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Created by Serious People … just for fun!

The History of ITC

Written by: Tom Kneebis

The International Thunderbird Club came into being in 1993.  To understand the how and why of the Club we need to look back a bit further to the days when all of the founding members belonged to the Vintage Thunderbird Club International.

Background

During the late 80’s and into the early 90’s many members grew increasingly unhappy with the style of leadership of the VTCI.  It was perceived by some as being unyielding and somewhat absolute while being unresponsive to criticism.  This perception grew increasingly more widespread and became the topic of conversation at club events.  The discontent began to have a negative effect on gatherings and conventions making them anything but enjoyable.  Of course, there were VTCI members who were supportive of their leadership and soon a serious rift developed between those members and those who sought a change.  Eventually some members took the position that things would not change and that it might be time to look into alternatives.

The Summer of 1993

The Upstate New York Chapter held a picnic each summer in those days at the home of Bob Murphy in the suburban Syracuse town of Marcellus.  The 1993 Picnic became the setting for the first informal meeting to discuss the issues at hand.  The members gathered in Bob’s parlor to express their feelings and perceptions and, more importantly, what to do about it.  Unfortunately there were no members present who supported the VTCI leadership and, therefore, opposing points of view were not heard.  The outcome of that historic gathering was a decision to call a meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a new club rather than continue to challenge the existing leadership of the VTCI.  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.

A concern on the part of many members was that there were many, many terrific people in the VTCI who had become friends over the years.  Not all would be willing to form a new club nor would they even see the need or desirability to do so.  The issues, as the dissenters saw it, was with the leadership and not individual members nor the VTCI in general.  How to effect change while not angering some VTCI members would be a very elusive goal and there was a point beyond which nothing could be done.

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 rather than discuss those issues that bothered them.  People looked optimistically to the future rather than dwell on the past or present.  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 not in attendance.

It was quickly decided that the formation of a new club was what needed to be done.  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 mistakes of the past not be repeated 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 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 talked about.  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 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, which split from the VTCI some years earlier, 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 any organization, even not for profit clubs, cannot be taken lightly.  Two major issues faced the group:  incorporation and by-laws.  It must be remembered that those in attendance held a common perception that the VTCI’s leadership style was undesirable and great pains were taken to create by-laws that would prohibit such behavior on the part of officers. 

The other issue of Incorporation was a bit more complicated.  At that time the VTCI had changed its name from Vintage Thunderbird Club of America but there was serious doubt that it had been done legally (from an incorporation standpoint).  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 of America; dba International Thunderbird Club.  Obviously 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!” 

List of the ITC Members who were at the Inaugural Meeting
on 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 that 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 but they can also become a source of hostility and resentment.  Another traditional feature of club shows and, for that matter, other general shows is 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 "Peoples Choice" is the norm but it is often the source of great hostility when two or more equally restored cars compete against each other.  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 and also the attitudes that go along with them.  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 which 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.  Indeed, Dennis had chaired the Eastern Regional VTCI Meet two years earlier in Syracuse.  Choosing the same hotel and similar format made the task somewhat easier but much had to be changed to satisfy the emerging ITC rules and perspectives.

One major change 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?  Here’s the List:

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

This year … Charleston, SC – July 24-31

Special Awards given at our Conventions:

Presidents Award

1994 – The Schatz Family: Rich, Sandy, Risa & Amy
1995 – Barney Burke
1996 – Norm & Kitty Mummert
1997 – Bob Peterson & Harvey Hodges (ITC Script September-October 1997 page 27)
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

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

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 & Carlol Brugmans
2009 – Don & Kathy Holton
2010 – Linda Lagree
2011 – Paul Rosina

 

Coming Soon … The final part of ITC's History

Edited by Current ITC Editor: Kathy Holton