Beautiful skies, packed stands, and a car show so full they had to park 'em in the main wa
The 8th Annual Nitto Tire Spring Break ShootoutIf there's one thing Florida is known for it's the abundant sunshine and average temperature in the 70s. Unfortunately, the NMRA Keystone Automotive Ford Nationals season opener, held in Bradenton, Florida, at Bradenton Motorsports Park every year in early March, often seems to get Florida's not so perfect weather patterns. From near rain outs where the NMRA staff has had to utilize pumps to drain the race pits, to heavy winds and cold temps dipping into the 50s, the last 5 years or so have not been kind to the Bradenton event. Surprisingly, it rarely hurts the racing side of the event; though these weather abnormalities do often hamper the car show part of the event, as well as the spectator count.
Coming into the 8th Annual Nitto Tire Spring Break Shootout, presented by Steeda Autosports, the weekend's weather was expected to be in the high 70s with partly cloudy skies and a gentle breeze. We haven't brought a display car for our subscription tent in a couple of years and when we saw the weather forecast it took us about a half-second to decide to drive our Factory Five Roadster to the event. The drive down was perfect and we had so many people stopping by to see the car it was hard to get away and actually cover the event! But somehow we managed and got some great photos of both racing action and the super-packed car show full of Henry's best products. Take a look at what we found and be sure to check out our website for more photos, as well as full race and car show results.
Modified Mustangs & Fords Editor's Choice
Don Wheeler's '63 Falcon Futura Convertible
Myakka City, FL
The Falcon doesn't always get the respect it deserves. Sure, people know that Lee Iacocca used it as the basis for his new sporty car, the Mustang. But before the Mustang stole the last lumen of limelight, the Falcon was Ford's better idea for a compact, lightweight vehicle with a palatable price tag. Don Wheeler, of Myakka City, Florida, purchased his round-nose from the second owner, who he himself purchased it from an estate sale to save it from being sold off for scrap. The drop-top Futura was solid; needing only a few small patches once the body was taken down to bare metal. Fresh paint came in the way of inspiration from Hot Rod magazine when Don saw a Willys painted Ruby Red Pearl, so he got the same hue for his Falcon.
As keen observers and Falcon-ites might have noticed by now, Ford didn't have a 302 in 1963, let alone in the Falcon. While the best you could have done was the 260 V-8, Don's was originally powered by the smart little 170ci inline six. Don essentially ditched the complete drivetrain for some spirited parts, starting with the 302 you see under the hood. Backing the 302 is a V-8 spec C4 auto trans, and at the tail end of the Falcon is an 8-inch five-lug rear from a Maverick, which Don tells us is direct bolt in. Granada discs up front, power assisted at that, help whoa the Futura down and aid in the five-lug upgrade up front as well. Before finishing off the engine Don added power steering for a smooth ride too.
Inside, Don upgraded from the Falcon's bench seat up front to a pair of '68 Mustang buckets covered in custom vinyl and cloth inserts. He also replaced all of the Falcon's original ivory dash knobs with early Mustang chrome versions. An aftermarket console helps hold cool drinks on those top down cruises in the Florida sun, while the power steering is aided by the aftermarket aluminum steering wheel. After 8 years of ownership Don still enjoys every minute behind the wheel. We would too if this clean Falcon Futura was in our garage.