Have you ever seen a "tribute" car that's more authentic that the "real thing"? We haven't seen many, but this 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt certainly could make a claim to the title. Built with more "real" Thunderbolt parts than most "real" Thunderbolts, including a real-deal Holman & Moody 427 side-oiler, this is the ideal car for the Ford fanatic seeking a Thunderbolt that can be driven and shown with pride. Or, if you've got a Thunderbolt, but don't have the incredibly pricey "real" engine, this car could be the link to making your car "correct".
Let's start with some general history: by mid year at the NHRA nationals, Tasca Ford had converted a 1963 Ford Fairlane into a serious AF/X contender with the 427 engine. Bill Lawton was able to record a 12.21 at 118.42 before Dave Strickler took the AF/X class trophy with a Z-11 Chevy. But Tasca's 427 Fairlane definitely caught the eye of the Ford execs in Dearborn. By now, Super Stock drag racing was a big business at Ford. A Special Vehicle program was created, managed by Frank Zimmermann. His first job was to organize the drag racing program and to establish the Ford Drag Council, composed of top drivers who also happened to be sponsored by Ford dealers in selected geographical areas.
The 427 Fairlane, soon to be known as the Fairlane Thunderbolt, was Zimmermann's first real project. The Thunderbolts were designed at Ford and built by Dearborn Steel Tubing. By the time the Thunderbolts were unleashed onto the drag racing world in 1964, NHRA had decided that a minimum number of cars had to be built in order to qualify as a "production" car. Although only 50 cars were required, somewhere between 110 and 127 Thunderbolts were eventually built. As a result, the Thunderbolts were eligible to run in Super Stock rather than in Factory Experimental.
If you could get one, the price was only $3900 a copy. The NHRA weight minimum for Super Stock was now 7 1/2 pounds per cubic inch. At 427 cubic inches, this worked out to 3202 pounds. Ford knew that they could never reach this minimum weight with a full size sedan. The Fairlane Thunderbolt was lighter to begin with and also had a shorter wheelbase (115 1/2 inch compared to the Galaxies 119 inches). To make the 3200 pounds, the front fenders, hood, doors and bumpers were fiberglass duplicates. Other than the stock windshield all the other windows were Plexiglas. Two lightweight bucket seats were used in the front and the stock bench seat was used in the rear. Insulation was non existent. The floor mat was a thin rubber piece with no padding. The 427 engine had 13.3:1 compression ratio and a forged steel crank, hi-riser heads and custom tube headers.
The S/S rules called for "full exhaust" so a single small diameter exhaust pipe and muffler was included. Special modifications were required to the inner fender panels, upper A-arm brackets and A-arms. The inboard headlights were replaced with 6 inch diameter ducts designed to carry fresh air to the carburetors.
A Borg-Warner T-10 4-speed or a specially beefed up Lincoln Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission was available. About half of the Thunderbolts were originally equipped with the automatic trans but reliability problems caused many racers to eventually convert to the 4-speed. In the rear, "ladder bars" built from square tubing and modified leaf springs were used. To counteract torque, the driver's side had two leafs and the passenger side had three. The standard axle ratio was 4.56:1. Originally in the trunk was a 125 pound truck battery but after NHRA objected, a smaller, 95 pound battery was used. The first seven cars were painted burgundy and all the rest were white.
In the first test of the Thunderbolt in S/S trim, Gas Ronda ran a 12.05 at 120.16. Finally, Ford had a Super Stocker that could dominate the field. The NHRA Winternationals final in 1964 was between Gas Ronda and Butch Leal, a reconstituted Chevy 409 racer from Pixley, CA. The all Thunderbolt final was taken by Ronda with an 11.78 at 123.40. Gas Ronda went on to sent a new NHRA record for Super Stock at 11.52, and won the Top Eliminator Title in September, 1964.
Today, real Thunderbolts are super rare and super expensive cars, residing in museums and private collections, never to see a track again. Most Thunderbolt fans end up building or purchasing a tribute car, for showing, cruising and drag racing.
Here before you is one of the most correct Thunderbolt clones on the planet. This 1964 Ford Fairlane was built from the ground up with one idea in mind: create a car that would drive and PERFORM exactly like a real 1964 Ford Thunderbolt. Beginning with a flawless, never hit, rust-free 1964 Fairlane, parts collected across three decades were assembled to create the car you are looking at right now.
The heart of the Thunderbolt is the drive train ... and what a drive-train it is! This is not only a real-deal Holman & Moody 427 side oiler RACE BLOCK, but this was the actual back-up engine to Carl Holbrook's 1964 Mercury Comet AFX car. Carl was a factory sponsored drag racer and had access to parts directly from Ford Motor and Holman & Moody. With a 2L4 date code, you could not get this block anywhere else but from Ford Motor or Holman & Moody. Carl Holbrook's friend, Al Cathey, purchased the engine block and heads from Carl in the early 1970's and Holbrook built Cathey two complete engines which Cathey intended to use for vintage drag racing in IHRA Super Stock. This particular engine continued leading it's charmed life as it was used as the back-up engine once again and never installed in the car. Al Cathey eventually sold the motor in 1976 to Rodney Gallimore, who eventually built this car, for $7,500.00. In 1976, 7500 bucks was a lot of money for an engine block and heads, but even then, everyone realized how rare and valuable these parts were.
Rodney had the engine rebuilt to Thunderbolt specs, which means that the rare and correct block was mated with "F" late 1964 solid lifter, high riser cylinder heads. TRW forged pistons were used (domes removed near flat) to lower compression to a drivable 11.2:1. The crankshaft is forged cross-drilled steel. Dove engineering supplied a Crane mechanical camshaft, while ground & polished Lemans rods were used. The rest of the engine compartment in this Thunderbolt tribute is extremely detailed, with all factory markings expertly duplicated.
The transmission is a correct and newly rebuilt big input top loader, feeding a Currie Ford 9" rear with a 31 spline axle and a 4.11 traction-lok gear. Also present is an RC aluminum bell housing. The spotless undercarriage is finished off with the correct Thunderbolt suspension and ladder bars.
The body on this Thunderbolt is also authentic, as evidenced by the very rare and original fiberglass front fenders, fiberglass hood and fiberglass trunk lid. The fit & finish on the body and the Wimbledon White single stage enamel are top notch, with no waves, dings, scratches or blemishes to be found. . The chrome, bright work and trim are stunning. Needless to say, there was no 1964 Thunderbolt that ever looked this good brand new. In the perfectly restored trunk rests a correct, trunk mounted battery.
The interior in this Thunderbolt continues the authenticity train. To begin with, this 1964 Fairlane started off as a real-deal radio and heater delete car. The correct radio delete face plate is present and accounted for. As evidenced by the pictures, the correct rubber flooring is present, as are ultra-rare and correct Thunderbolt seats and seat belts. The interior is perfectly restored and authentic.
This Thunderbolt rolls on the correct narrow front tires (15"x4 1/2") mounted to Torque-Thrusts, with authentic 15"x7" Torque-Thrusts in the rear, with 820/15 piecrust slicks.
So there you have it ... an incredible Thunderbolt tribute that will easily top any other Thunderbolt tribute car on today's market in fit, finish and authenticity. The parts on this car alone are worth more than the asking price. Now for the disclaimer: this is a MAN'S car and not for the meek! This Thunderbolt will lift the front end off of the ground, just like the real ones did ... and run 10.70's all day. This Thunderbolt is completely street-legal, but has to be run on ultra high octane fuel due to the 11.2:1 compression. If you have been waiting for a Thunderbolt that can be shown, enjoyed and driven, either on the street or strip, that simply outclasses 99.9% of the pretenders (and most of the "real" ones) on the market, wait no longer ... this is the car for you!
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