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NOV 17, 2016 | BY JOHN M. SMITH

T-BIRDS GATHER ON THE LEFT COAST FOR CTCI FUN IN THE CALIFORNIA SUN

CTCI continental kit

SAN DIEGO, CA – With the 2016 edition of the Classic Thunderbird Club International (CTCI) convention being held in San Diego, it was only fitting that the show’s theme was “Fun, Fun, Fun In The California Sun.” Indeed, the San Diego weather certainly lived up to its warm and sunny reputation as 563 attendees and more than 150 classic Thunderbirds representing nearly every state in the lower 48 – in addition to some from Canada, Sweden and New Zealand – flocked to the Crowne Plaza hotel for the September 13-18 event.

The convention was co-hosted by the Classic Thunderbirds of San Diego and the Early Birds of Southern California, both who are CTCI chapters. After opening with a CTCI Board Meeting and then a Membership Meeting, an “Ask the Experts” session was held where members had a chance to surface any pressing questions about their cars. But the best-attended event on Day One of the convention was easily the official “Welcome Party,” which drew 348 family members. The four-hour poolside-dinner event featured Hawaiian music performed by a local band. The evening was topped off by a Polynesian themed floor show where experienced hula dancers “shook the stage” and graciously provided a few lessons to some of the luckier members in attendance.

Day Two featured Judges Training in the morning, and later busloads of attendees took a tour of the USS Midway aircraft carrier. Now moored in San Diego harbor, the retired warship served the Navy with distinction from 1945 to 1992. From the day it was launched until 1955, it was the world’s largest ship – still just 100 feet shorter than either of the modern aircraft carriers that were in port that day. Retired military volunteers manned a variety of static displays throughout the ship. Following completion of the tour, we found the ship to be in overall splendid condition. Tour guides informed us that the 972-foot flat-top is THE Number 1-rated floating museum in the United States. All of the 388 CTCI family members who boarded the ship that day were impressed by not only the immense size of the vessel, but the great job done by the tour guides.

Of course, the day would not have been complete without a terrific BBQ picnic lunch up on the flight deck for CTCI convention goers. We couldn’t help but notice that the flight deck alongside some of the picnic tables was dotted by the occasional potato chip that suddenly, without warning, leaped from its assigned paper plate with each gust of wind. Surely the school of fish that had gathered along the starboard bow had enjoyed the unexpected snack!

Day Three featured the long-awaited Concours d’Elegance. Judging started at 9 a.m. sharp. The field consisted of a total of 152 cars distributed among the following classes:  37 Concours I and Concours II show cars; 52 Touring cars; 54 cars in Display; and 9 vehicles belonging to the “Brand X” category. Not to be outdone, a Texas member drove his 1957 Thunderbird Station Wagon to the event! (Yes, it is one of two wagon “conversions” known to exist.)

Those members (159) opting for some local excitement went on the Trolley Tour to Old Town, which featured shopping as well as sightseeing. Some members (17) slipped away to the Viejas Casino via the hotel shuttle bus. Later that evening, 148 members – 80 of whom drove their classic Thunderbirds – traveled to the Corvette Diner that was located near the USS Midway for what was billed as a “Corvette versus Thunderbird showdown.” The rally of sorts held between CTCI Thunderbirds and the area’s Corvette Club at the diner drew only a few brave owners of more modern Corvettes, which were no match for all the classic Birds in attendance. The Diner was overwhelmed with the crowd, so some T-Birds ventured elsewhere for dinner while those who stayed were not only treated with a cool ocean breeze that evening but to some of the best hamburgers and milk shakes in town.

Day Four of the convention featured more fun in the sun – a scenic coastal cruise along the Pacific Ocean which ended at the Botanic Gardens in Encinitas. The host clubs did an outstanding job of designing the driving tour up the coast from San Diego from Mission Bay through La Jolla, Del Mar and on to Encinitas. The event was very well attended as 150 members made the trip. Later that evening, 464 family members attended the Awards Banquet, where all enjoyed a fine meal while an assortment of event photos of members enjoying the fun activities of the week were projected on the screen for all to see. That evening, the co-hosts had placed handmade centerpieces on each table that resembled a model of the USS Midway as reminders of the convention, and one lucky member from each table was selected to take each little aircraft carrier to their home port.

All that was left for Day Five was a Farewell Breakfast in the club’s Hospitality Room, where many friends were able to bid adieu to one another that final morning. Just as The Beach Boys had declared that “She'll have fun, fun, fun 'Til her daddy takes the T-bird away,” the“Fun, Fun, Fun In The California Sun” theme for the 2016 CTCI convention in San Diego rang true for all of those who attended. The next CTCI (www.ctci.org) sanctioned Regional Convention is to be held in August of 2017 in New Jersey, so mark your calendars for more T-Bird fun to come next year.

FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS / COURTESY CTCI