By: Tom Kneebis
The International Thunderbird Club came into being in 1993.
The Summer of 1993
The Upstate New York Thunderbird Club held a picnic each summer in those days at the home of Bob Murphy in the suburban Syracuse town of Marcellus. This event often drew people from all over the Northeast and Ontario, Canada. The 1993 Picnic became the setting for the first informal meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a new club. There was much enthusiasm expressing benefits of creating a new club with a fresh approach that emphasized putting members ahead of the cars they own. At that point no one was sure if there were enough members who wanted to go that route but it was determined that it should be explored.
In the end it was up to Dr. Richard Schatz to find a suitable location and time for this meeting. He would arrange it for October at a hotel in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.
The Inaugural Meeting
The atmosphere of this meeting was quite different from that held in Bob Murphy’s parlor during the summer. Here members gathered for the purpose of forming a new club. People looked optimistically to the future. Yet, there were many issues to be settled and great uncertainty about whether or not what was being done would be well received by those who were not in attendance.
It was quickly decided that the formation of a new club was what everyone wanted. But what form would it take, what would it be called, what years of Thunderbirds would be recognized, what would the club publication be called, what kinds of by-laws would be adopted, how would it be legally incorporated, etc.? Lots of issues such as these became the topic of discussion and discussed they were! It was important to everyone present that things were done correctly in the new club.
The name given to the new club was an important and long discussed topic. There were already other Thunderbird Clubs in existence and it was decided that the name should be something that would differentiate us from the rest. Prior to the inaugural meeting a letter was sent to all those who would be attending. They were asked to submit a proposed name for consideration at the meeting. Those names were put up on a blackboard and each was discussed. Some were unbelievably creative while others were just plain unbelievable! One by one names were erased until just a few remained. But there was no consensus reached and it seemed that a deadlock was about to happen. At that point, Tom Kneebis resubmitted his proposed name with an explanation. The name, he said, should be simple and leave no doubt about who were. The club would not be limited to the US and Canada but would be International. It was all about Thunderbirds and it was, after all, a Club. With that the name International Thunderbird Club was resubmitted and finally adopted by unanimous vote.
Another issue was the scope of the club. Specifically, what model years would be admitted into the ITC? Again, there were other clubs around. The CTCI was strictly for the “Little Birds” of 1955-1957, The VTCI at that time was for 1958-1966 and the Heartland Vintage Thunderbird Club, featured 1958-1971. Much discussion revolved around that issue but in the end it was decided not to limit the club’s focus to any specific years. Putting it another way, if Ford called it a Thunderbird, it was in! We would become the first and only, Thunderbird Club for all Thunderbirds of all years. That was, and remains, an important decision.
All clubs need a viable, attractive and informative publication and the ITC was no exception. It was decided that there would indeed be a publication and that it would be published every two months. Naming that publication was another matter! Again, as with the club’s name, proposals were written on a blackboard, discussed, erased, edited and finally voted upon. With that, The Script came into being and Bill Kurrasch agreed to be its first Editor. The legalities of an organization, even not for profit clubs, cannot be taken lightly. Two major issues faced the group: incorporation and by-laws.
The issue of incorporation was a bit complicated. At that time, the VTCI had changed its name from Vintage Thunderbird Club of America. Furthermore, it had abandoned its original incorporation in the state of Oklahoma and organized itself in Illinois. The original incorporation was valid and, with the help of attorneys, the ITC was able to use the original charter. Therefore, the official name of the Club is The Vintage Thunderbird Club International; dba International Thunderbird Club. The first part of that name is never used!
With that, the ITC was born. It would be a new venture into uncharted territory and only time would tell if it would be accepted and successful. But there was one thing that would be certain and the club’s motto, first heard at that meeting, would say it all: We are a club “Created by serious people, just for fun!”
ITC Members at the Inaugural Meeting, October 23, 1993:
Robert and Dorothy Amos, Towson, Maryland
Nick and Edie Anzano, Dumont, New Jersey
Douglas Bradley, New Farm, Queensland, Australia
Martin and Carol Brugmans, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Barney Burke, Port Townsend, Washington
James Cassidy – Forest Hills, New York
Richard Cheney – Burke, Virginia
Dennis and Carol Connor – Syracuse, New York
Harley Eaton – Keller, Texas
Malcolm Green – Califon, New Jersey
William and Sally Ingraham – Trinity, North Carolina
Thomas Kneebis – Binghamton, New York
James Laurenzo, Syracuse – New York
Kenneth and Ann Leaman – Fairfield, New Jersey
Robert and Esther Mench – Chadds Ford, New Jersey
Norman and Kitty Mummert – Hanover, Pennsylvania
Robert Murphy – Camillus, New York
James and Darlene Osowski – South River, New Jersey
Paul and Jane Reigel – Allentown, Pennsylvania
Dr Richard and Sandy Schatz – Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania
Jack and Mary Schatz – Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania
Mark Sitko – Allen Park, Michigan
Al Voskian – New Jersey
Orville and Bea Zastrow – Chevy Chase, Maryland
One of the first items on the agenda after the club was formed was the how and when of a convention. It was assumed early on we would, in fact, have to hold annual conventions but at issue was what form they would take and what would be the emphasis. Here’s a little background:
The Traditional Car Club Show
Traditional car clubs hold conventions to showcase members’ cars and to have some sort of Concours-style judging. In addition, certain cars become noteworthy and exceptional within these clubs attaining a status such as Senior or Best-of-Show. For many club members these prestigious awards become highly coveted. Another traditional feature of club shows and, for that matter, other general shows are the awarding of trophies based on cars competing against each other. This style of awards might be okay for local car shows or even when “People’s Choice” is the norm. Frequently these high quality cars have little to differentiate them from each other. A loose fastener or minor rust smudge on an exhaust system may make all the difference not to mention the human element of a judge’s opinion.
A New Attitude
It was clear from the outset that the ITC wanted to avoid many of the pitfalls of judging. It was for this reason that we followed a different path for judging our cars and, in fact, followed a different path with our whole attitude about Concours events in the first place. These changes would be reflected at our very first Annual Convention that was held in Syracuse, New York.
Two Key People
Two key individuals emerged right from the start. Marty Brugmans assumed the role of Concours Chairman. The responsibilities were to begin the formation of concours rules, car classifications, judging standards, etc. This would obviously be an ongoing task which continues to this very day. The goal, of course, is to publish a comprehensive guide for each type of Thunderbird. Putting it another way: to answer the question of what is correct or not correct for each model. Both judges and restorers of cars need this information. Most of all was the new and unique feature of the ITC in that all years of Thunderbirds were welcomed!
The other important member to emerge was Dennis Connor. He agreed to be the Chairman for the First Annual ITC Convention in Syracuse. Dennis had chaired the Eastern Regional VTCI meet two years earlier in Syracuse.
One major change for ITC was that, under no circumstances, would cars be judged against each other. Rather, each car is judged against the theoretical perfect car on a points awarded system. This imaginary perfect car wasn’t even produced at the factory since the factory didn’t manufacture show cars! Awards for First, Second and Third Place are based upon the numeric score and, since that determines the award, many cars can be found in each category. This format has served us well from the beginning.
But another important item needs to be looked at here. From the beginning, as was mentioned earlier, the whole attitude about concours judging was different. In traditional clubs it is the concours event that is considered as the primary reason for having the convention. This would not be the same with us. The ITC views the concours event as a part of the convention and, as such, it is taken very seriously. However, the bringing of people together for the enjoyment of various activities has become the reason for holding a convention. This approach clearly underscores the club motto of having a club that was “created by serious people… just for fun.”
The First Convention
The first Convention in Syracuse really set the tone for things to come. It featured tours of local sites and attractions, cruises to local hangouts, the Concours on Saturday morning and, of course, the Awards Banquet on Saturday evening. This basic schedule served as the model for all subsequent conventions but was greatly expanded as the years rolled by. By 2002, the convention schedule was expanded to a full week in Watkins Glen, NY. Even though not everyone was able, or even wanted, to attend all days, it was still an option for the many members who made it a vacation week.
Where have we been so far?
1994 – Syracuse, New York – June 30-July 2
1995 – Dearborn, Michigan – June 29-July 2
1996 – Fairfax, Virginia – July 18-21
1997 – Waukesha, Wisconsin – July 24-27
1998 – Millville, New Jersey – June 24-28
1999 – Suffern, New York – July 14-18
2000 – Plattsburg, New York – July 12-16
2001 – Dearborn, Michigan – July 17-22 (Launch of the new T-Bird)
2002 – Watkins Glen, New York – July 23-28
2003 – Zanesville, Ohio – August 18-24
2004 – Lancaster, Pennsylvania – August 16-22
2005 – Waukesha, Wisconsin –August 9-14
2006 – Salisbury, North Carolina – August 14-20
2007 – Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – September 10-16
2008 – Nashville, Tennessee – August 11-17
2009 – Lockport/Niagara Falls, New York – August 23-30
2010 – Springfield, Illinois – July 26-August 1
2011 – Charleston, South Carolina – July 24-31
2012 – Wilmington, Delaware – July 24-31
2013 – Dayton, Ohio – June 23-30
2014 Charlotte North Carolina August 12-16
2015 Waukesha Wisconsin August 18 –23
Special Awards given at our Conventions:
1994 – The Schatz Family: Rich, Sandy, Risa & Amy
1995 – Barney Burke
1996 – Norm & Kitty Mummert
1997 – Bob Peterson & Harvey Hodges
1998 – Jim & Darlene Osowski
1999 – Martin & Carol Brugmans
2000 – Ken & Ann Leaman
2001 – Bea Zastrow & Bob Marisco
2002 – Nick & Edie Anzano
2003 – None Listed
2004 – Malcolm Green, John & Cathy Rowe, Don & Kathy Holton
2005 – Malcolm Green
2006 – Frank Starkes
2007 – Don & Kathy Holton
2008 – Earl Dickinson
2009 – Ralph Holmes & Lucille Harvey
2010 – Bob Frantz
2011 – Linda Lagree
2012 – Ron Seifert
2013 Paul Rosina & Dwight Good
2014 Tom Young
2015 – Walt & Sandy Fries
ITC Script Editor’s Award began in 1999
1999 – Jennifer Marsico, Amy Schatz & Risa Schatz
2000 – Mark Sitko & John Rowe
2001 – John Draxler
2002 – Nick & Edie Anzano
2003 – None Listed
2004 – John Rowe & Don Holton
2005 – Karen & Rick Nowak and Steve Legal
2006 – Ruby Harris
2007 – Frank Starkes
2008 – Dick Shelford
2009 – Bob Peterson
2010 – Tom Hollenbach
2011 – Barbara Beaver
2012 – Gerard Bartasavich
2013 None awarded
2014 Gerard (Bart) Bartasavich
2015 – Michael Paul
ITC Schatz Memorial Award beginning in 2003
2003 – John Rowe
2004 – Jim & Darlene Osowski
2005 – Earl Dickinson
2006 – Norm & Kitty Mummert
2007 – Malcolm Green
2008 – Martin & Carol Brugmans
2009 – Don & Kathy Holton
2010 – Linda Lagree
2011 – Paul Rosina
2012 – Tom Young
2013 Mike Melnyk
2014 Marsha Dixon
2015 – Frank Starkes