“Flip on that stoplight real quick,” Barton asked family friend Charles Duran. “Before my husband passed away in 2011, this was how I knew what to do: If the light was on red, it meant I better stay away. When it was yellow, he wanted coffee. And when it was green, that meant bring some Coca-Cola. I could look through the kitchen and see exactly what he wanted.”
Three cars sit inside Barton’s garage, including “Bill’s baby,” a 1957 Ford Thunderbird. A white hardtop covers the T-Bird during the winter months, before transforming into a convertible when the weather warms. Inside and out, the dusk-rose painted beauty contains all original parts, and has been driven only an estimated 4,000 miles since Bill Barton purchased it in 2006.
“Everything’s original,” said Barton, a 1967 Academy of Richmond County graduate. “The engine, body, interior, even the radio is from 1957. I don’t recommend using the radio though. All you’ll hear is a bunch of static.”
Bill Barton first noticed the Thunderbird in a 2006 newspaper ad, while attending a family reunion in Atlanta.
“It was love at first sight. He treasured driving it around town and taking it to shows – it was his favorite thing to do. The last show he went to was Nov. 5, 2011, at Hooters in Augusta. Three weeks later, he left us. That month, Hooters was kind enough to hold the show in Bill’s honor.”
For five years, the Bartons trailered their Thunderbird to “many, many shows,” before his death. Then, it sat still.
“I couldn’t bring myself to drive it,” Barton said. “It reminded me too much of him. For a year, I just left it in the garage.”
After a year, Duran persuaded Barton to do what her husband would have wanted: drive it.
“It’s funny because Bill always made me ride in the passenger seat,” Margie said. “All those years, I never drove his baby.”
Barton paused before laughing.
“Right now, I know he’s looking down on us,” she said. “I also know he’s nervous with me behind the wheel.”