George Watts discovered what turned out to be the first Ford Thunderbird ever made gathering dust outside a Santa Ana body shop in 1965. The convertible had sat outside for a year since the shop owner had claimed it to satisfy a debt.
At this weekend’s Long Beach Auto Show, the restored gem sits in a place of honor just inside the doors of the Long Beach Convention Center. Ford borrowed the 1955 version from Watts to publicize its newest T-Bird.
Watts, who has restored 25 early Thunderbirds, said he discovered that this one might be special when he saw its serial number, 100,005. Thinking it might be the fifth T-bird ever made, he wrote to Ford. The company replied that the first numbers in the series went to other sedans and station wagons, definitely not two-seater Thunderbirds. According to Ford’s records, Watts’ car rolled off the Ford assembly line on Sept. 9, 1954.