Strip Teaser, as it was originally raced.
This is how the car appears today, in the hands of Thunderbolt collector and friend Dennis Kolodziej. Few ORIGINAL Thunderbolts are raced like this, and fewer still can claim to be completely original cars. (Check out the front fender extensions behind the bumper) Dennis tells me this car was never cut up, and needed little restoration as it is very original.
Here's a movie clip of Dennis racing at the Super Ford Meet at Milan Raceway, 1989. Check your volume before downloading!
Now, the story on "Strip Teaser" by Dennis Kolodziej:
4F41KXXXXXX was the 63rd Thunderbolt delivered by the Dearborn Steel Tubing Co. Mr. B. E. Thomas took delivery at DST, Dearborn, Michigan on March 19, 1964. Bob ordered a four speed car through Harold Simmons, owner of the local dealership, Gilmer Ford, in Ellijay, GA. Incidentally, the dealership is in Gilmer County and I assume that's why it is so named. Previous to the T-Bolt, Bob ran 409 Chevrolets. When they arrived at DST, there were two cars prepped. One stick and one automatic. As usual, they tried to get Bob to take delivery on an automatic car. Bob wouldn't bend. Another customer taking delivery that day happened to be Phil Bonner. Phil ended up with the automatic car (4F41KXXXXXX), and according to Bob, Phil really pitched a fit about it!
Back in the late 80's, Larry Davis, Larry Short, and I went down to Atlanta to hit a swap meet and visit with Bob Thomas, Harold Simmons, and Howard Neal. During the conversation, Harold asked me if there was a dent in the instrument panel. I said yes, I remember it being there when I originally bought the car in 1977. The car had a four point roll bar and I always assumed it happened during the roll bar installation. Harold then told the story about how the first time that Bob took the car out to the drag strip, he ran it into a fence and that the dent was caused by Bob's nose impacting the metal dash. Bob ended up in a plaster head cast for a while and the driving chores were delegated to his accountant, Howard Neal.
Painted on the doors was the name "STRIP TEASER" along with a brown hair girl lying on a sofa, covered only by a checkered flag. It is my understanding that originally she was blond, but Bob's wife made him change it. In 1964, Bob mainly matched raced the car at various Southern tracks, running 10" slicks in the "Run What You Brung" circuit. I think that meant all unnecessary items, like the passenger seat, etc. removed, along with anything else that they could get away with! Bob mentioned one of the tricks he used was a switch to disconnect one of the points in the dual point distributor. This allowed you to retard the timing in high gear, which helped in the high end. The "STRIP TEASER" was entered at the 64 U.S. Nationals as car #1100. Many people that saw the car run indicated that it was a well known threat in the South. Bob sold the T-Bolt in late 1964, less engine, to Reese Gibbs in nearby Mineral Bluff, GA. Reese obtained a ď7,000 motorĒ from Gene Wilson, Atlanta, GA and also repainted the car Bittersweet Orange. During that period some unknown soul attempted to "borrow" the aluminum Borg Warner T-10 from it. Reese eventually sold the car in 1967 or 68.
In 1965, Bob purchased a new Falcon from Gilmer Ford, disassembled it, installed the High Riser from the T-Bolt, and with part support from Ford for other items such as lightweight components, built an A/FX car. Likewise in 1966, they built another Falcon. For 1967, based on his previous success, mainly with the Thunderbolt, Jac Passino of Ford Special Vehicles awarded Bob Thomas a 1967 Logghe chassis Flip Top Comet funny car, along with two injected 427 SOHC engines that they picked up at Holman & Moody. When you consider the quantity of these cars built, Bob obviously had some pull. For 1969, Bob obtained a Pro Stock 69 Barracuda built by Sox & Martin, but never raced it. In 1972, Bob bought a new Vega and had Don Hardy convert it into a Pro Stocker. The car was campaigned for a while then he got completely out of racing. Bob was really surprised when I got in touch with him in the 80's. He thought I was pulling his leg. Bob never thought anyone would ever of remembered him or the cars he campaigned. Ultimately, the "Thunderbolt Owners Association" paid him, Harold, and Howard a visit.
I bought the T-Bolt in November 1977 from an ad in the Hot Rod Section of The Detroit News. At the time I was working in Chicago, and commuting home on the weekends. I looked at the car on a Saturday. There was no drivetrain in it and the car was basically dismantled. The owner mentioned that people calling were expecting it to have a High Riser for that price. In 1977, it wasn't unusual to pick up a good 427 Ford engine for under a $1,000, at least in the Detroit area. The lightweight fenders, hood, and aluminum bumper where there, along with the lightweight interior pieces. In orange crayon someone scribbled "Hot Rod" on the drivers side lower portion of the cowl assembly. I wondered what idiot did that? (I found later it was done at the factory to identify these bodies as they went down the line). I called the owner in the middle of the week, said that I wanted it, and picked it up the following Sunday. Advertised at $900, I got it for less then that. We threw the parts into the tow vehicle, a 72 Ford LTD. My brother, Don, flat towed it home with me behind the wheel of the Bolt. Another friend of mine followed behind me in his Chevy Nova, with the flashers on. It was cold that afternoon, and people were looking real funny at us as we traveled the fifteen miles to my brother's house. One thing to remember in 1977, T-Bolt's were just old race cars and basically had no real collector value. At that time I wasn't even sure if it was an original car, since the car had a "K" engine code and not an "R". But I figured, with all the lightweight parts and a rust free body, I could recoup my losses if I had to.
From the time when Reese Gibbs sold the car in 1967 or 68 to when I bought it, the history on it is unclear. The car came back up to the Detroit area, sometime before 1975, but I donít know exactly when. The person that I bought it from owned it for two years but didnít do much with it. At the time I never gave much thought about the history of the car, but the previous owner did mention that it came from Georgia and he thought that it might of been Hubert Platt's old car. Ultimately, it turned out not to be.
I did the majority of the work myself on the car. I had a brand new blueprinted and balanced 66 short block with Ford aluminum Medium Riser (yes, Aluminum!) heads and C5AF-BC/BD Holley's. As the uncut aluminum heads were just too rare, I ended buying a used High Riser top end from Carl Holbrook. That is C4AF-CU/CV Holley's, a "C4AE-D" 8V intake, and C4AE-F heads. Holbrook went through the heads for me, with a multi angle valve job, bronze guides, new hollow stem intakes, and sodium filled exhausts. I also had Carl mill .050" off of the C5AE-AU 12.5-1 pistons for valve relief, took the C4AE-B cam out and installed a Lunati 304/314 612"/619" flat tappet cam and kit. The oil pump was a 427 with a Holman-Moody deep rotor kit and pink spring, 7 qt oil pan, and a 428 CJ windage tray. Butch's Custom Exhaust in Jackson, MI built a set of adjustable 2 1/8" x 32" take apart tube headers. I went through the carbs, installing new kits. The jetting is 74 square, and the power valve didn't matter since the orifices aren't drilled in original CU/CV primary metering blocks anyway. I also needed rear axles for it. At the time, the cheapest quote for a set of Strange Engineering 31 tooth axles was from Jack Roush Performance. As I wasn't sure of what length was needed, I loaded the T-Bolt housing in my trunk and drove over to Roush's. Jack came out and we took the housing out of the trunk and set it on the ground. Jack got out his tape measure and in a few weeks I had a nice pair of axles. Tom Smith of Wolverine Chassis fabricated the clutch linkage and drive shaft. Since the car was an original four speed, so it remained. At first, a short tail big in and out 2.32 T&C Toploader with cut blocking rings, and later a Liberty modified short tail with a 2.54 NASCAR gear set. The rear end remained a 5.14 ratio. The first set of slicks were M&H 10x28x15's, then Goodyear 10x29x15's with D-3 compound. Dave Lyall added to the existing four point roll bar to make it an eight point cage. The car was then painted in enamel with a 76 Ford Light Blue color.
The Thunderbolt Owners Association (Larry Davis, Larry Short, Bob Trevarrow, and myself) were one of the firsts to organize Nostalgia Racing events. Remember the 20 Year Thunderbolt Reunion at the 1984 PFCA's Expo Meet at National Trails Raceway in Columbus, OH? With this combination, launching at 7,000 rpm, shifting at 7,000, and going through at 7,400 rpm, the car ran 11.30's @ 120 mph. 60 footers were in the 1.50's and car would wheelstand a few inches at the launch.
In 1986, I built a second engine using a 64 top oiler block with .017" over BRC Pistons with dyke rings, polished cap screw rods, and steel crank. I've run this engine with either C3AE-K or C4AE-F High Riser heads with equal success. I ran the same cam and valve train as the first engine. In 1991 I upgraded to a Lunati 314/324 707"/711" roller cam, valve springs, and retainers. I also am using Dove rocker shafts, spacers, and end stand supports along with Isky #364 chilled iron rocker arms. This valve train geometry gives me .725"/.728" actual valve lift. I also installed a single plane intake fabricated from a C8AX-A Medium Riser crab welded to a high riser base, and an MSD 6T with a timing computer. This combination put the car in the tens, with a best of 10.69 @ 126 mph.
As a final note, through my 22 years of researching and documenting Thunderbolts, we have learned a lot on the construction details, history, and whereabouts of these fine vehicles. I can also say that I have met quite a few individuals, established a common bond with enthusiasts, made a lot of lifelong friends, and had a lot of fun along the way!
Assorted TBolt Images
Old Photos AND PHOTOS NEEDED
The History of Individual Cars