Joe Greeves
October 14, 2010

Lifelong friends, Dave Starkey and Dennis Mulberger have known each other since the fourth grade. Both are avid automotive enthusiasts and eventually became partners in their New Smyrna Beach, Florida, shop called Cruzin' Motorsports, which they opened in 2003. Although they specialize in restorations, they decided to use some of their free time to create a unique shop vehicle-something that would showcase their talents to potential customers.

The original goal was to find and restore an original Ford Thunderbolt. Prices, however, even on poor-quality cars, were prohibitive. As a second alternative, they decided to modify their original plan and create something entirely new. After combing through dozens of potential candidates, they found a '57 Fairlane two-door post car in a salvage yard outside of Augusta, Georgia. Both immediately saw the potential and agreed that it would make a great project vehicle. The notion of a Thunderbolt was not entirely scrapped, however.

Only about 125 of Ford's legendary Thunderbolts were built and they were designed especially for drag racing. Using parts off the shelf, Ford engineers mixed and matched, creating a lightning-quick car whose sole purpose was to leave the competition stalled on the starting line. The heart of their conversion was the large 427 V-8 usually reserved for the heavier Galaxies. To make the car competitive on the strip, though, Ford squeezed the high horsepower engine into the lightweight '64 Fairlane chassis. Before that happened, the frontend was strengthened to handle the additional weight, and a comprehensive weight reduction program involved replacing the metal doors, hood, front fenders, and the front bumper with fiberglass. Plexiglas was substituted for glass and dozens of normal options were deleted. Their efforts produced a car that weighed about 3,200 pounds with an engine conservatively rated at 425 hp (it actually produced closer to 500 hp). It was a dynamite combination, and strong enough to run away with the 1964 Super Stock title for Ford. Produced for only one year, the car's legend still lives on today.

Dave and Dennis wanted to follow a similar path, using their '57 Ford as a basis for their own version of a Thunderbolt-one that they nicknamed "T-Bolt." They determined from the outset that this car would be unique, retaining the classic lines of the '57, but being completely rebuilt with 21st-century components. The search began for an elite motor appropriate for the undertaking, and both agreed that a cast-iron FE 427 side oiler block from Genesis Performance Casting was the perfect choice-but with a twist. They added a half an inch to the stroke, lengthening the original 3.78-inch dimension to 4.25 inches. Now the "square" engine had a matching bore and stroke and topped out at 482 ci. As soon as the block was complete, Dave and Dennis set out to collect all the period-correct internals, accomplished with help from longtime Ford enthusiast, Lee Holman of Holman and Moody, and the experts in the '57 Ford club.