Barry Kluczyk
April 14, 2014
Photos By: Kevin DiOssi

Advancements in tuning for computer-controlled, fuel-injected engines have fundamentally transformed the world of hot rods and even production cars. The '13 Shelby GT500, for example, pumps out as much horsepower as your average NASCAR stock car and 1,000-horserpower street cars that used to be the stuff of urban legend are as easy to find as fedora-wearing hipsters at Starbucks.

So, when we tell you that David Cannon's supercharged '63 Falcon Sprint puts more than 800 horsepower to the tires on the street, we know most of you will be impressed, but not exactly blown away. But it's not always the raw numbers on the chassis dyno alone that make a street car truly powerful or quick, so keep these nuggets in mind as we lay down the facts on this high-flying Falcon: Its 845 rear-wheel horsepower is contained within a package that's roughly the same size and weight of a new Ford Focus. Assuming the at-flywheel number is closer to around 900 horses gives it a power-to-weight ratio of about 3.2:1—or one horsepower for about every 3.2 pounds of the car's total mass.

That's a tremendous ratio and a validation that high-tech hot rodding has come of age. The supercharged Corvette ZR1, for example, which has one of the best ratios for any production car, is right around 5.2:1, while the 730-horsepower V-12-powered Ferrari 599 Berlinetta—and its $330,000 price tag—comes in with a power-to-weight ratio of 4.9:1. In other words, the world's most expensive exotics would have a hard time hanging with Cannon's featherweight Ford, at least in a straight line. And his is no pseudo-street car that technically gets by with functional headlights. This car was built to drive and in Cannon's home state of Florida, that means hard-blowing air conditioning.

"It's a total street car," he says. "I use it all the time for cruises and car shows. The grandkids crawl into the backseat under the roll cage, I turn up the AC and satellite radio, and we take off."

Always a Ford guy, Cannon—who is the original owner of an R-code 30,000-mile '681⁄2 Cobra Jet Mustang that's never even seen rain—didn't come around to the Falcon until about eight years ago.

"I didn't really like the '63 Falcon until I bought a very nice '63 Sprint drag car that already had a 460 in it," he says. "I changed the 460 to a Ronnie Crawford-built, all-aluminum 427, which we planned to run in NMRA's Nostalgia classes. Within a couple of months, we'd run under the national record."

After his class was "retired" from NMRA's schedule, Cannon transitioned the car into a nice street machine, but also got it in his head to build a street rod-style Falcon. That was about five years ago, when he found a suitable project-car candidate online.

"I knew I was going to build a hot rod out of it from the very beginning, but it ended up as one of those projects that just gets away from you," he says. "One thing led to another and another, and before I knew it, I ended up with what you see here. The car ended up just the way I wanted, but don't ask my wife about how much it all cost!"

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest issues to deal with was the bodywork. Even in the driest states, rust is an inescapable problem that affects most cars. Water leaks down through the cowl, causing rot in the toe panels, just ahead of the main sections of the floorboards—and that's on the cars with otherwise sound bodies. Unfortunately, Cannon's car was afflicted with the tin worm throughout.

"To be honest, it wasn't very good at all," he recalls. "We had to cut off a lot of bad metal and replace it. It was more than I planned on, but we made it work."

The silver lining to the Sawzall fest was the chassis needed to be tweaked anyway, to accommodate Cannon's plans for a mini-tubbed rear and the replacement of the front suspension to make way for a Mod motor. He didn't want to go with the full Pro Street treatment, but the rear was narrowed enough to tuck 15-inch-wide rims within the fenders. They're connected to a Detroit Locker-equipped 9-inch that's located with a four-link suspension.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Oh, and to minimize the added weight of the high-performance equipment going into the car, Cannon replaced the rotted steel floorpans with aluminum. Even the rear-axle third member is aluminum, which helps keep the curb weight below the 3,000-pound threshold.

The Ford Modular engine family isn't exactly the smallest or lightest ever developed, but the all-aluminum version selected for this project offers a better front-to-rear weight balance than an all-iron FE or even Windsor engine—even with a Whipple blower sandwiched between the heads. Like the racing engine in his other Falcon, this one was sent to Ronnie Crawford's Miami-based shop for enlightenment. It was punched out to 302 cubic inches and the big, 3.4-liter Whipple screw-type supercharger was fitted with an RCD Engineering cog-style blower driver for slip-free performance. It's essential, too, because this Mod is a screamer, seeing 8,000 rpm on the dyno, with the Whipple cramming the air into the cylinders.

Rob Wells, at FordSpeed Racing, in Largo, Florida, handled the tuning on the engine, which is equipped with two separate fuel systems, one for pump gas and the other for race fuel—each drawing from separate fuel cells in the trunk. Consequently, there are two calibrations for the engine, which Cannon selects with the flick of a switch inside the car.

Fitting the engine required a number of custom-crafted components, including a unique motor plate built by Skinny Kid Race Cars, custom intercooler tank and air box from Eagle Race Cars, and a custom bellhousing, so Cannon could run the racing-style five-speed Lenco transmission he wanted.

"I love those transmissions," he says. "You never miss a gear and it's pretty easy to drive on the street. In fact, once you get the hang of it, it's no big deal at all. I really enjoy it—and it really throws people for a loop when they see it at a car show, especially when I tell them it's totally a street car."

Eagle Race Cars, which handled most of the car's fabrication, including the roll cage, sliced out the Falcon's original suspension and fitted a contemporary coilover setup that made it easier to install the wide mod motor. This increasingly common upgrade on Mustangs, Falcons, and their Mercury cousins of the era eliminates the shock towers in the engine compartment, making room for an engine that is effectively 12 inches wider than a production-spec Windsor small-block.

In Cannon's Falcon, the extra space gained by the suspension change not only allowed the engine to be shoehorned under the hood, but allowed room for the custom air intake box and intercooler tank as well.

"Without a doubt, getting the engine and all the related components for it to fit in the engine compartment was the most difficult aspect of the entire project," he says. "I wanted to use the Mod motor and I knew it would be a challenge cramming everything in there, but even with headers custom-fit to the car, it was a lot of work."

It's a refrain we've heard from plenty of other enthusiasts who've done the mod-engine swap, but the results seem to be worth it. At least, it is to Cannon.

"The balance of the car is fantastic," he says. "I like the balance of old and new technologies and the engine gives the car a modern flavor."

Then again, Cannon admits this boost-fed bird of prey may actually be too powerful for its own good—especially given its sub-3,000-pound curb weight.

"It's berserk. To be honest, it's almost too much power in a street car like this, even with the four-link suspension and 15-inch-wide rear wheels," he says. "The power comes on immediately and just doesn't end. You really have to pay attention every moment you're driving it, because there's so much power on tap. If I did it all over again, I'd probably dial it back to about 700 horsepower or something like that. It would be plenty!"

And it would still give this Falcon a better power-to-weight ratio than the vaunted Ferrari 599 and Corvette ZR1. Nevertheless, Cannon's street-bound Falcon and its 845 rear-wheel horsepower reminds us all how much EFI tuning has changed the world of hot rods; uncompromising driveability with all the practical horsepower you can use. Ain't technology grand?

The Details
Vehicle: David Cannon
Owner: 1963 Ford Falcon
Engine
Ford 4.6-liter (281 cid) DOHC V-8 stroked to 5.0 liters (302 cid) by Ronnie Crawford Racing Engines, 3.585-inch bore, 3.850-inch stroke, ModMax Racing forged crankshaft, forged steel 5.850-inch-long H-beam connecting rods with ARP 2000 bolts, CP/ModMax Racing forged aluminum pistons, Stainless steel piston rings (1.2mm, 1.2mm, 3mm), 8.5:1 compression ratio, Ford DOHC/four-valve cylinder heads, ported and polished by Ronnie Crawford Racing Engines, Ferrea intake and exhaust valves (1mm oversized from stock), PAC valvesprings, Ford 1.7-ratio (intake and exhaust) roller rocker arms, Cam Motion hydraulic roller camshafts, 0.500/0.500 lift (intake/exhaust); 278/282-deg. duration (intake) / 244/248-deg. duration (exhaust), Whipple 3.4-liter twin-screw supercharger pushing 12-plus pounds of boost, Accufab monoblade 90mm throttle body, 150-lb/hr fuel injectors used with Weldon fuel pumps, Horsepower: 845 at 6,500 rpm (at the wheels), Torque: 800 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm (at the wheels), F.A.S.T. XFI engine management system
Transmission:
Lenco ST1200 five-speed manual, Custom bellhousing adapted to 4.6L engine pattern
Rearend:
Ford 9-inch with aluminum third member, Detroit Locker differential, Strange 3.75 gears, Strange 35-spline axles
Exhaust:
Custom stainless steel with 21⁄4-inch primary tubes with 4-inch collectors, 3.5-inch custom stainless steel exhaust system, Borla 3.5-inch mufflers
Suspension:
Front: Eagle Race Cars coilover-strut conversion kit; height-adjustable, with Strange struts, Eibach springs and custom spindles
Rear: Eagle Race Cars-fabricated four-link with coilovers with Strange shocks
Steering:
Flaming River rack-and-pinion, Flaming River tilt steering column
Brakes:
Front: Strange disc, 13-inch slotted rotors, four-piston calipers
Rear: Strange disc, 13-inch slotted rotors, four-piston calipers
Wheels:
Front: Hole Shot Performance Wheels Holestar, 17 x 4-inch
Rear: Hole Shot Performance Wheels, Holestar, 10 x 15-inch
Tires:
Front: Hoosier front drag, 26x7.5x17
Rear: Mickey Thomson ET Street, P325/50R15
Interior:
Restored by Hoyts (Sarasota, FL), blue-and-white upholstery color scheme with '09 Pontiac GTO seats, Le Carrera steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges in a custom insert with engine-turned trim, Vintage Air air conditioning, power windows, three-point safety belts throughout, Pioneer XM Satellite-enabled audio system with four 10-inch speakers, six-point rollcage
Exterior:
Mostly stock body, fiberglass front bumper/lower spoiler and front fenders, custom hoodscoop, six-stage blue paint by Tom Francazi