When he first laid eyes on her, she was rough. Real rough. But that didn't stop Tom Youngblood from seeing the true potential of the rare 1957 Thunderbird E Bird that sat outside the Palmdale home of Stu and Jo Cannold, just waiting for the right person to come along.
Stu first met Youngblood, owner and operator of Youngblood Customs in Tehachapi, during a truck show held in Rosamond in which Youngblood had entered one of his own trucks. After admiring the restoration work Youngblood did on his truck, Stu told him about the Thunderbird, which he had purchased about 10 years prior.
"I told Tommy I didn't have the money to restore it," Stu Cannold said. "He told me he would come over after the show and take a look at it. True to his word, he came over and told me he could restore it. ... So he and I struck a deal."
In 1957, Ford built 1,449 Thunderbird E Birds, which is what the Cannolds own. The E Bird came equipped with a 312 C.I. V8 engine and twin 4bbl carburetors. Of those, 10 percent, or 149 E Birds, were equipped with a three-speed manual transmission with an overdrive. The Cannolds' Thunderbird is one of those 149.
"When the guy sold it to me, he didn't know what he sold to me. When I bought it, I didn't know what I had bought. It's an extremely rare car," Stu said.
In 2013, after hauling the E Bird to his shop, located at 20601 Santa Lucia St., Youngblood said there was a lot to work with, but also a lot of parts were missing.
"Just about everything needed to be replated, rechromed, repainted, restored," said Youngblood.
It took Youngblood, with the assistance of employees Ben Ellis and Carl Tribble, two years to bring the E Bird to "concours restoration" — in other words, better than when it came out of the factory.
"Everything is original," Youngblood said. "Every nut and bolt, every clamp, every color ... everything had to be spec perfect. It took a lot of research."
Ellis, who has been working at Youngblood Customs for the past six years, said it felt good to be a part of the restoration process of the E Bird. He said the most challenging part was having patience.
"It's a lot of detail, like when an old part doesn't fit correctly, it becomes tedious and very challenging, but it's worth it," Ellis said. "We know they (the restored cars) are good when they are rolling out, so it makes us feel good."
Tribble, who has also been with Youngblood Customs for the past six years, was responsible for much of the assembly work during the restoration process.
"I had to do the dash twice because it wasn't fitting right," Tribble said. "I put my heart into that car. I really did."
The Cannolds' E Bird is what Youngblood calls a Trailer Queen, meaning the classic car will never be driven out on the open road.
After seeing his completely restored E Bird, Stu said, "I was in Seventh Heaven. I told Tommy, 'This T-Bird reminds me of me. You brought it back to life.'"
The Cannolds first entered the E Bird in the Thunder on the Mountain Car and Truck Show held in Tehachapi the summer of 2015 and won Best of Show.
"He (Stu) was really nice," Youngblood said. "He found out where the plaques were made, and he had one made for me."
Last May, the Cannolds entered the Thunderbird in the Classic Thunderbird Club 2019 International Concours Show and Convention held in Flagstaff, Ariz. They attended the convention with Youngblood, where the car was awarded both the Gold Medallion, the highest awarded in the international convention, and the Gold Award.
"That meant a lot because a lot of people worked very hard for that," Stu said,
Judges scored the restored Thunderbird 245 points, which is just five points away from a perfect 250.
Today, the E Bird sits at the Riverside Resort and Casino Car Museum in Laughlin, Nev., where the public can admire the trailer queen's beauty.
Said Stu, "I believe my E Bird is worth about a hundred and a half thousand, not that I want to sell it... but, anything is for sale."