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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Nick assembled his favorite suspension setup to the fresh chassis/body--90/10 drag shocks with six-cylinder coils and a 1-inch spring spacer up front and 50/50 shocks with five-leaf Hi-Po springs in the rear with a front half-leaf added along with the leaves clamped together to prevent axle wrap-up and wheelhop. An air spring also found its way over the right rear spring to preload the right rear tire and counteract chassis twist/torque. This setup is identical to the chassis setup he used in the early '60s when he drag raced.

Inside, Nick installed N.O.S. upholstery, a pair of Bostrom lightweight bucket seats (like the Thunderbolt had, and originally from Ford's Econoline van), rubber floor mat, deleted the radio and heater, and left the factory sound deadening and insulation on the workbench. A vintage Sun tach resides on the steering column and a trio of Auto Meter gauges keeps track of the engine's vitals. A Hurst four-speed shifter controls the Top Loader four-speed found in the tunnel and sends the 352's power to a 4.88 geared 9-inch.

"Though this car was built as a six-cylinder, my concept from the beginning was to faithfully create a 'factory lightweight' Super Stock 1960 Ford, as if Ford had built it at the factory. Basically, we took the '63-'64 lightweight Galaxie concept and integrated it into this '60 Fairlane," Nick summarized.

Nick's "what if" build took approximately a year and he's been enjoying the car for the last couple of years at shows and drag racing it as well. Yes, Nick has taken the "what if" concept to the track numerous times to prove his concept would have been competitive. As Nick's display sign states, the fastest S/S car in 1960 was the Royal Pontiac Super Duty 389 driven by Pontiac great Jim Wangers. The Tri-power Catalina went a 14.13 at 101.43 at the Indy Nationals on Labor Day weekend of that year with the national record standing at 14.01. Nick's "factory" Super Stock has been a best of 13.52 at 102 mph! I guess you can say Ford would have certainly had something competitive for Mr. Wangers.

"Our efforts with this '60 Fairlane are aimed at proving that a well prepared Ford could have successfully competed against the country's quickest stockers," Nick's sign also explains. Nick's "by the book" build shows us all just what might have happened if Ford jumped into the Super Stock foray just a little sooner.


The Details



Nick Smith's '60 Fairlane two-door sedan

Engine


  • 352ci FE big-block
  • 4.060-inch bore (0.060-inch overbore)
  • 3.50-inch stroke
  • Rotating assembly fully balanced
  • Engine blueprinted and built to 1960 NHRA specs
  • Stock Hi-Po internals
  • Stock Hi-Po distributor with Pertronix Ignitor
  • 375 estimated hp
  • Built by George Aberts, Hampstead, MD

Transmission

  • Top Loader four-speed manual
  • Built by Dan Williams, Franklin, NC
  • Hurst shifter

Rearend

  • Ford 9-inch axle housing
  • Detroit Locker differential
  • 31-spline axles
  • 4.88 gears

Exhaust

  • Stahl headers, 1-3/4-inch primaries, 3-inch collectors

Suspension

  • Front: Stock control arms, 90/10 drag shocks, six-cylinder springs, 1-inch spring spacers
  • Rear: Five-leaf elliptical springs with forward half leaf clamped to prevent axle wind up, airbag over right rear for preload, 50/50 drag shocks
  • Six-cylinder frame

Brakes

  • Front: Stock drum
  • Rear: Stock drum

Wheels

  • Front: Wheel Vintiques, powdercoated black, 15x5
  • Rear: Wheel Vintiques, powdercoated black, 15x6

Tires

  • Front: Goodyear Power Cushion, 6.70x15
  • Rear: M&H Racemaster, 7.0/29.5-15

Interior

  • Stock gray vinyl; Bostrom front bucket seats; rubber floor mat; Sun tachometer; Auto Meter water temp, oil pressure, and volt gauges; radio and heater delete; insulation/sound deadener deleted

Exterior

  • Raven Black basecoat/clearcoat paint by Dan Groth of St. Clair Customs (Harrison Township, MI), fiberglass front bumper from Wildfire Marine with aluminum mounting brackets

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