Monday, August 11, 2014

1963 Chevy C10 Panel Truck a time capsule for family-owned florist

  Simpson’s Florist in Decatur, Alabama is now the official florist for Junkyard Life! Why do we need a florist, doing what we do? Well, for one thing, we stay in trouble, a lot – and what gets a guy out of trouble? 
  We also encourage others to rescue and obtain vintage, motorized toys. So, we may have a hand at causing strife in a household, whose matriarch was unaware such a purchase has been made. Flowers. Ron and Jody’s Junkyard Life relationship advice for the lovelorn and car-adorn? Forgiveness is easier than permission, and what is a segue to forgiveness? Flowers. (Editor’s note: This is the first time on Junkyard Life that love advice has ever been offered) So, check out this find!

1963 Chevy Panel truck ought new and still owned by Simpson’s Florist in Decatur, Alabama.

   We found this 1963 Chevrolet Panel Truck with Simpson’s Florist logos on the side, and then realized we were behind Simpson’s Florist and we were looking at living history. This truck was AWESOME! We knew there was a great story to be told. We were right!
   Simpson’s Florist opened in Decatur, Alabama in 1957. Things were in full swing by the early 1960s and therefore a trip to the local Chevrolet dealer was in order. Hick’s Chevrolet was also in Decatur, Alabama. Back then, area businesses were loyal to one another. Mr. Simpson walked into Hick’s Chevrolet and ordered up a work truck. He probably knew Mr. Hicks!

Flower Power. This Chevy work horse needed an engine as reliable as the straight 6, but powerful enough to move a vehicle stuffed with flowers. That doesn’t sound heavy, but it is! Also, it needed to be powerful enough to not strain the motor with factory air conditioning blowing cold to keep the flowers fresh in Alabama summers. Mr. Simpson chose a 283-V8. The proven, mouse motor had been around a little while by then. Actually, the 283 made its debut the same year Simpson Florist opened their doors… 1957. How cool! 

   Mr. Simpson could have saved more of that flower money on the standard three-speed, manual transmission. That sounds like a good idea, but remember that a few people were subject to drive this truck anytime. Not everyone can operate a “three-on-the-tree,” so he opted for the easy to drive Power Glide. Mrs. Simpson did not drive. Perhaps, Mr. Simpson may have been thinking the automatic would not be so scary for her if she ever did attempt to conquer the roads of North Alabama. We here at Junkyard Life could not resist driving a truck like that. She resisted.

   Now that he had the motivation for Simpson’s new delivery vehicle down, now for the details. The new truck was going to be a blank pallet for the Simpson’s business lettering. The truck was adorned in paint code 502 Sea Mist Jade. Perfect. If you factor in the chrome bumper package at extra cost, this truck is starting to get pricey. 1963 was also the first year amber parking lenses were included. Prior to 1963, they were clear. Now about that big order you placed… no problem.

Notice how perfect the grill is and that perfect chrome bumper. This truck really is perfect just like it is-paint patina and all. Perfect.

Family ties 

  Do you know what the best part is? Despite not having children, the Simpson's managed to keep this business in the same family for three generations. They turned the business over to their favorite niece and nephew, The Bentley's, in 1980. Like we said about area business loyalty, they kept the Simpson’s Florist name and enjoyed the same success. Then in, 2008 turned the place over to their son David and his wife, Kristen. 
  David said, “Okay, we have a deal, but the truck comes with it.” 
  We at Junkyard Life would have done it just for that part! And the extra, way cool, fluorescent sign in the front. David plans to resurrect the truck and run for the roses once again. If you ever order flowers and two strange looking guys in Junkyard Life t-shirts show up in that mega-cool 1963 Chevrolet, don’t panic. We somehow talked David Bentley into letting us do some rose running of our own. Thanks, David!

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

The a/c kept the flowers cool during hot Alabama summers.
Freeze your Daisies off with under dash air. A necessity for flower delivery during Alabama summers.

Simpson's Florist, Say it with Flowers!
Say it with flowers, but then see the great design of this truck. We love the lines of the 1963 model. We also love the rear double door. Perfect.

Vintage 1963 Chevy panel truck hasnt been used for flower deliveries in some time.
Dog dish hub caps cover the wheels on the ’63 Chevy flower truck.

Original down to the factory 1963 paint.
Seamist Jade paint covers the all-original 1963 Chevy Panel truck.

Pun times with the 1963 Chevy panel truck
  • “Run for the roses as fast as you can” – Dan Fogelburg
  • “No daffodil-ing around, we got flowers to deliver” – Ron Kidd 
  • “Chrysanthe-Mums the word on how great we would be as delivery guys” – Jody Potter
  • “Let those Junk Yard Life guys drive after all those bad puns? Don’t hold your baby’s breath, guys” – David Bentley

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Ron at or Jody at

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cars in Yards: 1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe; looks faster than a Mustang

Blue 1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe found in yard with a 5-speed, and an owner that wanted to sell.

Brawny T-Bird. So I find a car on my grandmother’s street. Big deal. A Thunderbird? Big deal. It is not a mid-fifties model. It’s a 1987 model and the paint doesn’t even look good. 
  I pass by and there it is again. Is that a weird hood? And the stance, I admit, looks a little sinister. ‘Sinister,’ a word often used by us, automotive writers, to describe menacing looking cars, such as the famed Buick Grand National of the same era. Their recipe for success? A smaller C.I.D engine and a big turbo. What, besides the era and styling, makes these two cars even comparable? I’m a Buick guy and I’m finding lots in common, actually.

This 1987 Thunderbird does it all for you – except
the shifting. That's up to you. Why? Because of the very cool Turbo Coupe
way of shifting gears — with a factory five-speed!

Stopping by
  This time, as I drive by, I toss a glance in the T-Bird’s direction. I see a gentleman in the yard. 
  “Why am I stopping?,” I ask myself. 
  I don’t want a Thunderbird. (Do I?) Maybe I do? 
  I think about this blue Bird a lot more than I admit to my Pontiac friends. I stop and explain to the owner that my grandmother lives a block over, that way, and I pass by and see his car, a lot. 
  I inquired. I did. The owner told me I could look at it. I found the special hood, the fat tires and now a manual transmission shifter is looking back at me. A 5-speed? A Turbo Coupe! I told you this car was suspicious. Just as I suspected.

Not what you think of when we say Bird? I found this 1987 Turbo coupe in my
travels and I can't stop thinking about it!

Turbo 2.3
  So we chat a bit. I thank the owner for letting me look at the T-Bird. The fellow does plant the idea that he would sell it. No room at the inn. I surmise that the Thunderbird may have been relegated to a yard spot upon the arrival of a newer car. 

  Now the thinking begins. So, I read up. I find that this is an unusual car that hasn’t seemed to hit the collector circles yet. Barret Jackson, keep your hands off our Turbo Coupes, so we can still buy them at a decent price. 
  I learn that Ford started putting the stout, 2.3 liter, 4 cylinder turbo Thunderbirds together since 1983. That doesn’t sound so scary. Well, by 1988, they cranked the boost at the factory to 17 lbs! Well, no wonder they ran well. I learned that Traction-Lok rear axles were found under them as well as other world class, handling components. 
  Then, I remember the chatter from that era. People claiming that the Turbo Coupe ran side by side with the 5.0 Mustang of the era. Furthermore, it was all that the pony cars could do to outrun the Turbo Coupes. Impressive to say the least.

Under the hood we find an intercooled 2.3 Turbo motor. The same power plant can be found between the fenders of the famous fox-body Mustang – The SVO. The original 2.3-liter intercooled and turbocharged four-cylinder engine pumped out 190hp with the full complement of 240-lbs.ft.

Time to tangle with a T-Bird turbo?
  So what about now? In a world of Coyote motors and LS everything, could the Turbo Coupe hold its own on the street? Probably not. Although, you do have a new generation of turbo technology and a couple of decades of trial and error by guys with greasy knuckles. Someone knows what works. 

  I’d start with a bigger turbo and more intercooler. And maybe more fuel pressure? Now I am having a moment where I realize I do want this car. It is different, yet subtle, in a world where it shouldn’t have existed. 
  Some cool department at Ford didn’t want the Mustangs to have all the fun. Ford did put that Turbo four-banger in a Mustang — the SVO. That is one collectible and fast Ford. I bet it was the same guys who put a stout-but-small motor in the Taurus of all things and deemed it an SHO. Hats off guys. Great job.
  So now what? A blue 1987 Thunderbird is looking at me. What if it follows me home? I’m drowning in our shoebox, hot rod project. I don’t need another car, do I? Well? Do I?

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Turbo Coupe emblems assure me this is not like most Thunderbirds.
Note: Body molding color should be black, but the owner had a hard time keeping them black, so he had them painted over in body color.

Ron’s Unlikely Turbo Buick and Turbo Coupe common ground: 
  1. Both built on the mid-size sedan platforms.
  2. Neither offered in four-door model.
  3. Usually the most expensive Regal or Thunderbird on the lot, due to options aplenty.
  4. Both used smaller engines than we would have thought and sweet turbos.
  5. Marketed to the same demographic. Not cheap or plentiful and priced accordingly. 
  6. Both look sinister. I said it. Sinister.
  7. Also, managed to look subtle and unobtrusive to the layman’s eye. I know we can spot one with one eye tied behind our back, but ask your mother or your math teacher and they will not have a clue.
  8. Neither had a V-8, but still managed to demand high insurance premiums. Junkyard Life note: we know the Regal and the Thunderbird were offered with V-8’s, Mr. Technical. But we are only referring to the Turbo Coupes and the Turbo Regals.

 I was offered a chance to drive the car. I declined. The innocent owner was unaware that Ron Kidd and Turbos cannot be trusted in the same car. This refurbished turbo, intended for a bigger truck, is not just whistling "Dixie." This has major boost!

Power everything. Power seats, sentinel light dimmer, extra stereo (aftermarket head unit), power door locks, dual power mirrors, power windows. 

Ford built 128,533 Turbo Coupes between 1983 and 1988. The final TC production year, 1988, saw 35,271 hustle off dealer’s lot.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Ron at or Jody at