Greg Prince ~ Trim Code 76 to us on Squarebirds.org, IS the owner of the very last 1960 Ford Thunderbird off the production line in 1960. Here are his comments.
My 1960 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop ~ Data plate info: #OY71Y192744 (#92,744). Body:63A, Color:Z, (Light Gray Metalic ~ Sales Name Platinum) Trim:76, (Black/Light Gray) Date:13W, Trans:4, Axle:3. 13W was scheduled for the last day of production.
My wife found this car for me in a Hemmings magazine. IT WAS 2 MILES FROM MY HOUSE!!! I bought it for the trim code 76 interior (the broker had no idea what that was. He stated it was black and white interior). Sometimes you just get lucky!!!
When I was taking everything out of the inside I discovered that on the inside of one of the door panels in black grease pencil it states "9/13" (last day of production), "last day, last car"! I had a pretty good idea it was possibly the last one and know there is some question as to the last actual number produced but this very well may be it!!!! I also found carefully placed under the factory carpet a paper shamrock that states "This is your lucky shamrock" built on the 13th.... I guess so!! The car is 99% factory original to the car, with the exception of the exhaust pipes and mufflers (Have factory date code mufflers in the box, they will be going on. I even have a factory oil filter) and the battery (Have a reproduction Power Punch, only reproduction part on the car). I bought it for the interior (my log in name) but got real lucky on the number! I have confirmed the car was sold at "Hollywood Ford" Hollywood CA. The car was owned by the head sound editor for Paramount Studios. He helped produce "The Ten Commandments"
Also, the car has just turned 100,000 miles. A California car, The undercarage is absolutly free of rust, untouched. It still has the factory yellow stenciled part number on the drive shaft and various ID paint stripe), the yellow ID paint stripes on the backside of the passengers side front spring, drivers side ID stripe is on the front of the spring, medium blue ID stripe one of the front control arms (each side, sorry for not knowing the correct name for the arm), there is also yellow paint around the lower ball joint. These colored ID stripes told the lineman what parts went on the car. He used the ROT sheet which was coded with the color for various parts, like springs, etc. Different variations of models required different parts, and they were color coded to match the ROT sheet. (Thanks, Hawkrod!) The rear end has the factory red primer in near perfect condition with a grease pencil assembly line marking on the passenger side. the rear end still has the metal tab on one of the bolts (drivers side) on the primer side. States the gear ratio (I believe), mine states 3.00. The top of the transmission visible from the engine compartment has a white grease pen mark on the top (crude OK). There are many other marks.
The car has never been touched underneath. The gas tank does not have any undercoating on it (strange as I thought all had this done). Mine has very little undercoating on the back 1/3 of the car (poor job). The gas tank straps are black paint with no rust. The undercarrage is in such great shape. The underside of the front subframe has the factory redbrown primer still in perfect condition even up into the spring housings! No rust at all!! The sides are painted a flat black. The front wheelwells are undercoated with a crudely masked off squared area around the opening to where the "A" arms come through. This area is the silver body color with undercoating being sprayed in a so-so manner around the rest of the wheelwell. This is truely an amazing car as far as originality and very exciting on being the last one off the line. I hope this is some useful info for some of you. It should be a very helpfull resource for restoring squarebirds.
Here is what a 100% original Squarebird looked like coming off the line nearly 50 years ago!
The following two items were found under a corner of the carpeting when it was pulled up slightly.
The marking on this panel at first appears to be "7/13" until you look at it closely. There is a loop at the top of what looks to be a "7", making it a badly drawn "9". I blew up the picture to see this better and you can see it is meant to be a "9". You can certainly see the grease pencil writing "Last day Last car".
And now, for the rest of the story! Ray Clark made contact with the Oakland Press newspaper. http://www.theoaklandpress.com/ It covers the Wixom area. You can read the paper online. The reporter should be interviewing Phil Skinner today, who is still in the area there doing research. The editor wants to wrap up this story and get it ready for publishing. Hopefully, this coming week. Colleen Miller is doing the story and has done an excellent job of writing and following up on it. She just told me today, May 22, 2009, that they will be doing a video interview with Bob Oeschger next week that will be published on their website for all to view.
On the 6th of May, Ray announced that "The Oakland Press has published the story of Greg Prince's "9/13 Last Day Last Car" 1960 Thunderbird. Now we will see if anyone still alive, who worked the line back then, reads it and responds."
‘Squarebird’ might be last from Wixom’s plant. IT IS!!
A week has gone by as we wait to see if anyone responds to the newspaper article. Greg tells us that the car is in need of being repainted to protect its body. On the 12th of May, Greg reported this on the Forum. "I did find a rather neat treasure; wired to the top of the center bracket for the grill assembly was a ring and a set of original keys to the car! The ends were taped together with old cloth tape. They are pretty tarnished so they have been there for a very long time. The car is being painted this week, went up to ok the color. I have sent Ray some pics of the car. Maybe he will post them. I will send pics when the paint job is done. The painter stated that painting old single stage metalic paint is a real challenge. Guess the old guys were pretty good not having to rely on clear coats and all."
On the 13th of May, Greg posted that contact had been made with a line worker from Wixom! Assembly worker contacted on last Thunderbird!!! "I can not believe it. I was just getting off duty when my wife called and said she had received a message from a guy who is believed to be the worker who worked on my car!!!!!!!!!! Is about 78 now. I will contact him later in the day and let you know what he remembers!!!!!!!!!!! WOW!!!! Ray, you are a magician!!!!!!!!!!!!, did I say WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! Like a kid at Christmas! WOW!!!!!!!!! greg"
Later in the day, on the 13th of May, 2009, Greg reports on the results of his conversation with the lineman.
"Ok sports fans, I just got done talking to the the line worker (Cathie, you will be more than speechless now!!) We have confirmation!!!!! My car was the last one!!!!!!!! They only did one silver car that day (mine is silver). They put a sign on it as it went down the line (an old Wixom tradition). The workers would get excited and put stuff in it, hence the paper shamrock, cartoon and people would write last car on it. HE WAS THE FIRST WORKER FOR WIXOM!!! He worked in 1960 in the "Pre delivery" section at the end of the assembly line. He inspected the cars as they were finished. He remembers going up the line and watching mine come down, (since there were no other ones after it). He remembers people placing stuff in it). He will write a statement stating it is the last one!
Here are some additional facts I fond out about how the line worked: There was not a determinng order to how they went down. As the orders came in, they were processed and the car would be scheduled for the assembly line. It is true that they did NOT go in order of the vin number. As far as paint batching, that was NOT done on the Squarebirds. That was done a little later. So whatever the car was scheduled to be painted, then that is what it was painted. It did not matter what the car was (430, 352, hard top, convert, Lincoln.....) it was HOW the orders were recieved that day. Also, the stoppage of building on 9/13 came very very late notice, in fact he said that a lot of the parts were already placed for those days in the racks, and the orders were known as far as pattern down the line for those last couple of days due to orders being stopped for that year (1960)(since thunderbird was the only car going down the line those last couple of days). So that would explain the writing of 9/13 on my door panel even though it was built on 9/9. He also stated that each day a "gold ball" would be placed on random cars 10-15 that would be given a "M10" code. these were the "executive cars" for that day. You see they would select these cars for their executives to take home and check to make sure that the lineman were doing their jobs well. The lineman on the other hand would make extra sure that those cars were done "REALLY WELL!!!".
He started when he was 19 and he is now almost 74. I will wait and see if he wants me to post his name (sorry but out of respect to him). If I get his ok I will post it. Will also see if he wants to be a member. He is sending me a picture of himself on the line, is trying to find pics of the squarebirds coming down the line and will send those, a letter confirming mine is the last car, and a book about Thunderbirds (possibly from the plant). If you can think of other questions please let me know and I will pass them on. DID I SAW WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!! I am tired now!!"
Here are additional comments by Ray Clark. "I am in shock!! The chances of that line worker being alive still after nearly 50 years were slim I thought, when I wrote the Oakland Press regarding Greg's Last '60 Tbird off the line! I figured he would be in his 40's-50's or so, and now in his '80's-90's! Little did I know that the guy who would reply to that newspaper article would be the youngest lineman hired at Wixom and still be alive! What a stroke of great luck!
We have learned some things that debunk what has been written by some of the wonders of the Tbird world over the years! Black/dark cars were NOT painted early in the day with the lighter ones painted at the end... Cars were NOT batched together in groups of so many cars and then sent down the line as a group of 2-Dr hardtops, convertibles, or Golde Tops.. Or run seperately from the Lincolns. They were all mixed together. Cars that ran into problems were shunted off the line to be fixed quickly, if possible, and put back on the line for finishing. If not possible, they were then put in a staging area to have the problem fixed as soon as possible, and then put back on the line.
At the end of the 1960 production run, on the last days, they ran out of some parts to put on the 1960's. So he told Greg that they got parts that were the same for the 1960's and the 1961's, and put those parts on the 1960 cars to finish them off. This explains why Greg has some parts in the engine area with 1961 part numbers on them, he said.
I am sure that we will find out more things that we have been told as fact over all these years, that turns out to be fiction. Someone did not do their homework in some of their writings, it seems.
The Oakland Press has been contacted by another person who might be able to shed more light on the Wixom operation! We are working on contacting him!"
On the 14th of May, Ray had a conversation with him, the first lineman. Here is the Forum report on that. "The story continues.... I just got off the phone talking with the lineman.. I was able to ask some more questions before he had to stop for lunch. He has several health issues, including heart problems like I had. So I have to be considerate of his health and don't want to over do it. He said I can call him back later on this late afternoon. Here is what he told me, as best I can remember and taken from my notes on the questions I was able to ask him.
As he said, he was the first one hired for the Wixom line before it ever opened for operation. He said it was not unusual for them to work 10-12 hour shifts, racking up 70-80 hours a week often. He retired at 68 with the last years traveling for the company visiting other Ford plants and inspecting/reviewing how they were doing things. He traveled extensively out of the country.
He said they had some great linemen working the Wixom line with many of them coming from other non-Ford plants, like Packard, and other companies, whose plants had shut down. Some of them were masters at taking out dings, and dents in cars that were caused while going down the line. The quality control position he worked was not right at the end of the line. The cars came off the line, and were driven, I assume, to his position to be checked.
I asked him about the ROT or Broadcast Sheet, as he says it was called by them. When asked about the Date in the upper left corner and the SCHED Date on the form, he said neither one of them was a true indication of when the car was actually "born". The SCHED Date was when they planned to schedule a car for production, but that did not mean it actually WAS produced on that day. Anything could delay it and often did. Running out of parts, problems with line equipment, a problem with the car itself.
As an example, he said that if they ran out of wiring harnesses, causing the line to stop, or slow down, a helocopter would fly in from one of their supply points with loads of wiring harnesses to be taken to the line. Or trucks would come in loaded with pre-staged racks to be off loaded with the parts they needed and taken to the line quickly to get it up and running again. He said the average number of days it took to complete one car, from start to finish, was seven days..
As for that elusive "birth" date, he said there were "tickets" that were kept, also a silhouette of defects that had to be fixed on each car as it came off the line, if any, were only kept for 90 days. Somewhere, at the Wixom plant there might be individual permanent records, that shows the actual "birth" date of each car, but the plant is locked up tight as a drum since it closed in 2007.
He was not able to give me any explanation of the 7 MISC boxes, what they meant, or what the other blocks we have questions about meant, or the codes that were used.
I asked him to tell me about the stages along the production line. Here is what he said. First was the Body section, that Budd Body ran and they are still in business. Once the body was shipped in from their plant, it went to the Wash stage, then to the Paint stage, then it went to the Trim stage. This is the stage, just as the Trim & Seal book shows, that the Data Plate was put on he said, and the trim put on. From there, it went to the Final or Chassis stage where the motor and transmission were installed. From there it went to the Dyno Line where it was checked to make sure the engine, transmission, axle, everything else, was working right. From there it went to the Shake, Rattle & Roll machine, where it was put through severe shaking testing to find any defects in the car that might need to be fixed. I gather, if it passed that, it went on to Quality Control, his position. If not, it got sidelined to have any defects fixed.
I asked him if he knew for sure at what point they serial number for each car was punched into the chassis. He said he thought it was before painting. He said it would not make sense to do it after painting because it could mess up the paint.
At this point, we had to stop so he could eat lunch and get out on the lawn and cut it. I have added that question about the oval WIXOM 2364 tag that was asked about. That is probably an inventory tag as Hawkrod thought, but I will see if he knows about it. I hope to continue with this later on. He seems to be very agreeable to talking about his life on the line and how they did things. He has a friend or two that might be able to shed more light on things he was not able to answer. I hope to make that contact also.
This may be the final report on the conversation with Bob Oeschger, the Quality Control technician Greg and I have been talking with. He has given us permission to use his name. He has answered all the questions I had, to the best of his ability.
In answer to what he knew about the Budd Body Co. who built the shells, did the welding of the panels and shipped the completed bodies to Wixom for processing, he does not know much about them. He knows that they also made the Lincoln hoods and deck lids and shipped them to the plant for production use. He knows they were in the Detroit area and shipped completed bodies by truck many times a day. They usually had 30-40 bodies available at a time. Trucks from Budd were coming and going all day long and so were trains loaded with supplies. He said they averaged over 800 trucks a day delivering bodies, and parts to the plant. Day in and day out.
In answer to the question of how many sets of dies were on hand to make the Tbirds from, he does not know. That was all done at Budd Body Co., and he has no idea how many sets of dies they had. Nor does he know anything about this story about the dies being damaged when they made the panels for the stainless steel Tbirds and Lincolns. We have since been told that story is incorrect, that the dies were NOT damaged, as they thought they might be.
He does remember seeing these stainless steel Tbirds and Lincolns coming down the line, and he processed them through his Quality Control station. After that, they were taken to an Excecutive area for safeguarding and further processing.
He tells me that they had NO chrome parts for engine or external dress up kits for these cars at the plant. They did not stock them there. Therefore there were NO special part numbers for these things that he knows of, and they did NOT put these parts on at the factory. The Tbirds came down the line with these parts painted the same as the rest of the car, except for the bumpers, which were supplied to them already chromed. There was no chroming done in the factory that he knows of. He said those were dealer supplied items that you could have put on when the car came into the dealer. Where they were getting their chrome parts, he does not know.
Not being actually on the line or in management as such, he has NO idea how they determined which set of serial numbers they were going to process through the line each day or why. His position was after the line where the cars were brought to him for inspection and given a passing or failing grade.
I gave him the description of the brass looking tag that was posted. He said it sounds like, from my description, that was one of the inventory tags that was on their equipment, chairs, desks, etc.. Apparently, someone mounted one on that car as a joke. It should not have been there. Linemen used to do unusual things at times.. Like the Edsel guy who drew Dagwood on the dashboard frame...
He said they had a problem with people stealing brand new cars off the storage lots. Even with security, people were managing to steal cars. They even busted one sophisticated setup of stealing cars.
Finally, he said that Wixom was the largest assembly plant in North America and it breaks his heart to see it closed. I will not be calling him anytime again soon, as I think he has answered all the questions he can. He did invite me to call back in the future if I had more questions to ask though. If you have any, you can email them to or send them in a PM and I will compile them.
So there ya go, Folks! That is my story and I am sticking to it!"
And now for the pictures of "Lucille", as Greg has named her, getting a new paint job after nearly 50 years of wearing the old one!
And now here are pictures of the completed paint job! What a beauty "Lucille" is!
Greg still has to get the "bling" back on her, as you can see.
Created: 18 April, 2009
Last Modified: 31 July 2010
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Soaring Eagle Productions ~ Ray Clark