Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1964 Ford Fairlane - Thunderbolt My Way
Black and wicked, this Fairlane is a testament to the meaning of true friendship
When car guys get together, trash talking directed at rival brands often breaks out, even amongst friends. Let's face it; being loyal to a specific car brand always stirs up a bunch of emotions, and there is usually never an admission of liking another brand. Surprisingly, the most solid friendships are often made in mutual adversity. John Jones will point out that, "I've been a Chevy guy all my life, that's all I've ever owned." That might seem like a fairly straightforward statement if you were reading a Chevy magazine, however, the Telford, Pennsylvania, resident spent six years building the '64 Ford Fairlane that you see here. For John, building this car didn't stem from any kind of brand loyalty, or rivalry. It was instead the continuation of what his close friend, Jake Vargo, had started, but was unable to finish.
John had known Jake for many years. As youngsters, they spent many weekends flogging their Chevys and Fords at Vargo Dragway, which was owned by Jake's family. At some point, the two also ended up working together, so they saw each other regularly. When Jake started working on the Fairlane, his idea was to build a Thunderbolt clone and he wanted John to do some of the structural fabrication on the car. Unfortunately, cancer cut Jake's life short, and his Thunderbolt project didn't go very far. Before passing away, he made it clear to John that he wanted him to take the car. As a result, John acquired the barely nascent project in 2002. He recalls, "When I bought the car, it had the roof, quarters, the cowl section, half the floor, and it was hit on the driver side." There wasn't much there to work with and very little had been done, however, it did come with numerous N.O.S. Ford lightweight fiberglass factory pieces that Jake had acquired over the years.
While Jake wanted a Thunderbolt clone, John envisioned building the car to retain the Thunderbolt look, but also incorporate his tastes and fabrication skills. He wasn't shy when he pointed out that, " I wanted to make 1,000 horsepower to the rear wheels on pump gas, and be able to drive it from New York to California if I wanted to." It was with that goal in mind that he embarked on his "Thunderbolt My Way" six-year project.
Having defined goals, and being able to accomplish those goals, are usually two different things. For some, that means cutting a check, sending out a basket case, and getting back a completed car. In John's case, it meant rolling up his sleeves, breaking out the tools, and getting help from a few friends when needed. He was fully capable of doing much of the fabrication work himself, so the Fairlane shell was rolled into his garage, where it would slowly come back to life.
Part of that resurrection meant assembling a worthy mill that could crank out the ponies on his wish list. The original plan was to install an injected, dual-overhead-cam engine. Issues with locating the right combination of parts squashed that idea. In a twist of luck, a good friend of his, Greg Maialetti, hooked him up with Kinsler Engineering and as a result, the twin turbo project was born.
John's new turbo recipe needed some stout hardware, so he started with a Dart Iron Eagle 351 Windsor block stroked to 437 inches, and adorned with Yates aluminum heads. He had Kinsler design and cast the custom injectors, while Maialetti fabricated the plenum, all the tubing for the twin turbo setup, the stainless steel headers, and the exhaust system. As all these components came together, Doug Meyers Automotive Machining Services in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, performed the final assembly of this potent Windsor. However, this particular combination, once assembled, wasn't without its problems.
John quickly realized that it was too big to fit in the diminutive engine bay. Cutting into the firewall was the easy fix. However, one of his goals was to maintain a stock firewall, so a different option was needed in order to shoehorn the engine in place. His solution was to cut open the Fairlane's unibody forward of the firewall, install the framerails, and weld everything back together. Part of this process also required that the framerails, hood, and fenders get sectioned and stretched 1.5 inches to accommodate the longer engine dimensions. With the Windsor tucked in place, John was then able to mate it to the JEFFco four-speed gearbox and 3.90-geared, 9-inch rearend.
With the eye candy under the hood slowly getting worked out, the body begged for some attention. For that part of the build, John leaned on his friend, Herb Barnsby, to help him sort out the bodywork and paint. In addition to the fiberglass front end that came with the car, fiberglass doors, front and rear bumpers, and a trunk lid were also part of the parts pile. These pieces were immensely helpful in minimizing the bodywork, while also keeping the power-to-weight ratio in check. Both men still spent countless hours massaging the Fairlane until it was ready for paint. John's view was that the sinister engine needed an equally sinister looking body wrapped around it. When it came time to lay down some color, he decided to paint everything in DuPont Pitch Black, and that meant everything! Much of the decorative chrome trim was eliminated, while needed pieces like the window trim, front grille, and light bezels were sprayed in black. Even the chrome on the emblems didn't escape the black paint treatment.
After it was completed, John put the car on a dyno, and at 12 pounds of boost, it cranked out 1,140 horsepower at the rear wheels
Like the firewall, the interior was another area that John wanted to be a specific way without compromise. He had installed massive 38-inch wheeltubs, yet didn't want to give up a full back seat.
"Every car that you see that has tubs and a 'cage has no back seat," stated John. "I was adamant that somehow, some way, I was going to put a back seat in to make it look stock." It took him three months of trial and error to finally have a back seat that looked stock. The factory look was equally important for him when addressing the rest of the interior. Aside from the JEFFco shifter, custom tranny tunnel, Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges, and Saturn seats, it's vintage '64 Fairlane, right down to the skinny factory steering wheel.
The last lingering question, of course, comes down to numbers. Does this Ford have any bite to it? The answer to that is a resounding yes. After it was completed, John put the car on a dyno, and at 12 pounds of boost, it cranked out 1,140 horsepower at the rear wheels. He estimates that at 20 pounds, on race fuel, with minor adjustments and different waste gates, it will produce just shy of 1,900. Currently, he has what he calls a "very conservative tune" that is only producing 809 horsepower, so that he can drive it anywhere he wants to, which he does. He is quite proud that this car is not a trailer queen. John is equally confident that his friend Jake is looking down and approves of his work, even if he is a Chevy guy.
John Jones' '64 Ford Fairlane
437ci stroker (Dart Iron Eagle Tall deck 351 Windsor small block)
Callies Magnum crankshaft
Wiseco 6.5:1 forged pistons
Crower billet steel connecting rods
Crower mechanical roller camshaft
Yates aluminum cylinder heads
Kinsler custom aluminum intake manifold
Kinsler 80mm throttle body, mass air sensor, fuel injection, 120-lb/hr fuel injectors
Custom plenum and turbo inlets hand fabricated by Greg Maialetti
Turbonetics 70mm dual-blade turbochargers
Wolf dry-sump oiling system
MSD crank trigger ignition, MSD 7AL3 digital interface
Haltech XL4 fuel management system
The Supercharger Store two-stage water injection, 50/50 mix (alcohol/water)
Engine assembled by Doug Myers Automotive Machine (Schwenksville, PA)
JEFFco four-speed planetary with forward and reverse
RAM twin-disc clutch assembly
Ford 9-inch rearend
Strange Engineering differential
2.25-inch stainless steel headers designed and built by Greg Maialetti
4-inch stainless steel exhaust tubing
Front: S&W front suspension (owner modified), QA1 coilover shocks
Rear: S&W ladder bar, QA1 coilover shocks
Front: Wilwood disc, 11-inch slotted rotors, four-piston calipers
Rear: Wilwood disc, 11-inch slotted rotors, four-piston calipers
Front: American Racing, Torq Thrust II, 15x7
Rear: American Racing, Torq Thrust II, 15x10.5
Front: Hoosier Pro Street Radial, 26X7.50R15LT
Rear: Hoosier Pro Street Radial, 29X15.50R15LT
Saturn front seat upgrade; modified factory rear seat; original door panels; custom-fabricated center console; five-point safety belts for front seats; Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges; original factory steering wheel; interior done by Craig's Auto Marine in Sellersville, PA
Body sprayed with DuPont Pitch Black basecoat/clearcoat; original Ford N.O.S. fiberglass hood, front fenders, doors, rear trunk lid, front and rear bumper; owner-fabricated rollcage; body de-chromed; paint- and bodywork done by Herb Barnsby