business at 9119 Forsyth Pike Drive, Charlotte, NC 28273. Thanks for your letters, Joe, and if any readers can help Joe with more info just write me.
Recommendation for owner of T-Bird with leaking rear main seal
Q: Hi, Greg, I just finished reading your article on the leaking 292 V-8 in Jim Gardner’s Ford Thunderbird. I, too, have a “Y block” Ford 292 V-8 with a rear seal leak.
In my current MAC’s Auto Parts catalog, which specializes in old Ford parts, page 92 shows rear seals made of neoprene for the 292 V-8. I haven’t tried one yet but perhaps this might be a more permanent fix than a rope seal main. Thanks for your informative articles. I read them in several papers here in Pennsylvania. Dennis Mudge Hallstead, Pennsylvania
A: Thanks much, Dennis. I’ll make sure Jim Gardner knows about this as he might want to go the rebuild route with his beautiful 1957 Thunderbird.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media, More Content Now and BestRide.com. He welcomes reader questions on collector cars and old-time racing at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848, or at email@example.com.