Red T-bird highlight at city's car show

When the Ford Motor Company first produced the Thunderbird in the late 1950s, it soon became known as "the personal luxury car."

For 50 years between 1955 and 2005 the famous American car manufacturer sold more than 4.4 million Thunderbirds.

One of them finished up in the hands of Tauranga's Kelven Keleher and it was a featured exhibit at the Metal Mania custom motorcycle and car show held in the Tauranga TECT Arena at Baypark over the weekend.

Mr Keleher bought the 1960 Thunderbird 10 years ago from another Kiwi after it was imported from Las Vegas.

"Me and my mate spent a lot of hours doing it up; it's been five years in the making," he said.

Mr Keleher didn't intend spending quite as much as he did on the distinctive car, but he was forced into it.

He had it on the road and was driving down the hill near Fraser Cove Shopping Centre when he applied the brakes. They didn't work and he ended up damaging his Thunderbird, and another car. The wheel cylinders were leaking.

"We put it in a mate's workshop, pulled the engine out and found it was a bit tired. It ended up being a full rebuild," Mr Keleher said.

He changed the car's colour from baby blue to candy apple red, lowered the body, chopped off a part of the bonnet to show the twin tunnel ram, put new American Racing wheels on, and of course got the brakes working.

The Thunderbird was one of 60 hot rods, American classic and Japanese performance cars on show at the show, along with 85 bikes ranging from the 1941 Indian 741B sidecar to the latest Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle.

The Metal Mania show, organised by Filthy Few Motorcycle Club and held for the first time in the new TECT Arena, has been running since 1992, first out of Rotorua before being transferred to Tauranga in 2002.

There was a traffic snarl-up outside Baypark at the start of the show on Saturday - mainly because police set up a checkpoint and carried out vehicle compliance checks,

One showgoer, who was stopped, wrote to the Bay of Plenty Times saying: " ... as we approached the Metal Mania venue, lo and behold, there were about 20 police pulling over everyone, and checking for huge offences against the law, like no warrant and out of date registration. The resources they had there were immense."

Thirty-six vehicles were ordered off the road by police.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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