Built by the Peter De Paulo Speed Shop on behalf of Ford Motor Company, the Ford Battlebirds symbolised the pinnacle of 50's American sports cars. This example, the big-block one of the two cars built for the 1957 Daytona Beach Speed Trials, struggled under De Paolo's stewardship to live up to it's potential. It clocked an astonishing 204mph on the sands of Daytona beach, decimating the GM-backed efforts, but failed to make a return run, invalidating it's result. When DePaolo sold up and the team and it's assets became Holman and Moody, the car found a new owner in Andy Hotton of Dearborn Steel Tubing, and proceeded to road race in regional events across America.
In 1960, Hotton sold the Battlebird to a Pan-American Airlines pilot who used it as a weekend road car. He later leased it to the Jack Cummings Production company for use as the 'lead car' in the Elvis Presley film, Viva Las Vegas. Only days before filming started, one of the production mechanics took the Battlebird out on a shake-down test drive and crashed it. With filming imminent, and so many of the Battlebird's body mods completely bespoke, Cummings had the insurance write off the stricken Battlebird, replaced the banged-up Ford with an Elva MkIV, paid off the pilot and nobody was the wiser.
The battered remains of the car caught the attention of the infamous 'Bayou Bondurant', Ricky Lee-Babineaux, who intended to salvage the big block 430 MEL for use in air-boat racing. Some time later, having retired from air-boats, Babineaux returned the car to a semi-fuctional order, forming a small collection of interesting mid-century racecars.
In 2016, we acquired much of the Babineaux collection, which included the remains of the Battlebird, and set to work restoring the car. Making it's debut at the 2019 Goodwood Revival, it's an unusual sight among all the sleek 50s sportcars, but it can't help but make you smile.
WATCH IN ACTION
Watch above as Bill, takes the Battlebird through it's paces for a hot lap at the 2019 Goodwood Revival Freddie March memorial trophy.
1959 Ford Thunderbird, Peter De Paolo mechanical and aerodynamic modifications
1965 Ford OEM with De Paolo fin
Full MSA-compliant roll hoop and door bars.
Bespoke developed Ford 430 MEL. All-legal rocker gear and Holley carburettor etc.
MSD ignition system.
Bespoke fabricated stainless steel exhaust system. The car can run flat out at all test/ track days (102db and above) with no noise regulation issues at all.
the car is fitted with a T10 4-speed gearbox.
Bill Shepherd Automotive finned drum brake system
Koni adjustable shocks
3.77 Iron differential.
(BY APPOINTMENT ONLY)
BILL SHEPHERD AUTOMOTIVE,
100 ROYSTON ROAD,
KT14 7NY, UNITED KINGDOM