Restoration of ‘barn find’ 1964 Thunderbolt to debut at 2015 MCACN

Phil Bonner Thunderbolt in Primer A002

Breaking News! The restoration of the “barn find” Phil Bonner 1964 Ford Thunderbolt continues on schedule in Georgia under the careful eye of Donald Allen.

Story and photos by Al Rogers

Under the direction of owner Donald Allen, the restored Phil Bonner Thunderbolt “barn find” will be unveiled at the 2015 Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals on Saturday, November 21, on the show floor of the Donald E Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois.

In January 2015, I was on hand for the discovery of the Thunderbolt originally owned and raced by the late Phil Bonner. It had been stowed away in a pole barn awaiting a total make-over for nearly 20 years. The previous owner, Hal Reed, purchased it nearly 30 years earlier upon finding it tucked under a porch in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Due to health reasons, Reed sold the Thunderbolt to Donald Allen who is recognized and respected in the “Ford World” as one of the best restorers of performance Galaxies, Fairlanes and Thunderbolts. Allen has been at it for nearly 35 years and put his mark on more than 3,000 Fords during his stellar career. He’s restored Thunderbolts once owned and raced by Dick Brannan, Steve Hornell, Milo Coleman and others. Each of these Thunderbolts are award winners.

Phil Bonner Thunderbolt Barn Find A001

Since the discovery, new owner Donald Allen has been on a mission to restore the Bonner Thunderbolt to a level that would make the late Phil “Daddy Warbucks” Bonner proud. A great deal of time, expense and passion has gone into the restoration process. Every nut, bolt, body panel and component has been carefully verified before it is installed.

The highs and lows of the journey have made the restoration likewise memorable. Preston Bonner, the grandson of Phil, came forward to offer his support to the restoration. Larry Davis from the Thunderbolt Owner’s Association has provided his expertise and knowledge with the verification and documentation during the restoration process.

Phil Bonner Thunderbolt Painted A037

One of the highlights was having Wayne Blackwood — a close friend to the late Phil Bonner and onetime drag racer for Carey Paul Ford in Decatur, Georgia — reach out to Donald Allen. Blackwood had valuable information that could only be supplied by a true race car driver who was there for the significant happenings. He and Phil Bonner had a friendship exceeding 50 years. The information will have an impact on the appearance and look of the finished “Phil Bonner Thunderbolt.” It’s fair to say it changed the course of direction Donald Allen took with the restoration.

Phil Bonner Thunderbolt in Primer A001

Join Donald Allen, Hal Reed, Preston Bonner and others during the restored Bonner Thunderbolt’s unveiling at the 2015 Muscle Car &Corvette Nationals in Rosemont, Illinois, on November 21, 2015. For more information, check out the official show link at www.mcacn.com .

We’ll have more to share about the Bonner Thunderbolt restoration in the future. Stay tuned!

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