Model Review: Danbury Mint 1955 Thunderbird "Winter Project" Diorama

Reviewed and Photographed by Peter Brown

This amazing display piece came and went from the DM web site so fast that if you blinked you might have missed it, but as a Thunderbird fan I noticed it right away. Though it only appeared in a few catalogs I drooled over it, wishing it were in the budget but preferring to spend my money on other models which were a bit less expensive and seemed more urgent at the time. Years later as I began to complete my collection of precision diecast T-Birds, I regretted not having spent the extra money for one of these, after-all who knew they would disappear as quickly as they appeared?

It's made from a cold-cast resin base framed by dark wood moulding, with a brass nameplate and a felt-covered bottom, and it's quite heavy. I don't know how many of these were actually produced, but the short run makes me believe they were made from the leftovers of the limited edition run of yellow 55 T-Birds which came out at about the same time. The piece was designed by George Bojaciuk, who we are honored to have as a member of our forum due to his many contributions to the hobby. He was kind enough to share the photo below with me, depicting his original concept for this piece featuring a '55 Oldsmobile convertible. As you can see, other than the car chosen, the final product wasn't much different from the original.

In the images below, we can begin to appreciate some of the incredible detail that was incorporated into this relatively small display. The trees with their fall leaves littering the ground and the derelict T-Bird; the dry grass springing up around the car, and right up through the engine compartment; and the mud on the ground and caked onto the tires; all lend an air of authenticity to the scene. Even the fence posts with their barbed wire seem like they belong there. As noted above, this is an actual diecast model of a '55 Thunderbird, albeit weatherworn and badly deteriorated, and it is removable from the base despite the appearance given by the tire impressions in the mud. The cinderblock and left front wheel and tire are attached to the base, but all of the other accessories, including a tire iron, jack, toolbox, jumper cables, and a box containing jugs of antifreeze and cans of motor oil, may be placed wherever you like.

Some of the hash marks are missing from the driver's side, and those that remain are a bit lopsided. The Thunderbird script has been abbreviated to just Thunder, but on the other side it's missing entirely. At least there's still a fender skirt on that side of the car, the other having gone astray. Even though it's dirty and has faded from exposure to the elements, you can still recognize the Thunderbird Blue paint and matching interior, except of course for the driver's door which was apparently cannibalized from a red T-Bird with a completely different interior color scheme. The torn and tattered cloth convertible top is all but gone, exposing the ribs which have stained the remaining fabric with their rust. DM went the extra mile with the rust on this model, hitting all the right spots—the bottom edges of the doors and other body panels, the thinner surfaces such as the areas of the trunk lid which lie between the braces underneath, and much of the chrome. Not only does it look right, it even feels right, being rough to the touch.

Up front we see a dented and rusted grill, a missing emblem with rust streaks coming down from the mounting holes, and a busted left headlight with the wires still poking out of the hole. With the hood removed from its rusted hinges (which are still in place and give a hint at the car's original color, having been hidden from the sun), we can see that the engine is in better shape than we might have expected—at least there doesn't appear to be a lot missing. A rag covers the intake where the air cleaner housing once rested; it's now lying in the trunk, along with some other odds and ends.

Looks like we've got some Ford brochures, a window crank, a dirty rag, and a back-up light in its housing which you'll note is missing from the left rear fender cap just above the taillight. The missing gas cap and cover have been thoughtfully replaced by a rag stuffed into the filler neck. Just below we see that the right-side exhaust pipe is missing from its bullet-shaped shroud mounted on the rear bumper. While we're back here, check out the detail on that toolbox, and how about the clamps on those jumper cables—wow!

In the aerial view above and the close-up below, we see that the driver's seat has been patched with duct tape, and next to it lies a "For Sale" sign which the new owner has apparently removed from the windshield, leaving a slightly less dirty rectangle of glass where the sign was previous displayed. A fast-food drink cup complete with straw, and a shop manual open to a page on transmission repair, occupy the rest of the stained and faded bench. On the driver's floor mat you can just about see a wire hanger—obviously this wasn't Joan Crawford's car. Other clever touches include an old license plate, a wrench, and what looks like a crushed oil can.

Finally we see the fruits of our winter's labor, and the full 100-point restoration is complete. Oops, forgot to remove the jack after replacing that last wheel. The old one in the foreground was out of round and simply wouldn't do on this now-pristine classic.

Just for fun I thought I'd pose these two together, to illustrate the extent to which Danbury went to realistically distress and age this model. It's really quite a remarkable achievement, and I rather like the idea of having both the before and after cars in my collection. You can't get the diorama from DM anymore, but if you're patient, one might just turn up in an auction one day. I was lucky enough to get one from George's personal stock, and who knows, if you ask him nicely he just might have another one lying around somewhere.