What started as just a few people who owned a Ford Thunderbird car has turned into an international group of people who travel the country in their 2002-2005 retro T Birds. The National Thunderbird Nest Car Club kicked off their “Northern Lake Getaway” with a stop in Grand Rapids at the National Forest History Center.

The goal of National Thunderbird Nest Car Club is simple: “See the country and have fun,” Bill Green, long-time member of the club, said.

Green is from Arkansas and traveled to Minnesota for the Northern Lakes Getaway event. He was also one of the first three members to travel to all 48 continental states in his T Bird, granting him the honor of a gold plaque that he has placed under the hood of his trunk.

Members of the club have a Thunderbird car made in the years 2002-2005. The model was discontinued after 2005, although it mimics the look of the retro 1950s T Birds.

“A lot of people will see them and think they are older than they are,” Paul Thomas, club member, said.

The club was officially started in 2002 in Dustin, Fla. Each member of the club met online from the website thunderbirdnest.com. The webpage hosts forums, features T Birds of the Month, and is a gathering place for all T Bird enthusiasts. The club puts on many regional events throughout the year, as well as larger nationwide events usually once a year. One of their larger events coming up will be a road trip following the Mississippi River all the way south. Some members were even able to travel to Holland to visit one of the club’s members for a 28-day cruise.

Besides traveling the country, the club also hosts fundraisers for various causes. For example, in 2006, the club raised $30,000 for the Susan G. Coleman Breast Cancer Foundation, and another year brought in $31,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“When we bought these cars, they were a relatively expensive toy,” Thomas said. “So if you can afford a relatively expensive toy, you can afford to help other people.”

Roger Quern, owner of one of the four T Birds in Grand Rapids, described what the group is focused on today.

“It used to be all about the cars, now we’ve got good relationships and friendships,” Quern commented.

The Northern Lakes Getaway started in Grand Rapids and will continue to Walker, Minn., through Sunday. The rest of the trip will include a visit to a theater in Park Rapids, a dirt race track in Bemidji, an antique boat shop on Gull Lake in Brainerd, a scenic boat ride on Lake Itasca and the chance to cross the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park.

The best part of being in the club is “The people, knowing the people,” Thomas said. “We bought this little car thinking it would be our weekend cruiser. ... Well it has 160,000 miles on it now.”

Thomas also explained the difference between this car club and others.

“We’re not your typical car club,” Thomas said. “We don’t go to a place, set up and sit in our lawn chairs all day.”

While the red and black T Birds were manufactured each year, other colors are more exclusive. The classic T Bird blue was only made in 2002 along with the yellow T Bird. If you’re looking for a merlot or mint green T Bird, you’ll have to look at the 2004 models, while the grey model can be found in 2003.

The biggest “argument” of the club is, of course, “Which color is the fastest?” Quern joked.

New members are welcome to the club and are encouraged to visit thunderbirdnest.com to get started.


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