Feature: T-Bird Legacy Drive
Once a year, these classic car owners use their vehicles to put smiles on the faces of some special people who become VIP passengers for the day
Once a year, a group of T-Bird owners from the Thunderbird Club of Victoria (and the odd ring-in) store their classic-car preciousness in their glove boxes and take a group of disabled people for the cruise of their lives. The reactions from their excited passengers far outweigh any concerns they might have for upholstery or paint.
For the last six years, these civic-minded club members have been working with Legacy, the charity which looks after the dependants of defence force veterans and currently cares for 90,000 widows and 1900 children and disabled dependants nationally. The Club’s annual cruise day is eagerly anticipated by Victorian Legacy dependants, many of whom have been going for rides with the club for years.
The ride day coincides with a Legacy summer camp at the Phillip Island Adventure Camp and is the highlight of the week-long get-together. A Legacy volunteer since 1999, Terry Black, coordinates the cruise which this year involved eight immaculate Thunderbirds, a custom ’56 Chev and a modern Bentley Continental GTC.
"Our club got involved about six years ago," Black says. "We normally take eight to 10 cars down and take the campers – it’s roughly the same group of disabled people – and their carers and volunteers too for a 30-minute cruise. They love it and look forward to it."
Peter Samers, operations manager for Legacy Melbourne, says the Thunderbird Club’s involvement with the charity is unique.
"It’s the only one I know about," he says. "People get to have a bit of fun and they look forward to it every year. We’ve been very lucky.
"Terry has been the lynchpin and organised it for a number of years and the owners look forward to it. It’s a privilege to have an old car and share it with other people. A lot of these guys would be nervous about their cars [getting damaged] but they park that for the day and let the dependants sit in and touch the cars, which is something that doesn’t happen every week."
Legacy cares for all dependants of deceased or incapacitated veterans until they reach adulthood, but has a special obligation to look after disabled dependants for life, Samers says.
Not many people will ever get to ride in a classic T-Bird with the top down on a summer’s day and the dependants revel in it, waving to onlookers and enjoying the sensation of the warm wind in their hair. They may not know much about the cars they’re sitting in but they soak up the sun and the experience with broad grins of appreciation. As far as they are concerned they are as big a star as the cars, says Legacy Youth & Disability Coordinator, Vladimir Keca.
"When the dependants get rides they access the community and everyone turns around and looks at the cars and they get attention too and that’s important," he explains. "It’s a big attraction for the whole camp. They look forward to this. It’s the highlight of the camp, most definitely." Keca has nothing but praise for the club members.
"The drivers are flexible and supportive and not pedantic about who gets in their cars and how they’re treated, they’re very easy going. The privilege of having these great cars here is a positive because it supports that community inclusion."
For these car club members (some of whom are Vietnam vets), supporting a charity that has been helping the dependants of war veterans since 1923, is a privilege and a pleasure and most would agree that it’s probably the best use of their much loved classic cars.
* If you’d like to volunteer or help Legacy in any way call 1800 Legacy (534 229) to be connected with the club in your nearest capital city or visit www.legacy.com.au
Read more about the T-Bird Legacy Drive, plus the classic car owners who participate in the drive, in the current issue of Unique Cars, on sale now.
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