The Florida couple's 1960 model is a tribute to Frank Barreca's late father.
Frank and Deby Barreca's stunning red 1960 Ford Thunderbird is much more than an award-winning collectible automobile. It is also a tribute to Frank's late father, Sam, who died in 1990 at age 54.
"I look at the car and there's dad," Frank Barreca said. His father had a similar burgundy 1960 model in Ohio when Frank was growing up.
Sam Barreca's rusted T-Bird was scrapped in 1975, a year after Frank graduated from high school.
Frank Barreca, now 63, found his 1960 T-Bird in December on Craigslist. He contacted the seller in Arkansas and had the car shipped to Ocala.
The four-seat, sleek, low-slung, high-performance personal luxury car, restored and upgraded for improved roadworthiness and safety, has the Monte Carlo red finish applied by the previous owner.
A CAR NAMED RUBY RENE: The Barrecas’ T-Bird, was totally redone in a $10,000 project with Frank Barreca doing the interior, trunk liner and cosmetic items.
Barreca determined the previous owner replaced the original 352-cubic-inch V-8 engine with a more powerful 390-cubic-inch, 330-horsepower Interceptor V-8 with solid lifters and a Holley four-barrel carburetor to increase performance.
The engine likely came from a 1965 Ford Galaxie police car, he said.
The Thunderbird, with 66,000 original miles, has factory-installed air conditioning; power brakes, steering and windows; power wing windows; glove box light; radio and trunk-mounted radio antenna.
The Barrecas' T-Bird has new front suspension components, new fan belts, new seat belts, ignition upgrade, new radiator, and all new rubber components. Electric windshield wipers have replaced the original vacuum-operated type. The original equipment front brakes were replaced with improved disc brakes.
"My goal was to make the Thunderbird safe, like a new car," Frank Barreca said. The car is driven daily and on trips like a planned ride to Saint Augustine.
The couple dubbed their car "Ruby Rene" for the red finish and Deby's middle name.
The car has garnered trophies from area groups and gatherings including Cool Cars of Leesburg, The Villages Antique Automobile Club and the Twilight Cruisers.
HISTORY OF THE T-BIRD: A Nov. 13, 2009 History.com article, "Last Thunderbird Produced," states Thunderbird production began with a two-seat model in 1955, two years after Chevrolet introduced the Corvette. The article indicates in 1958 the T-Bird was enlarged to include a rear seat in response to complaints the original model was too small.
"The Beach Boys elevated the Thunderbird to pop culture-icon status in 1964 by including it in the lyrics of their hit single 'Fun Fun Fun,' ” the article states.
A copy of a circa 1960 Ford ad that appeared in National Geographic magazine is displayed in the Barrecas’ home. The ad states the 1960 Thunderbird "promises sports-car roadability and handling ease with luxury car comfort" and touts the model as 'the world's most wanted car."
JUST LIKE DAD'S: Frank Barreca said from age 9 through his high school years he accompanied his dad in his career working at surrounding restaurants.
"My father was a celebrity chef," Barreca said. Customers would come from far distances to enjoy a meal made by Sam Barreca and visit with him.
"I remember riding in (my father's) car in his lap with my hands on the wheel," Barreca said.
Frank Barreca has been in the IT profession for 37 years, including 12 years in pharmaceutical research and 20 years as a consultant to Fortune 100 companies. He is currently a senior project manager with Dell Technologies.
He once hosted an award-winning television show in Boston called "Computer Digest."
Barreca is a fan of the 1960s “Batman” television series and has several cast members’ signed photos. The vanity license plate on the T-Bird — "FL BATMN" — reflects his love of the show.
Frank and Deby (the daughter of traveling missionaries and a church administrator and events coordinator) are having a ball with Bird.
"People honk and wave; I go to get gas and five people (gather to look)," Frank Barreca said.
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This story originally published to ocala.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.