2012 Ridler Winner – Family Peace 55 Thunderbird

2012 Ridler Winning 1955 Ford Thunderbird

The Results are in!

2012 Great 8, 2012 Ridler Award, 1955 Ford Thunderbird

The 2012 Detroit Autorama’s highest award (and the $10k!) goes to the Peace Family for a 1955 Ford Thunderbird that bested the Great 8 at a show where there could have easily been a “Great 12 or 15”. The competition was TOUGH!

To catch up on photos and info from the show, check these out:

Toughest field of custom cars I’ve seen: Rilder’s Great 8 Contenders
Damn Great, but Not Great 8 – Detroit Autorama’s Best
Going Down – Basement Best at 2012 Detroit Autorama

The reasons why this subtly beautiful ‘bird won the Ridler may not be apparent in pictures. Heck, I saw it myself and while “blown” away from the super-sano twin turbo hold’n engine compartment, gleaming chrome and dead nuts fit, I thought this was top three in the Ridler’s Great 8. I really didn’t know who’d win… (who ever does ‘cept the judges) So rather than guess why the Bird won, I went to the source. The Peace Family and Greening Auto Company.

Now this makes sense… and I should admit, I missed alot at the show.

I found Matt Peace through the Torq’d Design Lab Facebook page to get the inside scoop on the build. You’ll hear everyone talking about the tech details, but I had to know more… in Matt’s words.
(Click on any pic to see it full size)

Why this car? Why pick a 1955 T-bird for a build like this?1955 Ford Thunderbird, unrestored 1955 Thunderbird
The reason we picked to street rod a 1955 Thunderbird is because it has been in the family for about 20 years.  My mom gave my dad, Dwayne Peace, the ultimatum of either selling it or restoring it.  My dad put an ad in the paper and after one week of not selling he took the ad down.  (Matt later revealed that dad Dwayne had way over-priced the car. He didn’t want to sell it… Sorry mom!)

Was the original concept for the car a “Ridler winner” or did it somehow evolve/change or get out of control!?
The car was a numbers matching Thunderbird that had an earlier restoration.  My dad told me he wanted to restore it and I told him we were building a one-off show car out of it.  I said “If you’ve seen one restored Thunderbird, you have seen them all.”  He chuckled and said “OK…” thinking in the back of his head, “Yeah right!”

Who was involved with the build, and what’d they do?
To start out, my brother, Jonathan Peace and I stripped the car down and had it dipped.  It had little to no rust in the shell.  We put the body on a frame table and from the get-go my brother and I had it in our minds that we were going to build a Ridler car. We set out on that mission from the start: October 18, 2008.  As with most projects the car evolved into something more elegant and radical than we could have ever imagined. We built an “organic flowing” frame to which a heavily modified Gale Banks Twin Turbo motor, a Bowler 4L80E transmission, and a Ford 9 inch rear end were all mated.

2012 Ridler Winner, 1955 Thunderbird

2012 Ridler Winner, gale banks twin turbo, detroit autoramaTwin Turbo engine, 2012 Ridler Winner pictures

1955 Thunderbird, 2012 Ridler Winner, Autorama55 Thunderbird, Ridler Award Winner, 2012 Detroit Autorama

Jonathan and I built the custom chassis, internal (hidden) roll cage, flooring, and executed hundreds of body modifications. Subtle yet elegant was the theme behind this build. Jonathan re-built the front hood scoop to extend it and make it look natural, changed the wheel well openings, extended the wheel base, basically re-skinned most of the car, tucked the bumpers, built the headers and full exhaust system, and the full interior sheet metal panels and dash. All of the modifications were finished and buttoned up at our shop, Torq’d Design Lab in Tyler, TX.

Jonathan is a third year student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA (Editor’s Note: Same school as Chip Foose) and he completely designed the car to make it look like a modern representation of what the Thunderbird should look like if it was built today. Johnathan even built a 1:5 scale clay model to experiment with trim and proportions.  He wanted to introduce a more European-exotic styling to the car.  Every single panel was re-sculpted and re-shaped to enhance the overall effect and enhance the looks of the Thunderbird, while still retaining the “Thunderbird look”.

2012 Detroit Autorama, 2012 Ridler Award, 1955 Ford Thunderbird

concept drawing, hot rod drawing, 1955 Ford Thunderbird

1955 Ford Thunderbird, 2012 Ridler WinnerCustom bodywork, custom 1955 Ford thunderbird, ridler winner

From this point on we enlisted Jesse and Jeff Greening of Greening Auto Company of Nashville, TN to bodywork the smooth metal, fit and gap the panels perfectly, machine custom one-off trim and parts, paint the car, custom build the wheels and steering wheel, and do the wiring.  The interior was designed by Jonathan Peace at Torq’d Design Lab and was stitched and wrapped by Paul Atkins of Cullman, AL.  All of the chrome plating was done by Steve Tracy of Advanced Plating in Nashville, TN.

2012 Ridler Winner, 1955 Ford Thunderbird, 2012 detroit autorama

Custom 1955 thunderbird, ford thunderbird trim, ridler winnercustom ford thunderbird, ridler award, 2012 detroit autorama
(I gotta jump in here. Who would have guess all this was either custom made -windshield frame- or re-done and re-fit for total perfection? You can’t pick that stuff up just walking by.)

What was the most challenging part of the build?
The most challenging part of the build was most likely the construction of the chassis, sheeting the underside of the car and wheel wells, and certainly the engine bay. It is also very difficult to keep the overall look of the Thunderbird with that many modifications, but we feel that it was done very well and tastefully.

1955 Thunderbird, custom thunderbird, 2012 Ridler Winner

What was it like weeks or days before the Autorama? Did you have anyone really step up?
As with any Ridler contender the final few months are a “complete give it your all” to make the deadline.  Everyone from every shop mentioned played a huge part in getting the car to where it needed to be to go to Detroit and compete.

2012 Ridler winner
Love this photo! – Thanks to the Peace Family and Greening Auto Company for the detail pictures.

Like I said, I get it now. The car’s a work of art and no doubt deserving of the Ridler Award. Not to take anything away from the other cars, but in learning more about this one, it truly exemplifies the, “Creativity, Engineering and Workmanship” of a Ridler car.

Matt told me…  “Now, my mom is very excited about the fact that the car won and she actually wants my dad to take her out on a date night in it! haha Jonathan and I quickly replied “NO!!”  My dad’s whole intention, unbenounced to my mom, was to not sell the car.” Smarts and talent run deep in the Peace family!

Let’m know you like the car in a comment below.

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