In 1959, a mechanic from Omaha , Roy Burdick, paid $5500 for a 1959 Ford Thunderbird, from Ford's factory-backed racing outfit, Holman and Moody. Burdick intended to compete in the inaugural Daytona 500, the first race to be held on the newly built Daytona speedway. Eyeing up the impressive $55,000 prize money, Burdick enlisted the driving talent of 1957 IMCA champion, Johnny Beauchamp. Beauchamp, a northern boy in a "sport for the South", had riled the old order of stock car racing, but his speed spoke for itself.
On lap 43 of the race, Fireball Robert's leading Pontiac was forced to pit, promoting Beauchamp and the T-Bird to the front. For the next 100 laps, Beauchamp swapped places with 'Tiger' Tom Pistone a number of times but by lap 148, the win looked certain with Pistone retiring with a blown engine.
However, on lap 149, Lee Petty, who had been too far back in the pack to be noticed, suddenly appeared driving side by side with Beauchamp. For the last 50 laps the two cars continued racing closely together, where both Beauchamp and Petty crossed the finish line, avoiding a backmarker, but at the same recorded time.
Beauchamp was declared the winner of the race, to which he drove the Roy Burdick owned car to victory lane. NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. studied photographs and newsreels for three days before subsequently declaring Petty the official winner instead.
Even to this day Petty’s win is disputed due to a lack of evidence to suggest that he'd had even been on the same lap as Beauchamp. It was noted that the Petty car had made several more pit stops than the Beauchamp T-bird and additionally, Petty had acquired a pattern of winning races when drivers and officials believed he was a lap behind: Concord 1958, Daytona 1959, Atlanta 1959, and Weaverville, 1960. In early NASCAR the lap count of individual cars was not officially recorded and instead relied upon the drivers’ wives counting the laps.
First making it's debut at the 2017 St Mary's Trophy for pre 1959 Touring cars, the T-bird has quickly written itself into the fabric of the Goodwood Revival. Having rolled out of the workshop the evening before qualifying in 2017, the car suffered initial teething problems resulting in a pit lane start for 9 times LeMans winner, Tom Kristensen, in the Saturday's pro-driver race. Tom set-off from the pitlane as the pack exited turn 1, and the ensuing spectacle was history. Cutting through to 3rd on the road, the footage of the 'big old bird' went viral globally.
For 2021, Bill and Romain Dumas paired up to take on the race, this time with a Thunderbird far more composed in it's development cycle. Romain stormed to victory in the first, pro-race, while Bill cut through the pack after a greasy qualifying to take another win and an outright victory for the Thunderbird.
Watch above as nine time LeMans winner, Tom Kristensen, takes the Thunderbird for it's FIRST EVER laps around the Goodwood Motor Circuit. Starting from the pits after teething issues in qualifying, the Thunderbird roars it's way through the field!
1959 Ford Unibody, H+M Upgrades
Ford OEM Steel
Full MSA-compliant roll cage.
Bespoke developed Ford 430 MEL. All-legal rocker gear and Holley carburettor etc.
Points ignition system.
Bespoke fabricated stainless steel exhaust system. The car can run flat out at all test/ track days (105db and above) with no noise regulation issues at all.
Steel toploader gearbox.
Updated Bill Shepherd Automotive pistons w/ titanium backing plates. Fully braided brake lines etc.
Koni single adjustable shocks
(BY APPOINTMENT ONLY)
BILL SHEPHERD AUTOMOTIVE,
100 ROYSTON ROAD,
KT14 7NY, UNITED KINGDOM