"This is the first collectors' car I've ever purchased," said Prentice in an interview Monday.
"It was a car I remember from my youth. I remember being in one. And I just think they are one of the most beautiful cars that was produced in that era."
The premier purchased the iconic American automobile for US$59,400, or about C$71,000 — a price that included the auctioneer's commission at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale.
Prentice said he had wanted to buy a first generation T-bird for a decade and had been actively shopping for four years.
He said his first love is Detroit-made cars from the 1950s and '60s, which he considers the high point of the North American auto industry. He has a Ford sign in his garage.
"The cars that they produced were pretty extraordinary pieces of history, pieces of art in lots of ways," he said.
He said he also wanted a 1956 model to match the year he was born.
Prentice's purchase is colonial white with a dark-blue peacock interior, and comes with power seats, power windows, power steering, and a three-speed automatic transmission.
The two-door T-Birds first rolled off the line in 1955, vastly outselling their main sports car rival, the Chevrolet Corvette.
The '56 version gained fame for its sleek lines, muted tail fins, eight-cylinder engine delivering about 225 horsepower along with the rear-mounted spare tire and porthole side windows.
It has become a pop culture symbol, celebrated in the 1960s Beach Boys song about a young woman going cruising, the radio blaring and having "fun, fun, fun 'til her Daddy takes the T-Bird away."
In "American Graffiti," George Lucas's 1973 nostalgic cinematic paean to lost innocence, bombshell blonde Suzanne Somers cruises one endless California night in a '56 T-bird, simultaneously driving Richard Dreyfuss' Curt character to hair-pulling paroxysms of unrequited passion.
Prentice said he wasn't swayed by the Beach Boys song and didn't realize his car was in "American Graffiti" until his son-in-law sent him an email about it Monday.
He also dismissed criticism, including from the opposition NDP spokesperson, regarding the optics of a premier buying vintage cars while simultaneously advising Albertans that belt-tightening is coming in times of low oil prices.
"I saved for many years to buy this car," said Prentice.
"My being in public life doesn't change me. I am who I am, and I enjoy the things I enjoy — simple things like hockey and cars."
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