Ford’s legendary Thunderbird model has a dedicated fan in Jim Merritt. "I currently own a 1956 Thunderbird that I’ve restored, plus a 2004 Thunderbird that my wife has claimed," he says. "In the past, I’ve salvaged, restored, and driven several cars I wish were still mine." Hailing from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Jim is a member of the Collector Car Council of Colorado (CCCC). "I’m currently finishing up a frame-off restoration on a 1957 Thunderbird while helping others with their restorations and searching for parts. Lately, I’m spending days at older junkyards to find salvageable parts."


Top fantasy powerplant?
My fantasy powerplants are Ford’s factory-supercharged 312 c.i. engines, which were often found in Thunderbirds.

What recent developments have you found interesting?
All-electric compact air conditioning (A/C) units. Electric dash and gauge conversion kits, specialty door and dash panel replacement kits. Robotics taking over body panel replacement, preparation and painting tasks. Complete new unibody sheet metal replacements for vintage trucks, SUVs and cars—especially those produced in the ‘60s – ‘80s.

Who is your automotive hero?
Lee Iacocca, whom I wish was still alive to shake his hand. Why? Many years ago, Lee allowed me to shadow him for a couple of days at Chrysler during my college graduate studies.

Favorite automotive destinations?
The top item on my bucket list was to attend the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. You have to see it to realize just how big the specialty automotive industry is. SEMA provides a current reality check as to what the industry has developed to meet new business challenges and demands. I also recommend visiting the Detroit Auto Show, another “must see.” It offers a possible look into the future and beyond.

Found a helpful website recently?
Aside from the SEMA Action Network (SAN), I strongly recommend checking out the SEMA Education programs at For those in the specialty automotive industry, these valuable educational programs encompass professional development and training resources.