Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
June 1, 2012

There have been a lot of "what ifs" over the years. What if the Confederates won the Civil War? What if those missiles had made it to Cuba? What if Luke had joined the Dark Side? OK, you get the point. But Nick Smith of Stuart, Florida, has created the ultimate "what if" scenario as far as Ford fanatics are concerned. His '60 Fairlane two-door hardtop is at the center of this "what if" conundrum, and it all has to do with one of man's earliest contests--a race. Not just any race mind you, but Super Stock drag racing of the 1960s.

Nick has built himself quite the collection of early Ford Hi-Po iron and factory lightweight race cars over the years, and the discussion one day turned to the "what if" Ford designed and built a factory lightweight offering for Super Stock racing in 1960. Ford didn't build its first lightweight offering until August 1962 with 11 Galaxies that featured fiberglass fenders, aluminum bumpers, and deletion of heaters, radios, and more. Raced by the likes of Gas Rhonda, Phil Bonner, and Dick Brannan, these cars shed hundreds of pounds to compete against the lighter GM and Mopar offerings. They were successful on the track, but came so late in the season that many of these famed racers were already working on changes for the '63 season.

With Nick's mind swirling with ideas, a copy of the 1960 NHRA rule book was found and this '60 Fairlane started coming apart to build the ultimate "what if" race car. The all original rust-free six-cylinder car was shipped to "Hemi Eddie" Strzelecki in Rochester, Michigan. Ed has been responsible for several of Nick's restorations, and he knew Ed would do another wonderful job on his '60 Super Stock project. After being completely stripped, the car's frame and body were separated and then chemically dipped to remove all traces of paint--a second dipping process then sealed the metal to protect the original steel panels.

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Though the concept was a race car, Nick's restorations are painstakingly accurate with many N.O.S. parts involved to get the "flavor" of the build just right. To that end, the glass, which would be passable for a basic restoration or a driver, wasn't up to Nick's standards for this build. All of the side glass was ordered with original FoMoCo markings and date codes, but the front and rear glass was another story altogether. These pieces are almost non-existent and unique to this body/year. Nick considered himself extremely fortunate to have found an N.O.S. windshield in Chicago and a near perfect backlite in Toledo, Ohio. Just as luck would have it, their parts source in Chicago also helped score an N.O.S. gas tank (once again unique to this year/body) and an N.O.S. radiator support. The OE support was not one of Ford's better ideas, as it held water and battery acid and corroded easily. "We mortgaged the farm to get these pieces, but they were probably the last ones left in the country." Nick explained. While Ed finished up the restoration of body and frame, Nick and his staff were building the heart of the Super Stock idea, the 352 FE.

The 352 was bored 0.060-inch over and filled with spec Ford Hi-Po parts, keeping the NHRA Super Stock rules in mind. This meant liberties could be taken such as engine blueprinting, balancing, and so forth, but otherwise the engine must retain the stock heads and other stock parts to be legal in Super Stock. With compression ratio hovering right around 11:1, Nick keeps the 352 well fed with Sunoco Racing 110 leaded race gas, while a Pertronix Ignitor hidden in the stock Hi-Po distributor lights the fire. A set of Stahl "Total Tuned" headers spit the spent gasses rearward. While the engine was originally advertised at 360 hp, estimates now place that figure at 375.

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