Roger C. Johnson
April 3, 2013

The classic era for muscle cars revolved around intermediates, as it was this body style that was selected as the weapon of choice for America's major carmakers. With wheelbase sizes ranging from 114 inches (AMC) to 117 inches (Dodge Coronet), intermediates were lighter and smaller than the usual full size offerings. This category helped create a quantum leap scenario thanks to the industry's hot big-block engines. Ford's '66 Fairlane GT fit right in with its 116-inch wheelbase. It was the year anyone could buy a "standard equipment" big-block in this very smooth and attractive body design, and have the look, power, and instant reputation to kick butt on the streets of America.

On the other hand, Ford was so committed to the Pony Car market, thanks to its trendsetting Mustang, that the '66 was the company's first and only "standard" big-block V-8 intermediate offered until the Torino Cobra debuted in 1969. As a result, Ford never produced near the volume Chevy, Pontiac, and even Mopar did in this market segment. Still, the '66 Fairlane GT was sweet enough that we're still talking about it more than four decades later.

One of the lucky ones who has always talked about these cars is Larry Cook of Atlanta. He bought his first GTA at the end of the 1967 model year when he was merely 17 years old. It was his new replacement for a '50 Ford business coupe powered by a 322-cid Buick Nail Head with six one-barrel carbs. Number one cousin wouldn't let Larry buy that car with the hot rodded Buick mill, so it was replaced with a more docile 265ci Chevy and corresponding tranny. Larry actually did paint and interior work on this early Ford to complete this high school ride. Eat your heart out Fonzie.

By the time Larry drove his first Fairlane GTA home from the dealership, he was quickly becoming a Ford fanatic. Even now, he has another '50 Ford business coupe with a supercharged four-cam 4.6 awaiting completion in his garage.

As life accelerated forward, our hero got married and started a family. That meant the GTA had to be replaced because it wasn't "practical enough." Besides, the early '70s were not the friendliest time frame for bulging muscle cars thanks to high gas prices and insurance premiums, and stifling emission regulations. As always, though, the love of these cars kept simmering inside Larry until the day he'd be able to walk on the wild side once again. He crossed that street in the summer of 2003 when he found this car at Pigeon Forge's Shades of the Past car show in Tennessee.

Larry actually was targeting two Fairlanes at this event—a black '66 and a red '67. Another Fairlane enthusiast snatched up the red one before Larry could find its owner, so he approached the owner of the black one and tried to strike up a deal. Shortly after they agreed on a price, the seller chickened out and decided not to part with it after all. Larry was crushed, as you might imagine.

After the depressing drive home from the show, Larry called the seller to see if he might change his mind. He did, and said someone else was on his way over to pick up the car. "Fast Larry" was able to convince him right then and there he was the one who should get the Fairlane. Finally, the seller agreed and let him seal the deal over the phone.

The seller said he would deliver the car from Tennessee to Larry's house in Georgia. When he arrived with the GTA in tow, he told Larry he had second (third?) thoughts again, and didn't want to sell it after all. Fortunately, after a little more down home conversation, the reluctant guy officially handed the car, and its title, over to Larry. The whole experience proved once again the old adage that the best things in life are the hardest to get. Watching someone like this character drive away with an empty trailer was no doubt a very satisfying sight for Larry.

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This Fairlane was initially purchased from Harry Holder Motor Company in Owensboro, Kentucky. The reluctant seller acquired the car from an estate sale connected to the original owner. After only a week's worth of driving, Larry was anxious to get his hands dirty and decided to perform a "light" restoration. Seven years later, the car was finally back on the street.

Dixie Dream Rods handled the body and paintwork, front and rear glass, along with the headliner replacement. The body was stripped to bare metal and all panels were straightened. Advanced Plating in Nashville brought the chrome to a better-than-new shine, while the interior was massaged to that same level by Larry's own shop.

The plan also called for the stock 390 to stay in place and simply be freshened up, but that idea didn't last long. A call to Pop's Performance in Litchfield, Kentucky, started backup plan number "470." That's the total displacement of the new bored and stroked FE that would replace the tired 390.

The car's rebuilt C6 transmission is designed to handle up to 600 horses with a 3,000rpm converter, and send all available ponies to a Ford 9-inch packed with 3.70 gears. Rolling stock combines American Torque Thrust wheels measuring 17x7 inchers up front and 18x8s in the rear. Stainless Steel Brake Company supplied the discs at all corners in case Larry ever changes his mind about the rate of acceleration.

This car is certainly a front running example of what Fairlanes were all about, especially when you consider the years of attention to detail this particular car has experienced. It was arguably one of the best looking intermediates to roll off of any assembly line, whether you're a Ford fan or not. It's big-block heritage merging with top shelf performance parts, and Larry's life-long support of the breed, assures its acceptance at any show or stoplight event.

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The Details
Larry Cook's '66 Ford Fairlane GTA

Engine
428 Ford FE service block, engine assembly and dyno testing performed by Pops Performance (Leitchfield, KY)
4.190-inch bore
4.250-inch stroke
Eagle crankshaft
6.7-inch H-beam 4340 forged steel connecting rods with 8740 ARP cap screws
Diamond forged pistons
Total Seal moly rings
Cleveite bearings
Edelbrock aluminum heads 2.19-inch intake/1.75-inch exhaust valves, port and valve work by Pops Performance
Erson billet roller timing set
Lunati custom ground roller camshaft and Erson roller lifters
427 Ford aluminum intake manifold
Ford 3 2-V Induction
Holley two-barrel carburetors and fuel pump
MSD A6 ignition
Moroso 8-quart oil pan
Griffin aluminum radiator and Cooling Components two-speed electric fan

Transmission
'67 C-6 Automatic
3,000-rpm stall converter

Rearend
Ford 9-inch
Traction-Lok differential
3.70 gears
31-spline axles

Exhaust
Hooker ceramic-coated, long-tube headers
Custom 2½-inch exhaust
Race Ready 3-inch electric cut outs

Suspension
Front: Ford factory independent, custom antisway bar
Rear: Ford factory leaf spring and shocks, Ford OEM traction bars

Brakes
Front: SSBC 11.25-inch slotted disc with four-piston calipers
Rear: SSBC 10.50-inch slotted disc with single-piston calipers
Classic tube stainless steel brake lines and hoses

Wheels
Front: American Torq Thrust II, polished 17x7
Rear: American Torq Thrust II, polished 18x8

Tires
Front: Michelin Pilot MXM4, P225/55R17
Rear: Michelin Pilot MXM4, P245/50R18

Interior
Dearborn Classic reproduction upholstery, door panels and carpet, Just Dashes dashpad, Custom headliner by Dixie Dream Rods (Ringgold, GA), plastic dash restoration by C.V.Vacume Platers Inc.

Exterior
Original Ford all steel body, prepped and painted by Dixie Dream Rods, PPG Concept 9300 Black, chrome work by Advanced Plating (Nashville, TN)