Background
"Hey Titus, let's go pick up a T-bird,"were words that resonated in the brisk, late fall morning air in 1959, spoken by the man who'd just pulled up in a customized '59 Buick with open trailer in tow. That man being none other than the now legendary customizer/show promoter, Darryl Starbird. The place, Star Kustom Shop at 734 E. Mt. Vernon in Wichita, Kansas (still standing alongside the railroad tracks when last we checked).

The shop gopher, Jerry, quickly pulled down the doors and hopped in for the 30-some-mile trip with his 26-year-old boss and friend (friends for 50-plus years). What they found were the sad remains of a '56 Thunderbird in a shed that was literally falling down around it. Darryl just had to have it to fulfill his vision of the future. Forking over $800 (a lot of loot in 1959), the two cleaned out the rubble around the car and loaded it up for the haul back for its destiny. Yep, it was to become the Predicta, one of the great milestone custom cars of all time.

If the wrecked hulk that Darryl started with looked like it had been hit by a train, well, that's because it had. He obviously had his work cut out for him, but already having a '57 T-bird, Le Perle, under his belt, the plan was set in motion. Note that Le Perle had really put Starbird in the limelight, not only winning the 1959 NHRA National Sweepstakes Championship, but the Top Body Shop award as well. He had to get this new and vastly improved T-bird finished in record time so as to not break the momentum, which we're glad to say is still rollin' headlong into the future to this very day.

It was indeed an intense few short weeks to turn a totaled sporty car into the groundbreaking Predicta in time for the 1960 National Roadster Show in Oakland, California (February 19-28th). (Note that "Grand" wasn't added to the title until '62 and, even though held in Oakland, it never was officially the Oakland Roadster Show). The show was the goal, and they (Darryl and assistant Dave Stuckey) almost make it. Actually, they did, but I say "almost" because the bubble wasn't ready when it came time to load Predicta on the trailer for the long haul to California, and had to be shipped separately. If you look closely at the August '60 CAR CRAFT cover photo with Darryl and the magazine's editor, Dick Day, sitting in the car, you'll note that the bubble is merely sitting on the car, not attached. In another of the three cover shots, with Darryl alone in the cockpit, the bubble isn't seen at all, only the partial ring with hinges behind him. Complete or not, Predicta impressed the judges enough to bestow Darryl with Oakland's Sweepstakes of the Future Award.

The Bubble
A major part of turning that wrecked '56 `Bird into the Predicta was to reshape the perimeter of the cockpit to accept the footprint of a semi-double canopy. To do so, a steel ring was created which would serve both as a base, as well as provide hinge mounting locations.

Lustre Craft in Wichita was chosen to blow the bubble. Upon accepting the challenge, however, they had to build an oven large enough to accommodate a 6x8-ft. sheet of Plexiglas, as well as a rail system to move the plastic into and out of again once heated. In working the hot plastic, speed is of the essence, as it cools quickly. So, with the edges of the Plexi clamped to the rails, it's slid into the oven. When heated to just the right point of elasticity it is pulled out and clamped between the aforementioned plywood ring and a solid sheet on the bottom. Air nozzles then apply pressure through holes until the bubble is blown to its vertical form on either side of the profile shape. The first couple of tries got the plastic too hot, which caused it to pull away from the rails when pulled from the oven. Eventually they got it right.